Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Back before I was married I decided to paint the kitchen cabinets in the cute little house I owned at the time. It took forever. I removed all the cabinet doors, I removed and painted all the hardware. I stripped the cabinets, painting them many coats of white, and lacquered them. Then I put everything back together. Yuck.

Although I absolutely loved the results, I swore I would never again paint kitchen cabinets. It was too much work and way too exhausting. However, after nearly five years in our home and at least four years of fantasizing about white cabinets, I finally bit the bullet this past weekend and went hog-wild. I love the results.


Having been traumatized by my first experience painting cabinets, and, now having two little kids in the house (that always makes doing household projects easier, right? NOT.) I spent a lot of time researching how to make this daunting task easier.

Guess what? Depending on what kind of cabinets you have, it is possible to paint them without removing them? I know, right! (I never say that, but I had to just this once.) My cabinets didn’t have hardware to begin with, and I like that minimalist look, so that eliminated one nightmare. The hinges are only somewhat exposed and the way the cabinets are built made attempting this feat seem reasonable.

And holy schnikes, it worked.





I posted a few sneak peeks on Instagram and already had a few of you asking for pointers, so here are a few of mine.

First of all, I can’t say this enough: Find a hardware store associate who seems to know their stuff and follow each of their recommendations. Mine was my local hardware store owner, Bonnie, a super cool lady who did not lead me astray.

Bonnie recommended Kilz 2 Primer/Sealer/Stainblocker and Valspar Premium Latex Enamel. I purchased a quart of the primer and a gallon of the paint. This was more than enough for my small-to-medium-sized kitchen, including the large pantry at the end of the room that is not pictured here.

I would recommend having the paint tinted, even if the can says white and you want white. As crazy as this sounds, the straight-out-of-the-can white is too white. Plus, then you get to pick a white with a really fun name. I considered Wooly Lamb and Bridal Wreath, both by Valspar, but I selected Warm Oatmeal. It was the perfect shade with a comforting, kitchen-sounding name. While the image below looks quiet beige, the shade itself is definitely white.


My cabinets are wood. They are stained, but haven’t been touched up at all anytime recently so all I did was clean them really quickly with warm water the night before and then invested in a high-quality primer as well as the best roller Bonnie could recommend.

I had taken Friday afternoon off work so I jumped right in and got the whole kitchen primed. That only took two hours and so that evening, after the primer had dried at least three hours, I dove right in with the first coat of paint. You should definitely read the directions on whatever product you choose, but my primer dried quickly so I saved some major time.

On Saturday, bright and early (6 a.m.), I tackled the second coat, then I met my mom for an afternoon play. Early Sunday afternoon (also 6 a.m., thanks kids, for getting me up) I did a third coat only in the areas that really needed it as well as a few other touch-ups here and there.


Full disclosure: If you are an absolute perfectionist this is not the job for you. There are going to be a few flaws here and there, but I kind of love that about DIY projects. Plus, at under $100 for the entire project, I can’t complain.

I bought several replacement heads for the roller, too, as it is best to replace them at least a few times throughout the project. They are never quite the same after being washed.


I also bought one good small brush and a handful of cheap sponge brushes for a variety of touch-ups.


I still need to touch up a few small spots here and there, but for now, as we go back to work for the week, I’m just going to sit back and admire my work for a while. I’ll tackle a few touch-ups next weekend. All-in-all, while I am a bit tired, I could not be more pleased with the results.


This experience was much less traumatizing than my first cabinet-painting experience and, no joke, I’d maybe be willing to do it again someday, but we’re never moving because I just painted our cabinets! If you decide to tackle your own cabinets, let me know! I’d love to see the results.

Books: The Girls

I love reading debut novels. There is something so fresh and ambitious about an author’s first piece of major published fiction. The Girls by Emma Cline was a great read. It provides a vivid and very believable account of a cult in the 1960s.

In graduate school I spent a lot of time researching on cult leadership. I have often asked how a cult leader with bad motives can secure a large following of loyal cult members. Cline’s novel gives us a detailed example of how this happens. It follows Evie, a teenage girl living in California in the 1960s. She seeks love, belonging, and someone to notice her.


Then Evie notices fascinating people in the park one afternoon. From there, she becomes involved in a group lead by a charismatic man, and soon, horrific events occur. The story of cults isn’t a new idea, but Cline’s writing makes this book stand out as something special.

Happy Birthday Norm: Birthday Cake for Dogs and Humans

Norman turns nine this week. After his cancer scare last month and the surgery that followed, we are celebrating his life and health more than ever. This birthday cake is edible for dogs and humans, so it is perfect for spoiling our furry friend.


I scoured the web for dog-friendly cake ideas and ended up combining a couple of recipes to come up with this. It’s quick and easy. My older daughter had a great time helping bake it.


Full disclosure: It wasn’t my favorite cake in the world, but it wasn’t terrible. Norman, actually a fussy eater most of the time, devoured his serving. My daughter thought it was so cool that she and her dog brother could eat the same cake.


I loved this green striped number candle by Papyrus that I found at Safeway. My daughter helped Norman blow out his candle and said she made a wish for him. Later, she revealed the wish: “I hope Norman gets a princess.” I think he has more princesses around than he can handle.



  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (plus more for frosting the cake)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg


  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine the flour and baking soda.
  • Add the remaining ingredients.
  • Stir with a spatula until combined.
  • Place in a greased 9-inch pan.
  • Bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cool for 30 minutes and frost with peanut butter.
  • Serve to dogs and humans alike!

Our Maui Top 10 List

When it comes to Maui, I probably would have been completely satisfied spending the week on the beach or poolside reading, but after that long plane ride it seemed only right to do a little exploring.


My husband helped me come up with our 10 favorite experiences in Maui. Yes, three of them involve food. No judgment, please. Full disclosure: The list originally featured four food-related faves.


10: Hike at ‘Iao Valley State Park. This hike is beautiful and since our bodies were still on Mountain Time and we were up before dawn, we had the trail all to ourselves.


9: Fish tacos at The Fish Market, Lahaina. I had the most amazing grilled fish tacos served in a basket with macaroni salad. Casual. Quick. Divine.

8: Trivia night at The Pour House. For two nerds who haven’t missed an episode of Jeopardy since we started dating (even counting the nights our two daughters were born), we jumped at the opportunity to play trivia on the island. We ended up winning a $20 bar tab and were embarrassingly proud of our efforts.

7: Hawaiian sweet bread at The Banyan Tree. This stuff. I can’t even explain how delicious.

6: Pools at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. We stayed at the villas near the Ritz-Carlton, but our villa had an agreement with them for guests to use the pool. There is a wonderful kids’ area our daughters would have adored, and an adults-only area where we could read in pure peace. The pools overlook the ocean, which is a plus.

5: Spa day and couples’ massage at The Grand Waleia. Our flight home didn’t leave until 9:30 p.m., which left us one last day to soak in some relaxation. This spa is absolutely amazing. We spent the afternoon in the sauna, steam room, and healing pools, then got a couples’ massage. The only thing left to do was have a glass of wine at the airport and completely zonk out for the long overnight flight home.

4: Twin Falls hike. The waterfalls on this hike are stunning exactly the kind of thing I imagined I’d see in Maui and they didn’t disappoint. I was also intrigued by the amazing flowers on this hike. Many were like nothing I had ever seen before.


3: Sushi at Sansei. We are both sushi fans and agreed this was the best we’d ever had. The service was also excellent. Make a reservation. We tried to get a table our first night in Maui and had to make a reservation for the next night.

2: Whale watching with Ultimate Whale Watch. Our small boat made it easy to get close to the whales. We saw at least a dozen whales breaching, slapping the water, and even swimming right under our boat! We went on the 4 p.m. tour, which meant we caught a stunning Maui sunset during the ride. Our captain and the marine biologist onboard were knowledgeable and clearly very excited about their jobs.


1: Helicopter ride with Sunshine Helicopters. I was a little apprehensive about getting on a helicopter for the first time, but just moments into the ride I experienced complete relaxation as we flew over the Maui countryside. This is truly the best way to see the island and worth every penny.



All 50 by 40: Hawaii

I just finished visiting my 43rd state on my quest to visit all 50 by age 40, and this last trip left me with one question: Why did I leave Hawaii until number 43?! Silly.


My husband and I stayed on Maui. It was absolutely gorgeous. We chose not to island-hop on this trip because we really wanted to absorb as much of Maui as we could while still having time to relax.


I am currently working on my Maui Top 10 list, which will definitely include whale watching and eating my weight in fish tacos.


There was relaxing pool time.


The Banyan Tree, which gets creepily loaded with noisy birds at sundown.


Our beautiful resort made it difficult to come back to snowy South Dakota.


Our beautiful resort made it difficult to come back to snowy South Dakota.


The fantastic hiking trails were one of our favorite parts of the island, and, in my mind, an excuse to eat more fish tacos.


I took my first helicopter tour. It was awesome!


We left our three-year-old and eight-month-old daughters home with my very generous and caring parents. We missed them so much, but the time away was good for us. Thank you, dear friends, for reminding me of that, and squelching that mommy guilt before it had a chance to take hold.


Stay tuned for my favorite parts of Maui. What state should I visit next? Here are the remaining seven.

The Updated List



Michigan (I have been to airports)


Texas (I have been to airports)

West Virginia


Who Gets the Best Version of Me?

A little voice crept into my head a few days back asking this question. I had given my all at work that day, put in extra hours, and was not being as kind or patient with my husband or daughters as I would like to be. I was drained. Who gets the best version of me? That day it certainly wasn’t the three people I love most in the world.


(Photo by Alyssa Crawford Photography)

We can’t be “on” all the time. Well, at least I can’t. I get tired. I get impatient. I feel pulled in too many directions. I feel guilty.

Something has to give. I have found that I frequently use up every ounce of positive energy I can muster at work or on other tasks that do not include being a loving and kind wife and mother. My husband and daughters didn’t tell me this. They’re not complaining. Still, I can tell I’m not giving them my all. They’re not getting the best me.

Guess what? My endless work email list will still be there if I take a full hour lunch break to recharge. No one will be any worse off if I fully engage in playing ballerinas with my daughters instead of mentally making a grocery list or worrying about the next week’s work priorities.

Who are the people who really matter in your life? Do you dwell on an unpleasant exchange with a person you rarely see or don’t even know instead of nurturing the loving relationships close to you? I know I am guilty of this.

I am not proposing we slack off at work or start being rude to the strangers we encounter, but sometimes I’m a lot friendlier to the cashier at the grocery store than I am to my own husband. Who gets the best version of me? By asking myself this question regularly, rather than beat myself up for being a sub-par wife and mother, I hope to be more aware, take care of myself better, and save some energy and positivity at the end of the day for those who matter most.

A Season for Minimalism

I’ll be honest. Christmas had a way of overwhelming me. Again. The first two weeks of December I was stress-free, completing my Simple Holiday To Do List with enthusiasm. Then came the influx of toys, boxes, heavy meals, candy, cookies, and trash, trash everywhere.

I enjoyed the time with family and friends, but the sheer amount of stuff everywhere had turned me into a bit of a Scrooge, or the Grinch, or the boss on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (you know, the one who gives Clark a jelly of the month subscription instead of a monetary bonus.) I can feel myself turning into this monster and as much as I try to be Buddy from Elf, I just can’t wait to get organized again. Does anyone else out there feel me?


I truly am grateful that friends, family, and neighbors love us and want to give gifts, but how can we embrace the joy and magic of the seasons without drowning in cardboard toy packaging and crinkled wrapping paper? We find ourselves drifting from the real meaning of the Christmas season. Spoiler alert: It’s not presents.

So as we begin January, I am thrilled to once again be back to a normal routine. I took down the tree on December 28 and have three boxes of clothes and toys in my trunk just waiting for our local donation center to be open again. This brings me peace.

January is about getting organized, getting healthy, and undoing all the madness December brings. While I don’t have official resolutions this year, I will continue to focus on being the best version of myself for my husband, daughters, and friends, and embracing a deep gratitude for the gifts money can’t buy.