Kitchen Love Story: A Review and Giveaway

kitchen love story


It’s no secret that I built my kitchen from the ground up. We did everything ourselves, from building the cabinets to installing appliances. It helped to have a handy spouse, he’s an electrician by trade and a plumber by birth (well, sort of, his dad is a master plumber and he grew up learning the trade). With my history of furniture building, and the invaluable help from the amazing Ana White, it didn’t seem like too much of a leap to try out building kitchen cabinets. Overall, I consider our kitchen a resounding success!



I love my kitchen. So, so much. But. There are a few things I don’t love, now that I’ve used it for two years. That’s where Camille Finan comes in. Here I thought I had covered all the angles. I had dozens of magazine tear sheets, hundreds of pins on Pinterest, sketches for cabinets and house plans to study layouts. I got a few things “right”. I’m glad we moved our sink and dishwasher out of the island and onto the wall. Everyone told me that was crazy, that I would want to have a “view” when doing the dishes. Wrong. Doing the dishes means staring at dishes, so who cares where the sink is? I’m happier to have a huge solid space that’s basically indestructible (thank you, stainless steel!) and leave my huge piles of dirty dishes somewhat hidden behind the refrigerator. I’m still quite happy with our open shelving, and we use those island stools just as much as we do our dining table.


Before I read Camille’s book, I was happy enough with my kitchen. Sure, there were the annoying things. My trash can cabinet worked okay as long as you didn’t try to pull them too hard. And the uncovered bins did attract a lot of fruit flies. The flip-up drawer front above it where I intended to store paper towels lay empty, as we nixed the paper for cloth rags to save on waste. The baby is constantly opening up the island cabinet doors and pulling out all my jars. My upper cabinet with vertical dividers for baking pans is pretty much a joke since only half of my vintage oven is actually an oven, and I have two generous shelves on the other side for my pans. When I read through Camille’s book, it was like the skies parted. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? I should replace those door with wide, deep drawers! Then, I wouldn’t have to empty out half the cabinet to grab the big jar in the back. I would just pull out the drawer. Now that I don’t need paper towel storage, I can make a drawer for that space to keep our dish cleaning supplies. Adding in a few shelves to the pan cabinet would make several small cubbies that will be great for those odds and ends with no real “home”. Over and over I was hit with new, great ideas every time I finished a chapter.


Kitchen Love Story serves as a primer for your kitchen renovation. Gone are the layouts and floorplan examples and confusing jargon. Camille fills you in on the secrets behind the curtain. She shows you how to  ”Design From the Inside Out” when planning your kitchen. That’s one key step I missed. She advises to think about every last little detail. It’s great to look at pretty hardware and paint colors, but where are you going to keep the zip-top bags? I have small children, so I need to think up the best way to store sippy cups and snack bowls. What about the bakeware and food storage containers? She explains that those fancy custom cabinets don’t have to be as pricy as you think. And that some of the flashy add-ons are just that, all flash and no real substance. She shares where you should save your pennies, and where you should splurge.


Planning a kitchen, whether it’s a renovation or a new build, can be extremely confusing. There are thousands of choices that have to be made. Camille helps guide you through the process, explaining that really, it’s not so scary after all. Each chapter is chock full of great tips on how to avoid the “little lady” treatment from contractors, which I often faced. You don’t have to settle for builder-grade standard options. With a small bit of customization, you can achieve the kitchen of your dreams!


So by now you can probably tell that I loved the book, and 100% recommend it to everyone planning to make improvements on their kitchen. The only thing I feel the book was lacking was listing a few of the less standard, creative, or budget options for things. For example she mentioned solid surface or laminate countertops, like granite, marble, corian, etc. My absolute favorite surface hands down has been our stainless steel island. It’s fabulous. It takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’. We’ve processed raw meat, rolled out cookies, made play dough, chopped veggies, and performed basically any and every kitchen task on that thing. It’s a simple wipe, rinse, repeat. I also wish there had been some mention of looking outside the standard procedure for a few items. As an extreme DIYer, I know we saved a bundle by doing things ourselves, getting inventive with materials (open shelving saved us a huge amount) and sourcing vintage and great used appliances on Craigslist. But that’s a pretty nit picky criticism. Many people plan to hire out all the jobs, and Camille has great advice for how to handle things as your own General Contractor. I wish I had read it before trying to work those issues through myself!

If you have any kitchen projects coming up in the near future, be sure to pick up Kitchen Love Story before you get started. And one lucky reader will have the chance to win a copy! To enter, leave me a comment with your favorite kitchen organizing tip. Whether it’s how to stack up the dishes or the best undercabinet lighting you’ve used, I want to hear about it!
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Personalized Holiday Gifts from Zazzle Made in the USA

Happy Holiday Season everyone! I hope all my US friends had a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving, I know we did. This year we chose to stay home and not do any store shopping, choosing to enjoy the family time and quiet. As you know, we traditionally make many of our gifts, but I also like to research for great gift options to give as well. Specifically ones with photos, because who doesn’t love family photos? I know I do! This year I partnered with Zazzle to find some fantastic options. I am so psyched at what I found! So, SO many gifts made right here in the USA, from great folks. I’m looking forward to ordering one for each person on my list. Want to take a look with me?


Gold jewellery

This beautiful necklace can be customized with your own art or photo. This would be great for the ladies in your life!

Look at this adorable cake pan! I LOVE IT! Great for pot lucks, you’ll never lose it :) The perfect gift for the baker in your life. They have several different designs too!

Sometimes you don’t need a fancy catalogue to find chic holiday decor. This pillow is made from cotton right here in America.

I know I can’t be the only one who loves to stare at little faces all day long, and this custom pillow would be such a fun gift. You could use photos from travels, portraits of pets, or snapshots of family you don’t get to see often.

Anybody looking for a fresh new tree skirt? Why not personalize it?

Last year I gave all the moms in our family throw blankets with my kids’ photos, and I have to admit I was disappointed to see that “made in China” stamp. Now I can feel better about less carbon emissions from a blanket made nearby, from cotton to boot.

Anybody love American Apparel? Why not add some fun art or text for the scarf lover in the family?

My daughters love to help in the kitchen, almost as much as they love things with their names on them.

Somehow last year my toddler’s stocking was eaten by the dogs (I’m blaming the candy inside) so perhaps this year we will replace it with her very own special one.

It’s so refreshing to see reusable water bottles made and printed in our country. I love to use our reusable bottles, and favor the one with my kids’ photos on it. However I chose another company last time, and the printing is already chipping off. I’m eager for these to come back in stock so I can stock up!

These soft hair ties are so handy, and even better with monograms and cute patterns!

This would be perfect on a keychain, I think I’ll have to pick up a couple for the dads in my life.

So that about wraps up my quick round up of Made in the USA gifts from zazzle. Be sure to check out their home and holiday offerings. But that’s not all! There are so many more on the website, you’ll have to hop on over and check them out for yourself. They carry customizable American Apparel products, which include t-shirts and so much more. Plus they are having a HUGE Black Friday sale, so hurry up and happy conscientious shopping!
*This is a sponsored post. I only choose to work with companies I fully believe in with products I agree with, all opinions are my own.*

Handmade Holiday 2015: Tiny Tot Tool Bench How-To


Are you ready for a fun, easy, affordable project that will blow your kids (and parents, and friends) away?! Well, today I have one for you! This Tiny Tot Tool Bench is the perfect gift for that little one in your life, and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to make it. For about $25 in supplies, you can craft a handmade, solid wood tool-a-palooza for the toddler in your life.


Every part is hand made, down to the tiny tools! And all you need is a jigsaw. The bench has 12 holes for practicing fine motor skills, and a little shelf that is fun for the little organizer.


Seriously, what is cuter than teeny weenie little tools? The saw even has little teeth!


The screwdriver fits inside the grooves to twist the screws.


The wrench is perfectly sized for the square pegs.


And the hammer is light yet sturdy enough for lots of heavy banging.



Even though this is a Christmas gift for my one year old, I wanted to make sure it was sized appropriately. I measured a pair of her pants to get the height, but wanted to double check before I wrote up plans. So during one of those midnight “I have to wake up and play right NOW!” sessions (I know you know what I mean!) I let Caroline take a whirl on the bench. She had a BLAST! I was thrilled to see how much she loved it. It is the perfect height. She can reach the tools up top to grab them easily, and bend down to put things on the shelf. I was a little unsure of my decision to leave the screws as flat dowels, but it was a good call. At 15 months she wouldn’t be able to do the screwing motion. Right now she had so much fun just putting the tools and screws into the different holes. She was awake for TWO HOURS! before I could convince her to go back to bed. She was just having too much fun playing!


The height of the table hits right at her hips, which leaves some room to grow. My three year old also had fun playing with the parts while I was building it, so this could be a great toy to last a few years. And much much cuter than those plastic ones from the store!



With one month until Christmas, it’s time to get building! Let’s go!

• 1 – 2x2x8
• 1 – 1x4x4
• 1 – 1x2x4
• 1 – 1x12x4
• 1 – 7/8″ dowel @ 4′
• 1 – pack of 4 2″ wood wheels (these will be rounded and about 1/2″ thick, found at a craft store)
• 1 – pack of 4 2.5″ wood rounds (flat 1/4″ thickness, at craft store)
• 1 1/4″ screws
• 1 – pack of dowel pegs for joining
• wood glue
• paint

Cut List: measure and cut as you go, rather than all at once
• 4 – 2×2 @ 13″ (legs)
• 2 – 2×2 @ 5 1/2″ (top shelf supports)
• 1 – 1×4 @ 16″ (apron)
• 1 – 1×4 @ 15 1/2″ (top shelf)
• 2 – 1×2 @ 13 1/2″ (lower shelf supports)
• 2 – 1×2 @ 10″ (lower shelf supports)
• 1 – 1×12 @ 16″ (top)
• 1 – 1×12 cut down to fit inside shelf supports, about 10″ x 8 3/4″
• 10 – 7/8″ dowel @ 2 1/2″ (screw pegs)
• 2 – 7/8″ dowel @ 5″ (tool handles)
• 6 – 2×2 @ 1/2″ (screw tops)
• 2 – scrap 1×4 for tools, 7″ each


Step 1


Attach inner shelf supports to 2×2 legs. I decided to place my shelf 5″ from the bottom. If attaching top with pocket holes, drill them now.


Step 2


Add front shelf supports, lining up with the side supports. Use 1 1/4″ screws and glue. Pre-drilling will prevent splitting.


Step 3


Attach the top, measuring 3/4″ in from the front. I actually used a the 3/4″ thick apron to make sure it would be flush. Measure the side gaps evenly, mine were 1″. I used glue and screws from the top, but you can also use pocket holes.


Step 4


Optional: if you want curved bottom edges, find a round object to trace. I used a small can of stain. Cut with a jigsaw.


Step 5

tiny-tot-tool-bench-step5 Attach the front apron with glue and screws. They will be hidden with the decorative rounds.


Step 6


Measure from the edge to the inner edge of your legs, and add about 1/2″ and mark the top for the outer edge of the top support. I attached them with glue and a screw from below, though you could use pocket holes. Mine were about 3 3/4″ in from each edge.


Step 7


Optional: If you want rounded edges on your upper shelf, find a round object (a sour cream carton worked for me) and trace it. Then cut with a jigsaw.


Step 8


Attach to the supports with glue and screws.


Step 9


Time for the shelf! Measure your inner openings and cut to fit. Mine was 10″ by 8 3/4″. I used pocket hole screws, but you can pre-drill and use screws on the outside as well, or mount the shelf below the supports, drilling up into them.


Step 10


Hole drilling time! I marked out 12 holes, evenly spacing them. I believe the distance was 3 1/4″ apart, with a little wiggle room here or there.


Step 11


I used a 1″ spade bit for my holes. I also added a 1″ hole on the outer edges of the top shelf for the screwdriver and hammer.


Step 12


To make the wrench, start by cutting a 1/2″ slice of 2×2 for the top. I traced two sides on a diagonal, then added two short straight lines. I used my stain can to make the circle, then freehanded the handle. I should have used a ruler to make the lines straight and then a straight end. The total length is 7″ long and about 3″ wide. Cut out with a jigsaw and sand smooth, making sure there are no sharp edges.


Step 13


To make the center holes for the larger tools, I made two 1″ holes with my spade bit then cut out the center with my jigsaw. I also made the hand saw shape, again 7″ long and about 3″ tall. I used a ruler to make the top line, added a rounded end, then some teeth below. I freehanded the handle shape based on a saw we have. Cut and sand smooth.


Step 14 & 15


To make the hammer, I used a scrap piece of 2×2 and cut one end on a 45 degree angle. For the screw driver, I just used my jigsaw to shave one end into a point and sanded it to about a 1/8″ thickness. I had some scrap 1 1/4″ dowel for my screwdriver handle, but you could use some 2×2 and sand the edges smooth.

To join the tool tops to handles, I used a 1/4″ drill bit into the bases and the tops. Then I dabbed in glue, and used these wooden pegs to join the pieces together. This is the same method for joining the screw pegs to the tops.


For the rounded screws to be used with the flathead screw driver, I held them by the stem and passed them over my table saw to cut a blade groove. I had to do a couple of passes to get them thick enough.



You can get creative with the screws! You could use store-bought pegs for the bases instead of dowels so they have a tighter fit that needs to be banged in. Or you could try adding grooves by whittling or with hot glue / putty. I found that for the 12-18 month age range, smooth seems to be best. Just learning to fit them in the holes makes them so happy!

tiny tot tool bench

Once all your tools are made, sand the whole bench and make sure everything is smooth. Then paint or finish as desired. I topped the wood portions with Feed N Wax for a nice subtle sheen, and used Mod Podge on the colored parts to prevent off gassing as well as paint transfer. Once it’s all painted and dried, I attached the decorative rounds (which had one pass over my table saw blade) with wood glue in the center, and a bead of hot glue around the edges to hold it in place while the wood glue set. That’s it! The table is done. The devil is in the details on this one, for sure! It only took about two hours to build, but probably three more on the tools and screws. Then another 5 painting, drying, sealing, and finishing up. But it’s totally worth it! I’m so excited to give my kids a toy I know they will love for years to come, and will definitely be a family heirloom.

Happy Building!


*Disclaimer: Build at your own risk. This is a toy, not intended for climbing or rough play. Please use caution and supervision at all times.*

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