Thursday, July 16th

Kitchen Renovation: Lightening and Brightening

When we bought our house a few months ago, there were a few cosmetic changes we knew we’d be making right away. Painting and replacing the floors were the first order of business so that we could move in, and then all other upgrades would happen while we unpacked and settled.

The heart of any home is the kitchen and our kitchen is small, but it pulses with love nonetheless. After living with an apartment galley kitchen for years, it’s not like we’re used to something huge. In fact, with a pantry that holds a ton of food and a few extra cabinets and drawers than we had before, this small kitchen is ever-so-slightly more spacious.

Before pictures of a kitchen home renovation

The cabinets—while nothing special—were in pretty good shape. We didn’t have room in the budget to replace them anyway, but we wanted to freshen them up and refinish them in white. Now, just slapping some paint on cabinets can ruin them, so this was a risky undertaking. But I found a good YouTube tutorial and we followed it to the letter, save painting the insides. We also chose to prime the cabinets before painting. The quality of the paint is non-negotiable as is the time spent sanding and prepping. I think we spent about $100-$150 for paint, good rollers and brushes, a small electric sander, etc. It took a few weeks to do it in stages, but we’re happy with the result.

We also wanted to get rid of the ugly countertops, cheap sink, and rickety fixtures. Originally we thought we’d get granite tops, but ultimately decided that the cost wasn’t justified as it would eat up too much of our budget. We found one of two people in the Austin area that install laminate and perused his hundreds of samples, knowing that we wanted something black. A swirl of holographic ocean colors makes the dark counter pop and we like that we don’t have to treat the counter with kid gloves. We widened the area on the upper ledge so I could showcase my gorgeous, but seldomly used KitchenAid mixer and other space-hogging items.

Brown laminate countertop

Installing laminate countertop with Austin Laminate Countertops

We spent about $1,000 on the counters and installation, which included putting in our new sink and faucet. I made sure to order those in advance and had them ready on the big day. We wanted an industrial style chrome faucet and chose a Ruvati for their good reputation and moderate pricing. Industrial spray faucets can range from crazy expensive to dirt cheap. We landed somewhere in the middle with one normally priced at $280 and found it on Amazon for $175. Score! Kevin completed the job in one day and was simply fantastic.

Ruvati Commercial Style Pullout Spray, Polished Chrome

The sink was a topic of discussion for awhile, as we went back and forth debating between stainless steel or something else. I spent hours and hours pouring over sinks online. I was hoping to get:

– Something with one hole so we didn’t have to deal with plugs

– A standard size sink that looks enormous and deep

– A single (rather than a split) basin that wasn’t likely to scratch, stain, burn, or crack.

In the end we went with white composite for its durability, affordability, and modern look. I cannot tell you how many people have complimented this sink that we bought for $203.

Swanstone Dual Mount One-hole Composite Sink

One of the areas we were most eager to see improved was the cheap laminate floor which was destroyed with concrete stain from our earlier construction. We opted for a light gray tile. In hindsight, we probably picked something too inexpensive (something like .49 a piece) so we’ll see how it holds up. So far we know that it gets dirty pretty easily but also mops up easily. The mounting labor costs as well as the grout and mortar were why we skimped in this area. Also, I should mention that hiring someone who worked “cheap” was fraught with timing issues, unprofessionalism, and frankly, just not worth it. So lesson learned there. But this person (who I won’t name) also installed tile in our bathrooms, as well as new toilets, and baseboards in the entire house. So indeed, it was cheap. The tile came from Floor & Decor. I did not find their selection to be anything special.

Laminate floor before, Tile floor after

We saved the walls for last. We painted over the existing beige with a neutral gray and took our time choosing a backsplash. It was hard not to pick something flashy, but ultimately decided on bright white subway tile for a few reasons:

1. It’s a classic that never goes out of style.

2. Going neutral is best for resale value.

3. With no kitchen window, brighter is better.

4. It was inexpensive, costing less than $90 for all the tile.

Bright white subway tile

The Tile Guy came highly recommended and it was the staff there that recommended Derek Knowles (512.669.1510) as an installer. Can’t say enough good about these vendors and I’d use both again in a heartbeat! Derek gave us a fair price and repaired the wall where the builder had incorrectly mounted electrical outlets. The whole backsplash was done in a weekend.

What else did we do? Mr. Betty replaced the fluorescent lighting with an Ikea ceiling track that cost about $100, including the lightbulbs. I placed chevron Contact paper in the cabinets and drawers to complete the modern feel and to help protect it from wear and tear. I also made a little family command center on the outer kitchen wall so we have a place to store mail, leave notes and lists, hang photos, etc. It keeps things tidy and looks cute, too.

Chevron contact paper in cabinets

Family Command Center with corkboard, magnetic chalkboard and file organizer

Corkboard and Magnetic Chalkboard

Now that we’re finished we’re enjoying our bright, modern kitchen and I look forward to cooking lots of meals here. We felt that we used our limited budget wisely and stretched it quite far. Our one regret, a luxury I was excited about, was hiring a cleaning company to give the place a top-to-bottom cleaning before we moved in. More than $200 got us two young girls who did a sloppy, rushed job, skipping big areas like the fridge, oven, showers and tubs, windows, air vents, and more. Because we were renovating they didn’t have to do the floors, so there was very little actual cleaning done, despite the place being filled with dust, debris, and all kinds of dirt.

It was disappointing enough that we emailed the company feedback and photos in the hopes to get a refund. They offered to send another crew out to do the job correctly, which we were happy to accept. Unfortunately, they sent the same two girls, who this time were angry and instead of setting to work wanted me to walk around and dictate what needed to be done. It was unpleasant to say the least, and they stayed all of fifteen minutes on this return visit. So Boardwalk Cleaning tops my list of businesses that I’ll never patronize again. Sad trombone.

Kitchen after renovations

Anyway, how do you like our bright little kitchen?

Check out how we renovated our small closet here

Wednesday, June 10th

Far From the Maddening Crowd: How to Move in Austin

Whether you’re moving into the heart of the action or, like us, a little off the beaten path in Austin, you’ll probably encounter the typical hassles of city moving. With Austin being as crowded as it is and tons of new people moving here everyday, there are plenty of businesses around just to help you with your stuff. Storing it, buying it, donating it, moving it, etc. Here are a few that I used and can happily recommend.

Buying a House

For Mr. Betty and I, the whole process started with buying our first house. We lived in the same South Lamar gated apartment community for seven years and were ready to shed the noise of apartment living for our own place. Austin is crazy right now, definitely a seller’s market. Our budget wasn’t huge and we were realistic about where we could live and how to make the most of our money. For us, the decision to move east was simple. It’s got charm of its own, and allowed us to get a bigger place, a yard, two-car garage, all that stuff. It was hard to say goodbye to our hot 78704 neighborhood, but as most homes were tiny and approaching a million bucks a pop, it wasn’t like we had a choice.

For those looking to buy a house in Austin right now, let me offer a few tips:

1. Don’t get overly attached to anything. It’s really competitive, so be prepared to make offers on multiple places. I experienced a few rounds of heartbreak, really letting myself get so excited about a few places. Next time, I’ll be tougher.

2. Keep a flexible schedule and a positive attitude. Because I work from home it was easy for me to take off at a moment’s notice and go see a house right when it hit the market. (And just like with BBQ, Austinites will wait in line to see a house. Be prepared for a dozen people to show up before a house officially hits, everyone trying to get a leg up and make offers immediately.) Any house that was a serious contender required a second visit with Mr. Betty.

3. Get yourself a really good Realtor. All things being equal, it’s your agent who will win you the deal with good relationships, clean contract writing, and basically advocating for you. I lucked out because one of my best friends happens to be a rock star at her job. Melissa Lombard worked tirelessly on our behalf, and it was through her persistence that we ended up with a great house. When we sell one day, we’ll be excited to work with her again.


We opted to pack and move ourselves, saving on moving expenses so that we could put more money towards home renovation. I’m a good packer and love to throw things out, so I started sorting through nonessentials like clothes, books, mementos, to box up or donate as soon as I could. Before we even found our house, I already had 40 or 50 boxes packed. Once we had a home, plan, and moving date secured, we were able to kick it into high gear.

We rented a large U-Haul truck for about $60 and made a plan to pack it ourselves with the help of a few generous friends. We also took advantage of a Living Social deal which gave us two strong experienced movers from Keep Austin Moving for two hours for $99. And…wow. These guys took charge and packed our entire apartment in that time by themselves. It made the day so much easier. We were able to conserve our energy for unpacking, which we did ahead of schedule. I should note that my protective friends and husband really wouldn’t let me carry much, even though I was in my second trimester and not a useless blob like I am now.

A real life saver was using Binstro, who reached out to me to see how they could help us move. The local startup is typically used for storage, which I didn’t think I needed. Unbeknownst to me, it would be the thing that saved my sanity. But more on that in a moment.

The process works like this:

1. Place an order for how many bins you need to hold your stuff and choose a delivery date and time. You’ll receive a nice clean stack of reusable bins, ready to go with blank labels and a Sharpie. Each bin holds 75 pounds, so they are really large and convenient. Rather than making them super heavy, we chose to mostly fill ours with clothes right on the hangers, layering in carefully wrapped breakables in between.




2. Schedule a pick up. My original plan was to just have the bins immediately delivered to the new house, but as our renovations weren’t quite complete, we opted to store them for a few weeks. This gave us the flexibility—and space—to really focus on the renovations properly without having to constantly shuffle around tons of boxes during construction. We had peace of mind knowing that our belongings were safe and secure in climate controlled storage. Each bin was barcoded and double-fastened with zip ties.


3. Schedule the delivery of your full bins. When you’re ready to be reunited with your belongings, Binstro will bring them to wherever you are. Then you unpack and schedule one last pick up of the empties. It’s so incredibly easy and I found each interaction to be friendly, pleasant, and smooth. (These people work hard, and my personal recommendation is to give a generous tip, but that’s completely up to you.)

Pricing and more explanation on how to use Binstro can be found on their website, along with additional bin sizes and add-on services. They are very accommodating with pickup and delivery times, and I’d recommend setting those up about a week in advance.




Because our bins were mostly filled with clothes on hangers, it should have been easy to just unpack into a new closet. But our new closets, while more numerous, are considerably smaller than the enormous ones in our apartment. This was made worse by the fact that the previous owners didn’t optimize the space. Mr. Betty and I realized that if we were going to keep any kind of order in our bedroom, our smaller walk-in closet would need an overhaul before we put anything in there.

Mr. Bettty took a sledge hammer to the two puny bars and shelves, then patched and painted the walls, giving us a fresh slate. After reviewing our options for affordable closet systems, we opted to go with the Rubbermaid HomeFree Series of customizable wire shelving. Careful planning and a few rounds of measuring and sketching out ideas gave us a good list to bring to Lowe’s. We bought a couple big kits and extension packs, choosing to mix and match pieces for our own, completely customized system. Here are the before and after photos:

Walk-in Closet

Walk-in Closet

Big difference, right? It’s still a tight fit, but we were able to put a lot of stuff in there and I can’t imagine the mess we’d be in had we not made this crucial update. Adding a robe hook behind the door and a pull-out rack for ties and belts let us maximize the space even further. I believe we spent around $400-$500 on the closet altogether.

Rubbermaid Homefree Series


Rubbermaid Homefree Series

Part of what reaffirmed our need to organize properly on the front end was reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. While I don’t quite have a clutter or hoarding problem, there are plenty of areas where I can improve and this book offers lots of great tips to living a tidier, more organized life. Moving into a new space was the perfect time for me to reevaluate all our belongings. I found myself letting go of things that I thought I loved, but haven’t touched in years.

Anyway, moving is stressful. But our experience was a good one largely in part to the fantastic local businesses available in Austin. I can wholeheartedly recommend Binstro, Melissa Lombard, and Keep Austin Moving. Thanks for everything, you guys! We never could have done it without you.

As we finish different areas of the new house, I’ll be updating the blog with renovation photos, successes, and mishaps!

Monday, March 30th

How to Reupholster a Chair

How to Upholster a Chair

In preparing for a move, I’m currently going through all my belongings and evaluating what deserves keeping and what goes in the donation pile. The opposite of a hoarder, I love throwing stuff out. It’s satisfying to declutter and keep possessions as lean and mean as possible, but maybe I’m too quick to pitch things.

Chair before reupholstering

For instance, this chair. I have a set of four and they aren’t too old, but my beloved monster cat, Chloe, scratched the seats to oblivion. We recently purchased some new chairs, but could really benefit from having some extra seating around for parties and things. I snooped around YouTube to see if upholstering the seats seemed like a project I could tackle in a day, and sure enough, it was easy.

Remove cushions from chair base

How to reupholster a chair

Most chair seats are simply held on by screws. Just flip the chair over and carefully unscrew. Set aside the base and screws, then get to work removing the staples. Depending on how old your chair is, the staples could be a simple or monumental task. The newer the chair, the more likely you’ll see aggressive stapling.

How to reupholster a chair, remove staples

How to reupholster a chair, remove staples

How to reupholster a chair, remove staples

My own situation was heinous, with hundreds of staples. The most tedious part of the job, I ended up cutting off the fabric and removing the worst of the staples, focusing on the corners using a small ice pick and needle nose pliers.

How to reupholster a chair

How to reupholster a chair

If the foam padding is in good shape, continue on to applying the new fabric. If not, you’ll need to get fresh foam cut to fit the size of the wood. Simply lay it on top or lightly glue it down if you like. Then center your base in the new fabric, leaving a few inches on each side.

How to reupholster a chair, staple the fabric

How to reupholster a chair, staple the fabric

How to reupholster a chair, staple the fabric

How to reupholster a chair, staple fabric

Using a staple gun, begin by affixing the fabric to the middle of each side. Continue your way around each side one at a time, working your way to the corners. Pull fabric tight before each staple, but don’t choke it. Smoothly fold the corners down in a few pieces, as if wrapping a gift box. Corners should look clean. Trim when you are done, making sure the holes are accessible for when you screw it back together. If your chair had a cover on the bottom, staple that on, too.

Then screw the seat back onto the chair and make sure it’s on there really well. And that’s it! An incredibly easy and affordable way to update your chairs that look outdated or a little rough.

How to reupholster a chair, chevron pattern

How to reupholster a chair, finished project

When I need to pull these out of my garage for extra seating, I won’t have to be embarrassed or glare at my cat. She has no interest in scratching these, by the way, as she prefers to sink her claws into leather or vinyl.

What DIY projects have you taken on lately? Have you ever restored furniture and given it another life? Share in the comments!

Wednesday, April 2nd

Food, Apps, and My Journal

I’ve been really busy lately with work stuff, blog stuff, and social stuff. It seems like my schedule starts to get crazy around SX and doesn’t let up for a few months. Here’s an update on what I’ve been doing.

I went to a media event at the much-anticipated La V, and as promised, it was chic and delicious. The light fixtures alone are reason enough to visit. AFBA had their monthly happy hour at the new brick and mortar G’raj Mahal and the bloggers enjoyed bites and sips in the cute outdoor space out back.

I also went to the soft opening of new American Chinese restaurant in South Austin, A-OK Chinese. The staff was nice and I wish them the best of luck, but I’ll continue driving to North Austin for my Chinese needs. Just wasn’t for me.

A-OK Chinese Dumplings

 A-OK Chinese

Keeping with the American Chinese food theme, the people from P. F. Chang’s sent me a gift card to try out their new menu items. But when we ordered, only one item from that menu was available at the location we visited. It was the Shanghai Waldorf Salad and the dressing was incredibly spicy. It was a nice twist on Waldorf Salad, which is one of my favorites. We also had egg rolls, dumplings, Kung Pao Shrimp and Scallops, and Beef a la Sichuan.

P. F. Chang's Shangai Waldorf Salad and Egg Rolls

P. F. Chang's Dumplings

P. F. Chang's Kung Pao Shrimp and Scallops

P. F. Chang's Beef a la Sichuan

In an effort to organize how I…well, organize, I’m trying out the Bullet Journal method. I normally have three to five notebooks lying around with notes and lists pertaining to different projects. It’s been great for me to do something new and have a little guidance into capturing it all in the same spot. I like the idea of using this journaling technique to keep a record of what I’ve accomplished on certain dates and get an accurate picture of how much I can really accomplish on any given day.

Bullet Journal

I’ve also been using a couple great apps on my iPhone lately. Headspace is a guided meditation app that I just started. I’m also using Duolingo to learn French. Maybe I’ll be able to communicate better the next time I go to Paris. So far I’m finding the French easier than the meditation. I’m also digging the Animal Face app because tiger heads on human bodies are hilarious. I’m really breaking the rules by putting animal heads on other animal heads.

Animal Face

Another thing I’m trying to learn is accounting and it is way outside my comfort zone. I took an accounting class in college and hated it. Now that I’m trying to do it for real, with real money, MY money…I still hate it. Anyone have any accounting books to recommend?

My latest kitchen adventures are taking the form of veggie bowls. Quinoa topped with a number of good and healthy things like beans, cheese, pepitas and hemp seeds, raw and cooked veggies, sweet potatoes. Pretty much whatever I have on hand.

Veggie Bowl

Ulysses Press sent me a review copy of the 1990’s Coloring Book and I love it. It would make a great gift for those 25 to 35 year olds in your life. You can win one of your own by following Ulysses Press on Facebook or Twitter. Just leave me a comment to let me know you did it and then I’ll draw the winners name on April 15th.

1990s Coloring Book

What’s the cool stuff you’ve been into lately?

Monday, December 9th

Holiday Gift Guide

We’re in the countdown to the end of the year and if you haven’t started already, it’s time to get serious about your holiday gift shopping. Make this holiday season all about fun with colorful gifts, tasty treats, and stylish items to brighten the lives of those you love.

Holiday Gifts
  • In God We Trust NYC flask helps the partiers in your life carry their favorite sips for a mellow concert or a romantic stroll in the cold night air. Fill with Thorny Rose wine to warm from the inside out! $60
  • The ombre trend has never been easier. The New Black coordinates the shades for the lady in your life to just paint on each finger. $22
  • Fans of Bravo TV and Andy Cohen will love the Mazel flip tee-shirt, sure to steal the show! $28
  • A little Nate Berkus goes a long way. Jazz up the room with a neutral, fringed decorative pillow from Target. $25
  • Make sure the musician in your life is never without a pick again! $20
  • These sushi slippers allow your cold-footed friends to pad around in style. $34
  • Your turn to bring dessert to a holiday party? Try this Exquisitely Rich Fruitcake with Stout from Dean & DeLuca. $35

What’s on your shopping list this year?

Monday, November 11th

Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving means so much to me and to my family. More than all the delicious food, it’s a time many of us who live far apart can be together. For some of my family, it’s the only day of year we get to see each other, so it’s even more special. We hang out with dogs. And new baby cousins. And carve a massive turkey.

Black dog and gold dog

Baby with onesie that reads Gobble Gobble

Carved Thanksgiving turkey

We fill our plates with traditional and innovative sides. We eat pumpkin pie. Some years we eat rice pudding. I take a bike ride with my Dad around the neighborhood.

Thanksgiving meal

Rice pudding

This year we aren’t making it home for Thanksgiving. We’ll be fending for ourselves in Austin, so I’m starting to think about my menu. Should we do a traditional meal or do something totally off the wall? Maybe we’ll make a healthy turkey soup. Or my famous turkey chili.

No matter what we eat, I’m planning a stylish table scape. Ombre glasses and colorful platters add sparkle and a festive atmosphere to one the year’s most important meals.

Pretty Platters at Target Bowls at Target How are you planning on making your Thanksgiving special this year? Share what’s going on your table in the comments! #MyKindOfHoliday

Disclaimer: Content and/or other value provided by our partner, Target.

Tuesday, December 25th

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope you’re all enjoying the day off from work and celebrating in your favorite way. I’m relaxing, reading, making pancakes, and enjoying the mild weather in Austin. My dreams of a white Christmas faded years ago and have been replaced with flip flops and year round sunscreen application.

Anyway, the change of climate hasn’t dampened my decorating enthusiasm. Mr. Betty and I take pride in our rad ornament collection and last year I gave a rundown of some of our favorites. We added some new guys to our tree this year:


After not having a tree topper for as long as I can remember, we found this awesome cardinal. You can’t tell from the photo, but it’s huge. Like, as big as your head.

I’d like to think our new shark and sneaker reflect our personal style:

Shark Ornament

Sneaker Ornament

A couple nights ago we headed over to Mozart’s Coffee Roasters to check out their light show. While crowded, it wasn’t the insane chaos of the Trail of Lights.


Mozart’s is one of our homesick comfort spots. There aren’t a ton of places to sit on the water in Austin, and Mozart’s sprawling decks make us feel right at home. And they really go all out for the holidays, with lights dangling everywhere. It feels like a caffeinated wonderland. The light show starts at the top of the hour and lasts about 15 minutes. Each of the five or six songs had a different theme and little show. Very pretty, and the hot cocoa and cider were delicious. This lasts till New Year’s, so there’s still plenty of time to go.





Hula Hut

The palm trees are next door at the Hula Hut and worth the visit on their own. Aren’t they the coolest?

Tuesday, April 10th

Be Our Guest

What’s the key to ensuring your guests have an enjoyable visit? Um, nice towels. That’s all it takes.

guest basket

Okay, maybe it takes more than that. But fluffy spa towels are a nice start. Providing all the toiletries your guests may need takes the burden off them. Plus, that leaves more room in their suitcases to fill with gifts for you…from Trader Joe’s.

A nice little arrangement of bottled water, fancy soaps, and fun little treats lets your guests know they are special. That you care so much about them and prepared for their visit. And you want them to feel comfortable and pampered.

Planning a list of fun activities and some relaxing downtime helps your guests achieve the perfect vacation balance. Of course, in Austin it’s easy. Everyone wants to come here. Even if you had ratty towels, they’d come.

Guest bathroom


Friday, February 17th

She’s Crafty

My home office is an important space. Unlike my work office, I can have a comfy chair, chic desk, and place to take a nap. I believe all three are conducive to producing great work.

A frequent note-taker, I’m always scrawling ideas on little scraps of paper and notebooks. I try to keep them contained, but in truth they are everywhere. I’ll find notes months later reminding me that I wanted to try cold brewing coffee or dates of upcoming concerts. Notes that say things like find shoe or calories.

I need my notes right in my face. I like them hanging on the wall. So I wanted a new cork board. Here’s what I made last weekend:

It’s quite large and will hold lots of my scattered thoughts. Anyone can make this. You just need to hoard corks for a few years and know how to use a hot glue gun. Don’t use a cheap frame.

It took me a few hours to fit these in like a puzzle and then glue them in nice and tight. It was a nice walk down memory lane as certain corks reminded me of moments in my life. The winery where Mr. Betty proposed, the bottles of wine we shared in Italy, the dinner parties where we laughed with friends. Maybe this board will do more than hold my thoughts. Maybe it’ll inspire new ones. Either way, it’s a nice addition to my office.

Look at the pretty wine stains.


Wednesday, January 18th

Look what I made!

New year, new bed. Macy’s was having a huge sale on beds, so we decided it was a good time to upgrade. I searched everywhere for a headboard I liked, but couldn’t find one. But then the crafty part of me said, But what if you made one? And then the hungry part of me said, Can we go get dinner? I’m starving.

Mr. Betty and I decided to go for it. We ate dinner. But then after that we decided to make a headboard. Here are the supplies we used:

  • Untreated plywood
  • Spray adhesive
  • Staple gun
  • Staples
  • Upholstery foam
  • Batting
  • Upholstery fabric

From Home Depot we got the adhesive, staples and gun, and had them cut a board to our measurements, 48×78 inches. A standard headboard is about four feet tall and two inches wider than your mattress width.








We bought the foam, batting and upholstery from a fabric store. Bonus, the most expensive part of this project, the upholstery fabric, was 50% off! Do not cheap out on the fabric. Make sure it is thick and of really good quality.

First, we sprayed one side of the board with adhesive and applied the foam. We stapled it onto the back, making sure to leave a couple extra inches on the top of the board.  Our foam and batting was in two pieces, but if you can get them in one, even better.








We repeated the process for the second step. Sprayed the foam with adhesive and covered with batting. Stapled the batting to the back.







Final step, lay the fabric on top of the batting and staple to the back. Don’t use adhesive this time. This is nice, because you can change the look of your headboard by just switching out the fabric. There were so many great fabrics. I can see myself changing it a few times a year.

I am so pleased with how this came out. It’s flawless, cushiony and chic. We used a solid fabric, but if you do this with a print make sure to line it up the way you want it.

Total cost for the headboard was $125, including $25 for staple gun and staples. I highly recommend trying this DIY headboard if you are looking to be creative or save a little cash.