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DIY Kitchen Makeover Part One: Refinishing Cabinets

DIY Kitchen Makeover Part One: Refinishing Cabinets

Hey friends,

The Mister and I bought our home last summer and moved in late September. And we had one very ambitious goal– to host Christmas dinner for our families. Now that might not sound like a lot, but that meant we needed to replace all the appliances, refinish the cabinets, lay down new counters oh and prepare the meal. That’s a good chunk of work. (But we love it!) Here’s how we turned this greasy outdated mess into a bright, clean and lovely kitchen– just in time for Christmas dinner.

Let me also add that we did this on a small budget. Oh lordy, I wish we could have afforded to replace all the cabinets and countertops with nice new stuff from the home improvement store, but do you know how much that stuff costs? Like thousands of dollars. And y’all, I must have such good taste, because all the things I liked the were the most expensive. HA! So we used what we had and made it better. With our own two (four) hands.

First things first…

The kitchen needed a serious de-greasing. I mean, it was pretty much deep-fried from the cabinets to the appliances– everything was just covered. We’re pretty sure whoever lived here before us cooked a lot, but didn’t clean a lot. Actually, it was pretty amazing. Here’s some photos of the build-up we had to deal with. Buhhhh… I’m not even gonna show you the inside of the dishwasher or refrigerator cause I like you guys. Just know that it was bad. Real bad. (shudders)

Under the hood

Close-up of the top of vent hood. Kind of amazing, right?

Yeah, that’s what was built up right under the heat source. It’s amazing our home didn’t catch fire before it was ours.

Super-close-up of that nast.

If the oven face is this greasy, just imagine what the wooden cabinets felt like…


Check out all that grease just dripping down the sides of the stove. My tummy hurts just looking at it.

Gah, isn’t he a cutie? A pallette cleanser for sitting through all those photos.

So we replaced all those bad boys and will soon pay off those credit cards 🙂 Thankfully, I worked for a badass company that offered very nice discounts on one of our client’s line of appliances. Thank you unnamed maker of our new oven, dishwasher and laundry machines. That was totally awesome.

To re-finish the cabinets, we needed to put on our respirators and de-grease all faces of the cabinets, inside and outside. First we used a citrus degreaser, which should be fine in most cases. But for us, we still had a lot of gunk, so we had to bust out the big guns. TSP stands for Trisodium Phosphate and it used to be in lots of detergents and dishwashing liquids until we realized just how bad they are for us. It’s really nasty stuff and absolutely wear a respirator mask and open all the windows when using this stuff. You can read more about it here. Unfortunately that is just how intensely gross our kitchen used to be. 

The Steps:

  • De-grease using a citrus degreaser or, if need be, TSP.
  • Remove cabinet doors and any hardware from the shelving.
  • Label all your doors using a alphanumeric system. This will help reduce confusion as you try to figure out which-cabinet-goes-where in the end. A lot of times doors will look similar in size but end up being wrong– and if you don’t label them, you won’t find out until it’s too late and you’re cussing at inanimate objects. Don’t cuss at inanimate objects.
    • I assigned each segment of cabinetry a letter (West side = A, South = B, East, C) and then in clockwise order, I assigned them a number. So I know that A4 is the fourth cabinet door on the east wall. Ladies, your loving husbands might say this is an unnecessary step and that he’ll totally know which ones go where. When this happens, smile sweetly and do it anyway. He’ll thank you when you’re not scratching your heads.

  • Paint on a layer of sanding sealer.
  • Sand by hand with a medium grit sandpaper, 150 is fine. (Also, sponge sanders are helpful for the beveled curves)
  • Repeat last two steps until satisfied.
  • Paint on a primer like Kilz.
  • Using a basic indoor paint, go nuts on your cabinets.

Once we were all done with sanding, priming, painting and drying, we re-hung the cabinet doors and enjoyed the new look! Just in time for Christmas dinner.

Coming up next…

I’ll be posting Part Two of this makeover soon and show you how we did these awesome wooden countertops for about $300 bucks!

Trust in your hands.

Tiki Tiki Two Birthday Invitation

Hi Friends,

I’m away from home this week performing comedy with The New Movement, but I wanted to share a project from last summer that I think you might enjoy. My sister-in-law asked me to design some over-the-top handmade invitations for my sweet niece’s second birthday party. Big parties for small people aside, I jumped at the opportunity to go overboard with different paper crafting techniques to eventually share on the blog I didn’t have yet. So here we are.

Let me apologize in advance for the iPhone photos. I wanted to document all the important steps and goshdarnit, that cell phone never leaves my side, so it was the first thing I grabbed when I would be like “Oh, this is an interesting tip, I should take a photo right now.” Anyway, it’s cause I love ya.


*The makers of these products don’t know who I am. They’re not giving me any money. Although it would be nice if they did, but that’s not the reason I’m posting their products. Just dang good tools, y’all.


  • 12 x 12″ Sand Colored Scrapbook Paper for Enclosures
  • 5.25 x 8.5″ Sky Blue Paper
  • 4″ Yellow Circle Labels
  • Hot Pink Paper for Flower Strips
  • Lime Green Paper for Leaves
  • Orange and Yellow Paper for Small Flowers
  • Adhesive Jewels for inside of flowers
  • Glue Dots Double-faced tape or a Tape Runner
  • Blue Paper for Ocean
  • Green Paper for Grass
  • Brown Stamp Pad
  • An Eyeshadow Applicator
  • Hot Pink Envelopes
  • Green Oval Labels

Text & Graphics:

I used Illustrator to design the title graphic and InDesign to lay it out for print. For me, this was the easiest, but that may not be the same in all cases. Photoshop or Word are also good alternatives for this step. One major benefit of using Illustrator is that it’s a vector program, meaning the artwork can be stretched infinitely without getting distorted. Photoshop is a raster program, so when you stretch artwork beyond the original size, it becomes pixelated. Boooo.

BONUS TIP: I took the Tiki-Tiki text and printed it really large to fit a wooden sign to welcome guests at the party. Using carbon transfer paper, I traced the letters onto the wood and painted in the lines. Made it real easy to look real good!

The fonts I used are RiotSquad (Katie’s Turning), TikiIsland (Tiki-Tiki), TikiSurf (2) and Helvetica Neue (Body Text). Paper Source makes all these pretty labels that have downloadable templates in different formats, PDF, InDesign, Word, whatever. So easy. When designing titles like this, I like to use a couple different fonts– but as a rule of thumb, never more than three (excluding more simplified body text typefaces).


The Enclosures:

Start with some 12 x 12″ sand-colored scrapbook paper, I found some really cool single sheets that were metallic on one side and matte on the other. This gave the outside of the enclosures a really luxurious look and the inside a perfectly sandy interior. Trim to 8.75″ tall, keep the scraps, they will be used later to make the bamboo trim around the Tiki-Tiki text box. Score the enclosure at 3 3/8″ and 8 7/8″. I like to  use a marker on a piece of scotch tape to mark the measurements. Makes it a lot easier when you’re making a whole bunch at a time. Since these invitations have some 3D elements, I also scored a second line just to the outside the measurements so that my flowers won’t get squished.

The little black dots show me where to crease the enclosures.

Put a little piece of tape and to mark your score lengths without messing up your pretty scoring board. Makes it that much quicker to see where to crease the paper!

Cutting & Prep:

Since I’m the greatest aunt ever, I agreed to make fifty of these bad boys. FIFTY, y’all. That’s a lot of invitations with a lot of individual steps. But fortunately, I learned some great tips about assembly lines working for a company that specialized in the Lean Supply Chain. Who knew logistics and crafting went together? (thumbs to self) This girl did. First, I cut everything out. Then I did any sub-steps like cutting the grass with the fringe scissors, making the oceans, etc. Getting everything ready before you start assembling makes it a lot faster and easier to put everything together.

  • Cut and score the enclosures.
  • Print the title text boxes onto cardstock.
  • Print the circle labels.
  • Punch the strips of hot pink flowers for the sides.
  • Run all the strips of flowers through the Xyron at the same time.
  • Punch the smaller flowers and sculpt them.
  • Cut green paper into rectangles, then use the fringe scissors to make ’em look like grass. (see below)
  • Use cricut to cut various sizes of leaves, run through tiny Xyron.
  • Cut out the ocean (see step-by-step graphic below)
  • Make the bamboo strips (see video below)

For the ocean, titles and bamboo branches, I ran them through my Xyron at the same time. The pink flowers I ran through in a big batch because of their similar size and shape. The adhesive Xyron cartridges are expensive (use coupons!) so this is a great way to  use the machine efficiently and economically. This also applies to the flowers and leaves.



  • Start with the blank enclosure, matte side up. Use double sided tape to adhere the sky blue paper on all four sides.
  • Print the information onto the round 4″ yellow labels, stick the sunny circles right about the middle of the page.
  • Attach the ocean.
  • Attach the grass.
  • Attach the Tiki Tiki title text box
  • Border the text box with the bamboo branches.
  • Place the flower strips on both sides.
  • Use glue dots to place the smaller flowers on either side. No need to go crazy, 2-3 on each side looks lovely.
  • Slip the Xyroned lime green leaves underneath the strips of flowers. Again, no need to go nuts. Less is more.

Just One More Thing… 

I bought this vector Tiki mask from, then printed a bunch onto a separate sheet when I got everything else printed.  Trimmed the masks to close rectangle using my paper trimmer, then I cut each one out with an Xacto knife. I used my Cricut to cut out some larger leaves in lime green and darker green ones to back them. I ran the lime green leaves through the Xyron and attached them the the dark ones. Using a glue dot, I attached the two leaves to each other. Again, I used my Cricut and the Opposites Attract cartridge to cut out a bunch of  2’s, ran them through the little Xyron and affixed them to the leaves. Then I used foam squares to attach the pieces to the front of the enclosure. Foam squares are a great way to add dimension. Check it out:

I know what you’re probably thinking…

“That’s a whole lot of work for something that people are just going to throw away.” And you know what, you’re right. But aside from the moments that I was really exhausted, working on this project was a total joy. Because I knew that I’d be sharing something special and handmade– not only with the recipients of these invitations, but you, my eventual crafty audience. Even if just for a moment, if someone opened that envelope and said “wow” and felt the energy it took to create it. To me, that’s worth it.

Oh, and the mister and I totally had a good time at the party too. Which is also very important.

love, liz.

Handmade Cat Toys

Little Kikki

Hi friends,

This spring we found a little kitten– and kittens are wont to do, she is growing up and is full of energy. As a first-time kitten mom, I’ve been learning a lot. Like–Cat toys are a total racket, am I right?! I don’t understand how a plastic wand with some feathers cost $5…must be the up charge for traveling across the globe to get into our supermarkets. Hrmmmph. I digress.

I’ve also been learning a lot about how to raise a well-behaved feline friend. According to my new favorite show, My Cat From Hell, depleting excess energy through play is a great way to ensure they avoid destructive behavior like clawing furniture and hunting your hands and feet. This show is a great resource for learning the best practices on kitten-rearing. You can find it on Animal Planet, check your local listings.*

The animal behaviorist, Jackson, almost always recommends three things:

1. Make a path up high so your cat can maneuver around a room without touching the floor. (Height = Confidence)

2. Take your cat on walks.

3. Use toys to give your kitty exercise and good play time to direct all their energy in a positive way.

Yesterday I made three super easy, incredibly simple cat toys from things I found around my house. Seriously, here’s what I used:

Toy 1: Mouse Fishing

– a dowel

– a piece of string

– a safety pin

– a toy mouse (got a 6 pack for a $1 at the discount store)

Toy 2: Feathered Friend

– a dowel

– a feather decoration leftover from a craft project. Check the feather boa aisle of your local craft store.

– some masking tape

– some pretty scrap ribbon

Toy 3: Buttoned Bobber

– a dowel

– some string

– a champagne cork

– a button

– some yarn from an old sweater’s repair kit

– a hammer & nail (to make a hole in the cork)

– a needle (to thread the cork)

Check out the step-by-step video on how to make Toy 3:

Happy Crafting,

love, liz.

*Disclaimer: Animal Planet doesn’t know who I am. They’re not giving me any money. I just sincerely think this is a great show.