brooke's brain

laugh. learn. love.

December is often a very busy month for folks.  There are extra events, things to do, shopping, decorating, and all the other things that make the month feel overwhelmed and stressful.  Don’t fall victim to this hub-a-bubble.  Here are a few ways I have found to simplify December by focusing on what matters to our family during the Christmas season!

Focus on what brings you joy.  Think hard about your favorite Christmas memories.  Do you love baking cookies with your sister?  Does addressing 50 Christmas cards bring you happiness?  Are you a big fan of decorating a tree in each room of your house?  Some of these ideas may make you want to lock yourself in a closet while others may truly bring joy.  The good news is you can focus on what makes you happy.  So what that you put up three decorated Christmas trees last year but hated every second of the set up (and take down!).  Just because you’ve done it in the past doesn’t mean you have to do it every year.  Figure out what makes you happy and focus on that.  Let that be “your thing” instead of being mediocre at everything and overstressed because you aren’t enjoying it anyway.

Don’t let your commitments exhaust you.  It’s hard to believe this, but you are the one that controls your calendar- even at Christmas time.  There are a gazillion events each December- parties, cookie swaps, open houses, concerts, train rides with Santa, light shows, and the list goes on and on.  Prioritize what you attend by who you want to spend your time with and how you want to spend your money.  Don’t fall victim to being exhausted all season because you say yes to everything and are completely worn out.  Instead, be selective to what you want to do with your time and don’t forget to schedule in down time for relaxing, recharging, and spending time focusing on what matters during this season.  Also, be mindful of what all is included in an accepted invitation.  Buying formal wear, baking cookies, travel time, and buying/wrapping white elephant gifts also take up precious time.  Even though the party is only 2 hours, if it requires two hours of prep, then it’s not really two hours- its four!

Buy experiences and not stuff.  The majority of parents I know don’t really want their kids to have more stuff- toys, games, dolls, legos, etc.  Instead, they’d love for their child to have more experiences and future memories.  Memberships to local attractions are a good gift idea.  Tickets to a show or concert are also great.  For smaller children, passes to indoor bouncy house places or tickets to a puppet show may work well.  Want to spend more money?  Consider purchasing a weekly class of some sort (ballet, gymnastics, tennis, etc) might be a good choice.  If you are truly trying to simplify Christmas, then that means honoring others wishes to help them simplify their lives by not buying stuff for their kids and cluttering their home.

Spend less but spread more cheer.  I am a big believer in “it’s the thought that counts”.  Instead of buying something “small” for your kind neighbor, mailperson, or favorite waitress, consider writing them a short note.  Let them know how much you appreciate their wonderful service, kind smile, or whatever else you like about them.  I promise your kind words will mean more to them than another cheap coffee mug.

I’d love to hear how you have found ways to simplify your Christmas season!

love, brooke

Being a hostess is in my DNA.  My parents constantly host dinner parties, birthday parties, fish frys, bon fires, and every other party you can imagine.  I had the pleasure to grow up seeing how wonderful it was to experience fellowship with so many in our own home.  It’s something that is a part of me and that my own family now tries to include in our weekly schedule.  

But recently, my Christian understanding of hospitality has been challenged.  I have been reading “The Year of Small Things” and one of the chapters focuses on hospitality.  I was reminded of Luke 14:12-14 (NIV):

12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

But wait, we are really hospitable.  We host friends for dinner or get togethers frequently.  Why can’t that count?  But, Jesus is calling us to another level of hospitality- providing it for those who cannot repay us.  That makes it a little less fun for me.  We love going to our friend’s houses for dinner and drinks or play dates and then us hosting at another date.  Why can’t that be enough for “our’ form of hospitality?

I have been marinating on this scripture for the last several weeks and praying for ways that God can allow me to experience it.  The first was including an awkward, single neighbor by inviting him to our home for a get together.  I was nervous about how his behavior could affect our other guests.  Would he try to smoke around children?  What would I talk to him about?  Do we have anything in common besides being neighbors?  Thankfully, God proved my fears wrong and we had a nice time getting to know him.  He thanked me repeatedly for including him.  I didn’t really need the the thank you but the part that made me smile was that he felt welcome and not left out.

The next nudge came from God to become more involved with a church ministry that feeds the homeless.  This one was especially scary to me because I hate the social awkwardness that has come with previous interactions with homeless men or women.    That’s where my uncomfortableness came from.  “No, I don’t have any cash” I would reply as I grabbed my son’s hand and quickly headed into the restaurant.  Even if I had cash, I was fearful to open my wallet with my son present.  

But today, I went out on that uncomfortable limb to provide hospitality that wouldn’t be repaid to me.  I helped load up metal carts with sandwiches, chips, cookies, oranges and lemonade to serve the hungry along Ponce de Leon Ave in Midtown.  We walked half a mile to our first location and everyone lined up to receive a meal.  Many were homeless, some day laborers looking for a lunch while hoping to get picked up for a job, and others were there to help us.  One man said a loud version of a children’s blessing then everyone went through the line to get their food.  My job was to pass out the oranges- only two per person.   I smiled as I did my job and asked names while introducing myself. Some folks were happy and wanted to chat while others were quick to move along.  When it was all over, I was shocked at how we still had sandwiches left and that everyone had gotten as many as they wanted.  I also was surprised at how quickly we were done.  From start to finish, it was two hours.  It takes more time for me to grocery shop, cook, set up, and clean up for a party than that!

Don’t worry friends, we still are going to have parties and we still want to be invited to your homes.  I think God wants that for us too.  Just not to let it be our ONLY type of hospitality.  

What are some ways you can practice this type of unrepayable hospitality?  Can you host friends/neighbors/family that can’t repay you?  Can you visit the homebound or those in nursing homes?  Can you work at a food pantry?  Can you donate baby supplies to a baby you will never meet?  Can you help a co-worker pay for her car repair?  Can you foster children that you may never see again?  

Can’t wait to see what kind of hospitality God has in store for me next!

love, brooke


img_6519I graduated from my creative writing continuing education course on Tuesday night!  I’m so glad I took the class.  I have learned SO much about writing details, content, dialogue, and getting feedback from my work.

Today, I wanted to share something I wrote in class.  I am hoping it will be a part of a novel one day!  Here was the assignment: “Write 1-2 pages of double spaced dialogue in which two people are arguing about something insignificant, with hints they are really upset about something else.”

Wedding Bubbles

“Cheers!” we say as our chilled flutes clink together.  I smile at John and then look around at the bustling ballroom.  Music is pumping through the ballroom speakers and the flower vendor corner is overflowing with tall, lofty arrangements.  

“Oh, that’s got a really smooth finish and isn’t too dry,” John says after his first sip as we sit together in the wine section of the annual Wedding Showcase.  

“I like it too, I’m just unsure if we should go with the Vueve as it’s more expensive and popular right now” I reply as I lift up my flute to get a glimpse of the chandelier through the bubbles.  

John takes another quick sip.   “Margie, who cares?  If we were basing our decisions off only those factors, we wouldn’t be doing this tasting now.  But, I am a strong believer in serving something that tastes delicious.”  He sets down his glass and crosses his arms just as Sweet Home Alabama begins blaring through the speakers.

“True.  I just want to make sure every little detail of Hattie’s big day is perfect right down to the bubbles selection”, I respond.

John picks up his glass again and says “honey, you know she doesn’t even like champagne.  Her and Josh are both big beer drinkers.”

“Yes, don’t remind me.  As far as I am concerned, they should pour that stuff back into the horse it came from” I say with a serious face.

“HA!”, John says, rolling his eyes.  “Remind me how many bottles we need?”

“Only one hundred,” I say in my most innocent voice.

John almost snorts champagne up his nose.  “Only?  A Hundred?  Seriously?  That is a lot of champagne.  We definitely need to go with the cheaper champagne option or, better yet, let’s go with a sparkling wine.”  A waiter gives us a suspicious look as he passes our table carrying an empty tray of flutes to the kitchen.

“John, we will not serve sparkling wine during the champagne toast at our daughter’s wedding.  That is tacky.  If we don’t serve the real thing, then we might as well not even do a toast,” I reply as I start feeling the buzz of the champagne hitting my body.

“Margie, that sounds a bit dramatic to me.  Won’t the wait staff pour it in the kitchen then bring it out on serving trays?  If so, does it even matter what we serve?” he asks seriously.

“True”, I reply, defeated.  “I’m sorry, I just want this wedding to be wonderful.  You know, when we got married, it was such a simple reception because daddy was so sick.  Part of me feels like I need to make up for our lack of reception by going over the top for Hattie’s.”

John reaches for my hand.   “I know, sweetie.  But let’s try to remember that it’s Hattie and Josh’s day, not ours.  Let’s focus on making them happy so that Hattie won’t do this same thing to her daughter in 30 years” he says with a wink.

“Hmm,” I reply as a bridal fashion show starts on the stage.  All I wanted at our wedding was champagne and desserts but mama convinced me to have punch and cheese straws as it would be cheaper and easier to plan on such a short time line.  

After a few silent moments, I look for the waiter and ask “Excuse me?  May we please try your most expensive champagne?” as I squeeze John’s hand.  He has been married to me long enough to know that I’m going to do what I damn well please.

learn, brooke

Going into the election night party, there was no clear frontrunner.  We knew it was going to be a long night with the final tally coming late in the evening.  The staff and I were throwing back shots of ice cold Jack Daniels in a back room tucked away from the high falutin party.  We were all sick of one another and yet were in this life situation together and wanted to succeed together.  A collective sigh of relief and cheers occurred when the local news station predicted our candidate as the winner.  More shots were taken in celebration and then we all went home to pass out from weeks of campaign exhaustion and copious amounts of bourbon.

The next week was a total whirlwind.  All of the campaign staff were given immediate positions in Washington, DC.  Since it was a mid term special election,  we had exactly eight days to pack up, find an apartment, and get moved.  I had never even visited DC and here I was moving to it.  As I wrestled with what to pack and what to leave behind, I also realized I needed to break off my relationship with my college boyfriend.  I knew that my new job in a new city would be a lot to handle and balancing a long distance relationship on top of that was going to be too much.  I climbed into the passenger seat of the U-Haul moving truck with my anxious mind and grief as I mourned the end of a loving relationship.  The tears just started flowing and my dad, the driver, didn’t even ask because he just knew.

Adjusting to the DC political culture was especially difficult for me.  The attitude of everyone being so important and demanding respect was exhausting.  I had been raised in the deep south and taught that you were only as good as your word.  In DC, people were fake, full of lies, and ready to backstab their way up the political ladder.  That’s probably why I was drawn to him in the first place because he didn’t subscribe to this power hungry culture.  Politically, Kevin was very important as the Chief of Staff for an Illinois Senator.  But, he did not take himself too seriously and he enjoyed poking fun at those who did.  There was something different and relaxed about him that I couldn’t ignore.  He was laid back and drank PBRs after work when everyone else sipped more pretentious drinks like dirty martinis with blue cheese stuffed olives.  He also wore a nicely trimmed beard when most young men on Capitol Hill were clean shaven.   My southern parents would have died knowing that I enjoyed the company of a midwestern man.  To them, everyone born outside the South was a yankee or a Californian.  That was probably another reason I liked him.

Whenever we were together, he never checked his phone.  This was unheard of in DC.  People would dine on $50 steaks and $400 bottles of wine at The Prime Rib with phones littering the table for the entire meal.  He’d invite me to VIP cocktail parties in DuPont Circle and never leave my side to go mingle with others.  We’d attend stuffy corporate suites at the Nationals game and after 20 minutes he’d whisper to me, let’s get out of here and do something fun.  Knowing both sides of Kevin was addicting as I felt like it was our little secret of what he really enjoyed doing with his time versus what his colleagues thought he enjoyed.   

 After four months of dating, I was shocked when he got down on one knee during our weekly Wednesday night karaoke outing. We’d be been drinking a $5 pitcher of Miller Lite and enjoying the people watching and singing.  The DJ was blaring Beyonce’s Single Ladies and a few drunk sorority girls were trying to put on a show.  I had no idea that we’d be the main event for the evening.  As he yelled over the music about how much he loved my zest for life, how I made him so relaxed and happy, and how he wanted that to be his forever, I couldn’t help but think, what if we had lost the election?

learning, brooke

If I were a betting woman (I am not, I prefer to play roulette), then I’d predict that this will be my most popular post in 2017… especially once Pinterest gets it’s little DIY hands on it.

First, a word on shiplap.  This is a term that Joanna Gaines, from Fixer Upper on HGTV,  has made popular.   I believe that Joanna had a specific type of wood in mind.  One that was already covered up by sheetrock in the Texas homes they remodel.  America has expanded the definition to be any type of wood that you attach to a wall to make it decorative.  Since then, Joanna’s trend has led to thousands of trees being cut down and installed in people’s homes.  I digress…

But, if you want to get all technical, here is what Wikipedia has to say.

Somehow, I managed to talk my husband into putting his tools (of the construction variety, to be clear) to use updating some walls in our 1957 ranch home.  I had complained about hauling these tools during three moves in three years and I finally figured out why we have them.  Because he knows how to use them.  Total shocker over here.  He has been holding this information from me for almost 10 years of marriage.  I’m betting he wished he had made it 25 years before I figured it out.

As you know, we had a very tight budget for our home.  Anything that we were able to do, we wanted to do and save the money to pay the pros to do what we could not.  I priced out buying the wood for the first project and it was under $60.  Ok, sold.  Let’s do it.

Here is our before pic:

Click here to see the post on whitewashing a fire place!

DIY Shiplap Recommended Tools:

  • Chop saw
  • Nail gun
  • Air Compressor
  • Small level
  • Large level
  • Finished nails to fit nail gun
  • Pencil
  • Stud finder
  • Caulk
  • Paint


1. Measure the area where you are going to install the wood/ship lap.  You will need the height and the width.

img_3841-12. Determine which type of wood you’d like to use.  I chose a tongue and groove “knotty pine pattern” board.  The top of the board has a groove and the bottom has a lip.  When installed, the bottom lip slides into the groove of the previous board to make a solid joint and appears as a continuous board.

3. Do math.  Many of you know this isn’t my strong suit.  It’s also important to know that even though the board is advertised as 8 inches wide, it’s actually 7′.  There is probably a “that’s what she said” joke in this but it was lost on me because it messed up my math.  So, I guess the second part of this step is measure the width of the board you are using so your math will be accurate.

img_3859-14.  Purchase the wood.  Make sure you check for imperfections before checking out.  One of my selected boards had a long crack in the tongue portion that was causing it to break off.  The nice gentlemen at Home Depot helped me track down more inventory.  The wood for my two projects cost about $60.  Safely load the wood in your SUV/truck.

5. Decide what the “center” is of your project.  For ours, the center of the ceiling, mantle and fireplace were all a bit different.  We marked the center of each then went with a median line for our project.

6. Locate the studs behind the Sheetrock so you know where to install the nails.  An electric stud finder makes this very easy.  You can draw a line over each stud or mark with painters tape.  This will save you time later.  The blue tape on the front of the mantle is where our studs lined up on the wall above the mantle.

IMG_02607. Measure twice and cut once.  We started at the bottom of the wall and worked up.  Since I originally thought I needed 4 boards, I had Home Depot cut two of the 12ft boards in half for me, so we installed those first.  We needed one final board to finish.  The width had to be cut down to fit.  Also, our ceiling is a bit uneven- so we had to specialize the cut to be accurate.  ***Home Depot will cut wood for you.  The first two cuts were free and after that they are 25 cents each.  This seems really reasonable if you are sure of your math and don’t have a chop saw.

IMG_39168. Be sure to use a level for each board.  Being off just a little at the start can cause you to be way off by the end of installation.

9. Finish the edges.  It’s important to know that getting boards the exact same length is hard.  That’s why we did a trim piece on the sides to hide the imperfections.  The wider the trim piece is the more it will cover.

10. Finish the top.  The top is tricky and it’s up to you on your preference of how it should look.  You can tie it in to your current molding, trim it like the sides, or frame it out with it’s own crown molding over your current molding.  We opted to “tie it in” to our current crown molding buy bringing the shiplap right to the bottom of it.  I’m not 100% thrilled with this look- and we may do it’s own crown molding one day.

img_3926-111. Paint the wood.    I’d recommend priming first (kilz is your best friend) then doing a coat of paint.  Next, do some caulking to fill in the gaps.  This will make the look more cohesive.  Don’t forget to caulk between the mantle and wood, along the trim piece and ceiling.  Once the caulk dries, do one more coat of paint.  I recommend a satin or semi-gloss to give the finished product a bit of a sheen.  

We are very happy with the final product!


learn, brooke

I’m going back to school starting tonight and I’m slightly terrified. I’m enrolled for the “Essentials of Creative Writing” course at Emory University. I mean Emory… that place seems so serious and legit. What am I doing? I haven’t been in college in over ten years and I barely remember taking a freshman English class. I guess that’s why I need this CE class… to brush up on writing fundamentals and use the correct tenses and an overall refresher on how to write. Yes, I know it will be good for me. Try something new, get out of your comfort zone, think outside the box, yada yada yada… BUT I’m still nervous.

Some questions:

1.  What should I wear?!?  When I was in college I wore free t-shirts and skirts from Sam’s club. Is this still good attire for a college classroom?! Most of what I have worn recently is a free t-shirt with running shorts covered in paint from DIY projects. Is that ok?! If I wear a dress, will it look like I’m trying too hard?? What do I own that screams “writer” to make me look legit.

2. How many people will be in the class?!  Will it be like me and three other more serious people who spend their days doing nothing but writing? Or will there be 100 of us in a theatre style lecture? Will I be the youngest or way too old?

3. Will I have to share my writing with others?!  Let’s be honest, this is truly the most terrifying question. I’m no where near ready to share my writing with people I’m not already friends with on Facebook! Will they make fun of me?  

4. What should I bring!?  I’m bringing a notebook and pen but should I bring my laptop?! Spoiler- my laptop battery sucks and has to be plugged in to even work. What if the classroom is out of the dark ages and doesn’t have outlets near the chairs? Ok, I’m not taking the computer. And on another note, how do I have such a crappy computer when I’m married to a man who owns five of his own?! I digress…

5. Will we have homework?! If so, what will it be? Will we have to share it with the teacher?! Can you FAIL a continuing ed course?!

6.  What am I forgetting to be worried about?!  

Well, I am all out of ?!? Fingers crossed I can pull this off. TBD.

Update:  I went with the Kmart skirt and PRR t-shirt.  I decided to stick with what I know.  And yes, this is my back to school pic.  😜

laugh, brooke

In the beginning, I was so hesitant to buy them.  They are definitely a financial commitment but every time I got ready to go on a trip that threatened rain, I would get frustrated by my shoe options.  I wanted a pair of truly waterproof shoes (many of my “rain” boots had sprung leaks after long term wear.  I wanted something that could go with jeans or with leggings.  I wanted something that would last and I finally was at the point that I didn’t care what I spent to make this dream come true.

My mom has a pair of waterproof LL bean rain shoes that she has had for over 30 years and it was a good reminder that they last a long time.  I knew if her LL bean investment was still paying off, then it was ok for me to pull the trigger too.  So, after years of wishing/wanting a solid pair of waterproof boots, I decided to make the financial jump to bean boot ownership.

I celebrated a year of boot ownership a couple weeks ago and thought it would be fun to remember all the fun that we have had together over the last year!

Ireland- September 2016

FullSizeRender (22)I bought the boots right before this trip because I knew it was going to rain a lot… as it does in Ireland.  I was nervous pulling the trigger so close to a trip and taking up valuable luggage real estate for shoes that I had never worn before.  Thankfully, the shoes did their job and kept my feet warm and dry.  It was POURING down rain on football game day (Boston College vs Georgia Tech).  We had to hike through Trinity College to wait in line to catch a shuttle to the stadium, then march to the stadium… all in soaking wet conditions.  FullSizeRender (23)We were prepared to continue to be soaked DURING the game.  (Mind you we had JB with us too) and I almost cried when we got in the stadium and we learned that our seats were covered and we were dry!  The game was incredible and drinking cold Irish cider while watching college football is also a pretty nice thing too!


Alaska- October 2016

FullSizeRender (21)

My sister, Jackie, and her husband moved to Anchorage in September.  I decided that I REALLY wanted to visit them BEFORE the snow set in for the winter… so with about 5 weeks notice, I booked a flight to go visit them.  Well, I didn’t quite beat the snow as it snowed the day that I arrived, but thankfully it did not snow more while I was there.  So, I got to experience seeing snow but not a lot of driving/maneuvering through it.

7927289F-F5AA-4C07-B69B-173F61B2A535Of course, this was the first time the bean boots got to meet snow.  I prepared for this by buying boot liners and wore thick wool socks (thankfully I bought a half size up so they would fit) and my feet stayed warm the whole time.  That is pretty impressive considering the temps were between 8-28 degrees during the my visit.  The boots got to watch the sunset over Denali, hike along the Turn Again south of Anchorage, and visit a rescued moose.  The boots also got to wear Yaks which were awesome in preventing me from busting my butt on icy conditions.  (The boot soles are rubber and can be slippery/dangerous on wet/icy conditions).

6723EF59-0795-4849-963A-25E83F8C97F2 (1)Denver- December 2016

We flew to Denver for a friend’s wedding and of course the boots had to come.  The temps were moderate- but I knew they would keep my feet dry and I could walk miles in them with no problem.


The Women’s March- January 2017IMG_0275

These boots were made for walking… and that’s just what they did.  The morning started out as a monsoon and mud EVERYwhere.  It ended with 60,000 people calmly walking through the great streets of Atlanta to support women’s health, refugees, education, and numerous other causes… while the sun was brightly shining.  Hearing John Lewis speak in front of the Civil and Human Rights museum was pretty powerful as well.  Here is my post for more on this special event.

Manitou Springs- April 2017

The boots were perfect for this trip!  We had snow twice, did a good bit of walking/hiking, and they even took the train up the cog railway to the top of Pikes Peak.


Happy Birthday to my Bean Boots!  We have done so much together and I don’t regret buying you at all.  Can’t wait to see what other adventures we have in store together!

love, brooke

I can’t believe its been a year since I started this blog.  It was “easy” to start the blog, I just wrote what I was thinking and hit “publish”.  It took me until April (aka 7 MONTHS!!) to publicly start sharing my writing with others.   I wasn’t a writer… I had no formal training minus English 101 in college… TEN years ago.  In my mind, writers are serious people.  They read a lot, study a lot, are great editors, have writer friends, make lots of money, and spend hours writing every day.  That was/is not me.  Taking on the title of “writer” was scary.  I still am not 100% happy with it… but it describes what I am doing… putting thoughts on paper.  So, a year later, I will haphazardly take it on.

It’s also scary to put your thoughts on paper and allow others the opportunity to read them/judge them.  That was probably another one of the main reasons it took me so long to share my thoughts.  Thankfully, most of the feedback I have received has been positive and encouraging.  The biggest honor in the last year is hearing that friends have taken my posts and discussed them with their spouse to work on marriage communication.

I have no idea where my writing is going to lead me but for now I am happy with publishing 83 blog posts this year!  That is a pretty big accomplishment for this busy wife, mama and friend!

Thanks for being a part of this journey with me!  I’d love to hear which posts stick out the most to you?

love, brooke

I am a big believer in sweat equity for a home. Yes, it’s dirty and hard work but it’s so worth it once you are done!  Plus, you can stretch your budget so much further if you can put the time in and save on labor costs from paying others.

Here are a few ways we helped our budget by doing updates ourselves or making purchasing decisions to keep costs low:

Savings Ideas

Cabinet Hardware 

If you go to Lowe’s or Home Depot, they have a decent selection of hardware but it’s expensive. Most of it is sold individually and that adds up quickly especially when you have 11 drawers and 16 cabinets. Some of the options are sold in “contractor” boxes but it’s only 10-20% savings. My tip is to shop Amazon. In my experience, that’s the best place to get bang for your buck for cabinet pulls. Be sure to measure the distance of the pre drilled holes so you get the correct size for handles. By shopping Amazon, I’d estimate that we saved ~$40.

This is what I bought

Ceiling Fans

My theory is if you have a working fan, it’s better than no fan. But, obviously you don’t want to have something really ugly nor in my case, did I want to spend a fortune (especially since I needed to buy 3). I settled on something very basic from Home Depot for about $42 each. They were an 80% upgrade from what we had. I just couldn’t justify the price jump to $150/fan to get to 100% upgrade.  Plus, I feel like stylish fans go out of style in just a few years, so sticking with something basic is always a good idea.

Tip: Be mindful of the blade length when you are buying fans. I didn’t think it mattered that much if the room was small, but I am glad I went with a less fancy fan but with longer blades (52inch). It may not be super pretty but it works really well!

Sweat Equity Ideas

Painted Kitchen Cabinets

This is the THIRD home we have owned that I have painted it’s kitchen cabinets. Every time I do it, I swear I’ll never do it again… but it makes SUCH a big difference! The lower cabinets were black and I just felt it was too contrasting between the granite color and dark parquet floors. Plus, they weren’t painted well (think silver hinges painted over with black paint). Long story short, they needed a face lift. I’ll do a later post on my cabinet painting technique, but for now, I’m guessing we saved a few hundred dollars in labor costs.


An inexpensive exterior upgrade to your home is to paint the front door and shutters. We spent $50 on a good gallon of paint (Chelsea Grey by Benjamin Moore) and had plenty left over after these projects. It took a few hours to sand, prime and paint but I’m super happy with the result! I’m estimating that we saved ~$250 on labor paint costs.

For more info on our shutter refresh, click here.

Pressure Washing

This was a pretty big undertaking for our dirty house. My husband and I divided up the house to conquer it all. He worked hard on the exterior- cleaning the gutters, soffit siding, brick and patio. I tackled the driveway, carport and wood walkway. Our generous friends lent us their pressure washer. But, I’d happily rent one to see the house sparkle! I’m guessing we saved about ~$700 in labor costs for this project.

Air Vent Covers

We had the air ducts professionally cleaned and a anti-microbial spray applied to drastically improve the air quality of our home. Once they were done, I asked them to leave all of the vent covers off so I could spray paint them with a fresh coat of white gloss. This was a really nice face lift for most of the aged vent covers. Next, we were able to easily re-install them. 

Vent covers range from $6-20 each depending on size and material. I’ll estimate that we saved $75 by buying a $4 can of spray paint.

I’d love to hear your sweat equity projects!  Please share!

learn, brooke

Updating Recessed Lighting

Y’all, these are the coolest things.  They replace your old, outdated recessed lights with clean, white, insulated LED bulbs.  

We had old, nasty recessed lights that all looked different.  Some had black lining, some were alabaster and others were “fish eyed” to point on to a decorative wall or piece of art.  Needless to say, they did not match, they looked old and the bulbs in them put off LOTS of heat.  Time to go.  I had never even heard of them before but thanks to my awesome electrician, he showed one to me during our initial consult and I was sold.  

I’d recommend buying the contractor multipack for the best deal.  We ended up paying ~$12 per light.  Since this wasn’t in the initial budget, I scaled back on our ceiling fan budget and added these beautiful little upgrades!

My electrician wanted $10 per light just to install.   Thankfully, my husband found a good YouTube video to watch and figured it out to save us $160!

It’s also good to know that you can buy dimmable ones.  I’m not a big fan of overhead lighting (can give me a headache) so dimmers are my best friend.

Tip:  if you are painting your ceilings, remove the old fixtures before painting so that if the new ones are smaller, you won’t have a ring of color difference.  

Bathroom lighting

Both bathrooms had these tulip style globes.  I tried to twist them off and was unsuccessful and I thought I was stuck with them because replacing them wasn’t in the budget.  Thankfully, my electrician showed me how to get them off:

-To start, I’d recommend turning the light switch off during this activity.  

-First step is unscrew the light bulb and then carefully unscrew the ring around the socket.  Hold on to the globe while you unscrew because that’s what holds it on.  

-Once it’s removed, you can replace it with whatever globe you’d like (that fits).

-Screw the ring back on then add the light bulb.  And wahlah, you are updated while still staying in budget!

Home Depot had a great selection of globes (sold individually).  We got lucky and were able to reuse three globes off a ceiling fan that we replaced.  Then I bought the other four globes at HD for ~$5 each.  So, I spent $20 to update two bathroom lights!  That’s so much less money than replacing two entire fixtures.  👍🏼

Matching Light Bulbs

When we sold our last home, our agent’s awesome marketing pro came to our home to make suggestions on things to do to get our home ready to sell.  One thing she pointed out was to put matching bulbs in light fixtures.  Ever since that realization, I’ve become a light bulb snob.  I pretty much dislike any “bulb color” that’s not soft white.  Personally, I think compact fluorescent bulbs should stop being made.  And they definitely should not stick out of a chandelier to see.  But I digress…

You can imagine my horror when I saw this in our “new” guest bathroom.  I am pleased to say that the offending wallpaper is no more and the bulbs all match.  👍🏼

Hopefully a few of these inexpensive DIY lighting tricks can help update your home without blowing the budget!

learn, brooke