Our Christmas Card

Since our house was a little messy last Christmas and I didn’t decorate, this year I insisted everyone come to our house to open presents.  It made me excited to decorate and also gave us a kick in the butts to finish those lingering items on our home improvement list.  We spent this past weekend getting things ready and after the new year I’ll share all those projects we’ve been doing.

For now, I’ll share our Christmas card we sent out this year.  We didn’t have any fancy photos of us like last year, so I went with the infograph year-in-review style.


The biggest thing to happen this year was obviously our kitchen remodel, that’s why I mentioned it, but also made the joke about all the dinners made at home.  We seriously have never eaten at home so often!

We had to reach to think about things for each of us to include about ourselves, and one of the things I kept thinking was, “Anyone who reads the blog already knows most of this stuff about us!” so I included the blog address.  Most of my readers are my family, but sometimes they forget to check in!  I also noticed that I’ve written more posts this past year, than any of the previous years.  Not news worthy really, it’s just interesting to me!

It also shows that I really enjoy this little community created here and I really like sharing what we’re up to.  And, people keep visiting so I’m going to keep sharing!

Thanks for following along this year and from the Danks’, Mike, myself, and Benelli.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Beer Soap

You have to know by now that we like making things.  We hang out with people who also like making things.  So, it may not come as a surprise that Mike and one of his buddies decided to try to make a little money from making things.  What are they making?  BEER SOAP! 

Actually, if we’re being honest, making money was not the main objective.  Mike and our friend Aaron were enjoying some beer (don’t all great ideas start out this way?), specifically their homebrew, when they came up with something that could be made with their homebrew, soap. Let me clarify, we’re talking Fight Club type soap operation here.  Okay, maybe not exactly like that, but I have to make it sound manly and to assure everyone they’re not over here making rose-petal-scented sea-shell-shaped soaps.  It’s manly soap, made with real beer!

The problem making soap is that you make an average of 12 bars per batch, and even the dirtiest person doesn’t go through that much soap, so we decided to sell it.  We came up with a name, a logo, and registered with the state.

Introducing Oast House Apothecary.


An oast house, or hop kiln, is a building designed for drying hops as part of the brewing process.  (Our garage becomes a temporary oast house come hop harvesting).

I’m not really sure why I haven’t mentioned this little adventure of ours until now.  But, we’re gearing back up for the holiday season and I figured it was as good of a time as any! 


Why beer soap?

Soap is made from three basic ingredients: oil, water, and lye.  Instead of water, we use beer.  The beer is heated during the saponification process (the chemical process that creates the soap) and loses some of it’s aroma, but for each beer soap, we add ingredients and fragrances to mimic that beer type.  

For example, our Honey Brown Oatmeal is made with a honey brown lager, as well as real honey, oatmeal (which is a great natural moisturizer and mild exfoliate), and cinnamon.


The boys look at each beer type, break down it’s components, and create each batch of soap to reflect that style.  One that mimics even the visual, our Chocolate Black and Tan:


The boys are in charge of soap production, and I handle the packaging, labeling, and shipping.  Aaron is also an accountant by trade, so he’s been a life-saver with all the annoying stuff like taxes.  Mike’s skills come in handy when building the molds and stands.


It’s a lot of fun and we’ve enjoyed the process of learning not only about soap, but trying to come up with new ideas and keep up with some seasonal batches as well. 


As I imagined, over the last year we noticed a majority of our sales are women either buying for themselves, or for the guys in their life, so this year we came up with some more feminine smelling soaps utilizing a girl’s best friend, wine!  


We sell on Etsy, as well as a couple local shops, mostly wine/beer supply stores.  We just restocked the Etsy shop, and have a couple more batches curing ready to be added soon.  So if you’re looking for a unique stocking stuffer for that beer-lover in your life, or just like the idea of a fun, handmade product try a BRÜ BAR from Oast House Apothecary.

Also, like us on Facebook to keep up with new offerings, as well as giveaways!

And, as a thank you to all my readers, please enjoy 10% off any of our soap products using the code DANKYOU in our shop!

$15 Headboard Makeover

I’m pretty happy with our main floor right now.  The kitchen and dining room remodel was one big upgrade, while the living room took a little longer, with multiple changes along the way.  I feel like they are finally the adult, slightly masculine, modernized space that I’ve been working towards. 

Now that those spaces are taken care of, I can move my focus to other rooms.  First on my list is the guest room.  When we moved in almost 5 years ago, my main focus was getting the paint on the walls, and using what we had to fill up the rooms.  I didn’t always get the paint colors right, but I’ve felt good about working with what we had.  My major mistake was trying to complete entire rooms quickly.  I’m now finding I don’t like a lot of the accessories I added in haste just to call the room done.

The guest room is functional and has all the major pieces, but the colors and accessories feel a little immature for our current style.


I’ve never really liked yellow, so I’m not sure why I wanted those pillows so bad.  But those with the light green headboard were bothering me (this is what happens when you take 3 years to make a headboard – you run the risk of changing your design likes).  So I bought some fabric and decided to do something about it!

Since Mike built the headboard to slide onto the bed frame, it was really easy to remove. 



I just ironed my new fabric, still green, but a darker, more saturated color, and stapled it right over the old fabric.  Took maybe 30 minutes.


I also made new pillows.  That’s right I made them, zippers and everything! 

The large shams are made with Nate Berkus Cole Stripe Paramount Ebony fabric from JoAnn’s.  The smaller pillows upfront are made with some handmade hmong batik fabric I bought from eBay.

They come in thin, long “table runner” pieces and I sewed two pieces together to get the right width.  I used a plain linen fabric on the back to save money and fabric.


After 4 pillows I got really good at sewing the zippers.  I used Centsational Girl’s tutorial and it was really easy to follow.


I really liked the deeper colors and the more “mature” patterns.  I’m not sure which pillow formation I like better, but I’m not sure where I would store the actual sleeping gray pillows if they weren’t on the bed.


The other update is a new lamp. 


I found this one on clearance at Target for $3.48!  The gold was actually bright blue, but I gold leafed it.  I really like the texture of the concrete. 

I’m contemplating painting the side table something, maybe black, maybe a dark blue.  Right now it gets a little lost in the window, trim and bedspread.


So there are the updates for now.  I still have to change out the artwork on the picture ledges, and change what’s going on on top of the dresser. 

Unlike before, I’m not in a great hurry though and think it’s best if those changes happen over time with pieces that I really like.

My Dad’s Dated Kitchen Redo–REVEAL

Or the alternate title: $1,000 Kitchen/Dining Makeover!

It’s complete!


To be honest it’s been done for a couple of weeks, but it takes me a while to take photos of the projects at my own house, needless to say it took awhile for me to drive the 1.8 miles to his house!  In total it took about 6 weeks to complete.  From the initial design conception, removing the wallpaper, painting, upgrading the hardware, changing the lighting, to tiling/grouting.  Mostly because we ordered a lot from online, as well as multiple people/schedules helped to make this happen. It was a family affair!

Here’s a reminder of what we started with next to the finished product:


These both were taken with the overhead lighting on.  Changing the incandescent bulbs to LED, as well as a new cool-toned paint greatly reduces that “pink” tone that was there before.

The main differences in the kitchen are really the new backsplash, paint, and hardware. 


The backsplash and hardware go a long way to update the overall look of the room. 

The lights are also a huge improvement.  The old ones were outdated brass fixtures that were original to the house.


Now it’s a modern, LED fixture with brushed nickel lines, that gives off a ton of white light. 


We ended up choosing this one, which was a little bigger than the original from my mood board.


As you know the dining room was also part of this makeover and looks much better without the flowery wallpaper, some new paint, and a few new accessories.


We also changed out the light above the table and it makes a huge impact.


Overall my dad’s really happy with the updated rooms, and it’s given him the push to update some of the other rooms in the house, including two bathrooms and a guest room!

I’m happy with the results and proud that I learned a few skills and that the rooms finally reflect my dad’s style!

Kitchen Reveal 2


Thanks Dad for letting me come over and mess up your house for a bit! 

Dad’s Tile Backsplash | Part 2

I finally got over to my dad’s house to take photos of the kitchen/dining room.  Before I show the completed rooms and before/afters, I want to show the backsplash grout. 

I’m probably the most proud of this backsplash because I actually did a majority of it.  I had help of course, but this is one of the first major projects that I took the lead on.

We left off with the tile installation.  A couple days later I went back to grout. Mike got me started, then had to leave, leaving me to do most of the work and my dad to help with the clean-up.  (I say this only because I’m really proud of the work I did – Mike does a majority of our DIY so we all know he has skills, now it’s my turn!)


The grouting was a bitch!  But as always, it makes everything look polished and clean.  The tile was a huge upgrade, but finishing the grout made it really stand out.


I had mentioned that it was difficult cutting the tile because it had glass, stone, and metal pieces. Well those different materials also meant varying smoothness and depths. The stone pieces were really rough and some were a good 1/4” difference than the glass pieces next to them.  This meant a lot of elbow grease with the sponge removing the excess grout. 

I worked the grout into the spaces, and my dad came behind me and used a sponge to wipe off the excess.  We had to use an unsanded grout due to the glass, and we found that even after 20 minutes or so, it was still too wet to wipe off.  We waited until it was pretty hazy and then went to town.  It might have been because the pressure needed to wipe off the stone pieces was too harsh for the glass pieces, but that’s what worked for us.  After several hours I finally had to take my noodle arms home.   My dad finished up wiping it down and caulked along the countertop a couple days later.


It looks so much better than it did without the tile. 


My dad and I keep talking about what a statement it’s made in his kitchen!  Also, the fact that it took so long to make it happen, he said he wishes he had done it ages ago!

I’ll come back in later this week with the completed photos and some side by side comparisons.  With only some paint, labor, and some surface updates, the kitchen looks and feels completely new again!

This is Why I Blog

After a series of little unfortunate events we found an outlet in the basement wasn’t working properly.  We were kind of happy it was just the outlet because we came upon the discovery after the water heater wasn’t turning on.  That would have been much worse!

Mike did some troubleshooting and realized that it wasn’t the actual basement outlet, but an outlet that fed into the box.  But which one?

This led to some humorous investigating last night.

Tight Fit

Not the outlet behind the range.  Thank goodness!

After checking the range, refrigerator, and even behind the TV in the living room, Mike finally suggested checking here to see if I had any photos of the electrical work before we drywalled the kitchen.  I didn’t think I did, but lo and behold:


I found a photo that had the exact information needed to figure out it was the outlet for the microwave.  It turned out to be a faulty neutral.  Go figure!

I really just wanted an excuse to post that photo of Mike superman style, but actually it was nice to know that this little blog is handy in moments of hair pulling and frustration!

Winter Prepping With Handi-Treads

Winter is like the Christmas holiday season, sometimes it barely lets Halloween by before making it’s appearance.  Since it’s November and half of our trees have all dropped their leaves, I’ve officially resigned to seeing the white stuff soon.  Mostly because the trees this fall we’re killing it in the color department.  I don’t ever remember our neighbor’s hydrangea tree ever looking this good.

Hydrangea Tree

Now that we don’t have any large projects going on at the moment, we’ve tried to be diligent in our cold weather prep around here.  Full house duct cleaning – check.  Full house wipe down from said full house duct cleaning – check.  Deck and patio cushions stored – check.  Installing stair treads – check.

So, a couple weeks ago I was contacted by a company called Handi-Treads that wanted to give us some of their non slip treads to try out. 


Now, this was the first company that has contacted me because of this blog that wanted to give me free things for a review so to say I was a little excited is an understatement.  But, while everyone loves free stuff, this blog doesn’t make us any money, and is still just my little hobby, so I was only going to say yes if it was something that we actually would purchase ourselves.  And, while I’m a little less discerning about things I buy (I’m talking to wobbly bedside table) Mike is very particular about the quality and functionality of things he buys, especially for our home. 

I showed him the website and he was impressed with the material, design, and the fact that they are made in the USA.  He agreed that it would be something he would purchase himself, so I ordered 6 treads in the plain aluminum color, 30” wide. 


You see, from the first email, I knew exactly where to put them.


While I love our deck, and really love our step design, I’ve fallen down these stairs.  Numerous  times. 

It’s kind of silly to write about, but once, the day after I brought my wedding dress home I called up one of my girlfriends/bridesmaids to meet up and show it to her.  It was drizzling that day and I ran out of the house in some rubber flip flops, I literally was running because I was so excited.  I hit the third or fourth step and went down. Hard.  It was horrible.  Everything I was carrying flew from my hands and I fell down hitting my tailbone, my hands, and my heels and then the momentum carried me down a couple more steps until my feet hit the driveway, stopping me.  It was awful.  I cried from embarrassment and pain.  I was shaking and in pain by the time I made it over to meet up with my girlfriend to show off my dress. 

I’m not going to lie, I’ve been known to fall down.  Usually it’s from wearing socks on the hardwood stairs, or running down these deck stairs too quickly when it’s wet or snowing out.  But this time was different.  It’s been about 2 1/2 years since it happened and it took a good 18 months until my tailbone didn’t hurt anymore.  18 MONTHS!  I read on Handi-Treads website that injuries from falls are the most common cause of emergency room visits (Source: National Safety Council).  And, I believe it!  I thought about going to the doctor’s after 2 weeks of being sore, but all that I read said you can’t really do anything for a tailbone injury, except live with it.  Well living with a sore tailbone for over a year and a half sucked.  And it made me very cautious of these deck stairs when ever there was any kind of inclement weather.

We had actually talked about getting some sort of tread system for these stairs (Mike can only tell me so many times to slow down and hold on to the railings) but we weren’t really excited about the options.  We both work in construction and know most of the commercial options out there, but we thought we were stuck with the old sticky treads, or painting something on for our wooden deck.  We both knew what those options would look like after one or two Northeast Ohio winter seasons. 


This is exactly what we were imagining those options looking like.

We had actually hoped to stain our deck before winter hit (oh how I wish we had dropped an extra $3,000 on Trex – not really, but we wouldn’t be stuck staining every couple of years) but like I said, once Halloween is over, the weather just goes downhill from here.  Nice weather days are far and few between but we finally had a couple hours of decent weather yesterday and just enough free time to install the treads. 

In true Danks fashion, neither Mike nor I took the time to read the directions.  Screws were included and I’d call Mike more an advanced DIY'er.  After installing I’d say these are pretty self explanatory and even the most amateur of DIY’ers can handle it.  I read over the directions after the fact and we were right and installed them correctly, so here’s some picture directions of how we did it.

We first cleaned the steps off with a broom (important step since our yard doesn’t last 5 minutes without leaves falling on it). 


We decided they would best be utilized right next to the handrail since that’s where I walk up and down, as well as our guests.


We laid them out to get the right spacing on the left side.


They are a little bowed straight out of the package, but once screwed down they sit perfectly flat.

Mike first measured from the side.


Then measured from the edge. 


Mike then drilled a pilot hole for each of the 8 screw locations on each tread.  He drilled one pilot hole first, then screwed that screw in, then moved on to more pilot holes.  It’s much easier to hold it in place once one or two screws are in.


Then screwed everything in place.


Repeat for each step until done!

Handi-Treads-After-2 Handi-Treads-After


We decided not to do the top step since that usually gets shoveled pretty well and for some reason I’ve never fallen off the top one before.  We’re thinking of installing the extra tread on our step in the front of the house.

Of course it’s been pretty nice weather (55 and sunny – wahoo) so I haven’t really notice a difference when I walk down them.  But I’m sure I’ll feel better once the rain returns and when the snow finally makes an appearance.  And, once we really started looking at the safety of these stairs, were even thinking of adding some lighting under the stair nosing. I’ll have no excuse to fear these steps!

One thing we really like about these treads are that come next year when we’re finally forced to stain the deck again, they can easily be removed while we stain and put back after it’s dried.  And, while I sometimes care more about the look of something (these are pretty easy on the eyes, especially for a safety feature) Mike always cares about the function.  He’s impressed, especially with the fact that they include screws (such a small detail but super important when you are trying to install something) and he already thought of an instance where he was installing a boat ramp several years ago that these would have been perfect on.  

We have more winterizing left and leaf pick-up has become a weekly chore around here, but I’m happy to have this task checked off the list before I can do myself any more harm.  My poor tailbone can’t take another fall like that. 

To help prevent any more broken tailbones or bruised hands and feet to anyone reading this, Handi Treads is offering a 10% discount using the code blog2014 that can be used to purchase Handi Treads at http://www.handiramp.com/shop/.

Thanks to Handi Treads for providing the non slip treads to help make our deck stairs safer.  All opinions, and embarrassing stories are our own.