Work Hard, Play Hard: Why Data is More Useful

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and Walmart Family Mobile. All opinions are mine alone. #DataAndAMovie   #CollectiveBias

You’d think that Brian and I are in the stage of our lives when we don’t require elaborate data plans with awesome coverage. After all, our kids are little and we have awhile before we cross the bridge into getting them their first handheld or smart device.

Walmart Family Mobile PLUS 2

However, in addition to Brian having a full time career, he also works part time offering consulting from home. Also, with me working and writing and blogging and social media-ing. We need data, and we need coverage. We do have WiFi in our home, but as anyone who works from home will tell you, sometimes you aren’t always at home when you get a call to do work. Sometimes, responding to an email while waiting at the bus stop is is necessary. Other times it requires researching information for a post or a client while walking through the store. Other times, it might mean setting up an office after putting the kids to bed after a day of exploring and swimming at a hotel who’s WiFi went down for the week (true story).

Walmart Family Mobile PLUS 4

Working hard from home does not always mean we are in the physical space of home. Which is why, we are so grateful now for Walmart Family Mobile PLUS. We scored an amazing deal. The Walmart Family Mobile PLUS deal includes Unlimited Talk, Text, & Data with 10GB of 4G LTE data plus a FREE movie on VUDU for only $49.88 per month for our small enterprises. Brian and I are not only able to get our work done, but we are infinitely more productive and don’t spend our time looking for coffee shops with WiFi. There is no more running out data on our personal lines! Also, with a free movie every month on VUDU we can kick back and relax with the kids and watch free movie. 

Work hard, play hard.

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When we found out about the Walmart Family Mobile PLUS plan, I headed to Walmart to see what phone options we had. We didn’t need anything to fancy, just something that would be able to help us email, have access to a few apps, and be able to serve as a wireless hot spot. I decided on the Samsung Galaxy Core Prime for a steal at $79.92 this phone is currently on Rollback from $99.92. It was a breeze to set up, and before I knew it, I felt like a blog boss. 

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All prices for phones and plans included in this post are accurate as of the date of posting; however, these prices are subject to change. Please refer to or your local Walmart for current pricing.

Here are all the ways I cannot wait to use my knew Samsung Galaxy and Walmart Family Mobile PLUS

  • Creating and emergency Wireless Hot Spot 
  • Reading articles, blogs, news, to keep up to date anytime anywhere
  • Listening to my favorite social media, writing, and blog podcasts while I’m working or walking on the trail.
  • Responding to emails right away.
  • Watching movies with my family.
  • Streaming music while we work.
  • Not searching for WiFi everywhere I go.

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Even if you’re not an aspiring blogger loss, check out Walmart Family Mobile PLUS at Walmart! Tell me in the comments all the reasons more data would be helpful to you.

Walmart Family Mobile PLUS 1

For more information, CLICK HERE! I guarantee you’ll be more productive, and have way more fun. Work hard, play hard. 



Building Built In Storage: Part One

This project started out as me reorganizing the cabinets in my dining room to create some more space.

Built In Cabinets Phase One 3

To Brian saying, “Sweetie, you need more storage. Let’s not buy anything, let’s build something. That way it is exactly what we need.”

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I went from a simple reorganizing project to prepping the dining room for built-ins. As Ron Burgundy would say.

As we sat together at the kitchen table scrolling through blogs for inspiration like Thrify Decor Chick’s gorgeous built ins and Addicted to Decorating awesome built in entertainment center.  We knew we wanted some open and closed storage. We also knew that to maximize storage, we should probably try and use the entire length of the wall in the dining room. Finally, we wanted to add some cool style elements to the bookshelf to kind of mimc some other elements in the house like stain the countertop the same color as the dining room table we built and maybe paint the wall behind the shelves a different color like when I put  fabric in the cabinets before to help make the dishes pop.

This is as far as we have gotten in the last 10 days. 

Built In Cabinets Phase One 13

Considering it took me an entire day to carefully empty and move the cabinets that were sitting there, I will take that as a win.



I think it is safe to say, things have gotten out of hand. #diyproblems

A photo posted by Erin Skibinski (@eskibs) on

Also, life is still going on which means school, soccer, ballet, tap, school functions, homework, library volunteering, library board, work meetings, and a sinus infection. 

The first step was to decide how big we wanted to create the built in unit. We knew we were going to use stock UPPER cabinets as our base. Stock cabinets come in only a few standard sizes, so we just had to figure out the correct combination of cabinets that would fit into the dining room and look good. We used painter’s tape as a guide. For us, we decided ten linear feet of cabinets (two 36″ cabinets and two 24″ cabinets). This was just short of the opposite wall in the dining room, and we figured just short was better than two feet too long.

Built In Cabinets Phase One 1

Then, we drew out a plan. Twice. Actually, three times.

Built In Cabinets Phase One 2

Using Addicted to Decorating and Thrifty Decor Chick as a template we drew out how to create our built ins. We did this a few times measuring a few times, and getting out our calculators just to be sure everything would be right. Pro Tip: Remember when following directions from another site, Pinterest, or blog, make sure to keep in mind that YOUR house is different. Measure your space a few times. Things to consider: What is the height of your ceiling? What kind of trim do you have, how big is it? What kind of flooring do you have carpet, wood, tile? Are there walls on each side of the built ins for support? Where are the studs? Are you going to be covering one or multiple outlets and do you need to call an electrician to move them before you get started? Are you insane to try something like this on your own?

Then, we made our supply list of everything we needed. To do this, we literally talked through every step a few times together out loud down to the finishing nails. This helped us make a good an thorough list. Pro Tip: You might want to check online or give a call to your hardware store just to make sure they have everything you need ahead of time. (We had to go to two Home Depots BLERG).

Next, I painted. This step is not necessary, but if you want to make your life a little easier and you also want to have a pop of color behind your built ins this is the time to do it. I measured out where the bookshelves were going to be, and I rolled on a dark blue I already had on hand (and luckily compliments my existing scheme). My sister, Beth, had given me a whole gallon to me when she had it mixed up for her dining room and it didn’t work out. I tried a swatch and love it. It is Valspar’s Victory Blue.

Built In Cabinets Phase One 4

Then, Brian measured (you see a theme here, right?) the trim and shoe along the wall and marked where the new built ins would be, and cut that portion of the trim out. This way, the built in cabinets and shelves would be right next to the wall without any gaps, would be more easily affixed to the wall, and we wouldn’t have to cut into the cabinets.

Built In Cabinets Phase One 6


Built In Cabinets Phase One 7

Next, Brian built a base for the cabinets to sit on. The reason for the base was that we used UPPER stock cabinets the closed bottom storage for our built ins. This was because, uppers are only 12 inches deep, and don’t have built in drawers. This way they would take up less space in our already narrow dining room. If we would have set the uppers right on the floor, the cabinet doors would have dragged right along the floor, and also they would have have been has sturdy. To create the base, Brian used 1″ x  4″ common board and created a 10′ x 1′ rectangle that fit perfectly along the wall into the gap created by the cut out trim. Then he reinforced the base by screwing in 1 foot boards to line up where edges of the cabinets would sit. Finally, we affixed the base to the wall.

Built In Cabinets Phase One 5

Then, made a teeny mistake. We have an outlet on the wall that we don’t entirely want to cover up because we I think it might be cute to have a lamp sit on the open shelves. So, Brian had to cut a hole in the back of one of the cabinets, in order to have access to the outlet. We messed up a little with our measurements, and ended up cutting a much bigger hole than necessary. Hey, at least we knew to keep access to the outlet.

Next, we set the cabinets on the base. Starting with the outside edge (not against the corner wall because it is not plum or level in our 1975 settled house) we set each cabinet in place.

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Then, we clamped the cabinets together. and predrilled holes in the base of the cabinets and screwed the cabinets together.

Then, using a level, and many many shims. We made sure all the cabinets were perfectly level. We screwed the cabinets to the wall using shims for support, and making sure that we were screwing the cabinets into studs. Pro Tip: If you are unsure where studs are, you can use a stud finder. To double check, using a measuring tape and a pencil, from the corner of a room or an outlet (outlets and switches are often affixed to studs) and measure every 16 inches (or the red numbers in house on your tape measure) and mark the wall with a pencil. When you drill and the screw pulls tight and doesn’t keep spinning you have hit a stud. 



After the cabinets were in securely in the wall, it was time to put together the “counter”.  Rather than buy a piece of butcher block, we wanted the counter to mimic the dining table Brian had built a few year ago, but on a smaller scale. Using four 1″ x 3 1/2″ pieces of pine, we created a similar look. Since, we could only buy these boards in 12′ pieces, we ended up cutting them to the length we needed, and made a countertop for the top of the cabinets.

Next, as a recommendation from the handy helpers at Home Depot, using Liquid Nails and clamps.  Pro Tip: It never hurts to tell the people at Home Depot or your hardware store what you’re up to. Often times, they have lots of tips and tricks to help you with your project and are willing to help.

Built In Cabinets Phase One 10

We glued the boards together lengthwise, and used clamps to hold them together. We let the boards dry longer than the recommended time. Pro Tip: Make sure to wipe any excess Liquid Nails that oozes out between seams with a wet cloth right away. It is easier to remove when wet than dry, and will help with a smooth finish.

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After it dried, we removed the clamps. Then, I sanded, stained (three coats just like the table), and poly-ed it.

Built In Cabinets Phase One 13

Which brings us to today. 

Exhausted, and looking forward to/prepping for Phase 2, the upper open shelves. 

Built In Cabinets Phase One 14

Did you ever have a project that got out of hand quickly? Share in the comments.



Movie Inspired: An Uncle Buck Giant Fluffy Pancake

Growing up in a family of movie buffs meant we were watching a lot of movies. I can remember staying up late to watch James Bond marathons, Cary Grant marathons, Bill Murray marathons, or trying to pack in the whole Star Wars trilogy in one night.

One of my older siblings, Kevin, & I ready to watch movies.

Some things have changed since I was a kid. These were the days before Streaming and OnDemand, so if there was a good movie on TV you’d stop whatever you were doing pop in a tape in the Betamax and record. Also, we didn’t have a microwave, so I can remember my mom air popping popcorn and smelling butter melting in a pan on the stove while gathering cold drinks.

One thing has remained pretty constant is sometimes I would be watching an old movie like Sabrina (the original with Audrey Hepburn) or Moonstruck or Singing in the Rain or The Quiet Man and the actors would be eating something and I would think, “that looks pretty good.” (pauses TV and makes something similar).

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Which brings us to this GIANT PANCAKE. A few weeks ago, I started a John Hughes movie escapade that started with Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and when Maureen O’Hara (one of my favorites) passed away ended with Only the Lonely. Somewhere in the middle, I watched Uncle Buck, and saw this scene. 


So, of course, after watching this, I wanted Brinner (breakfast for dinner) and I thought some sort of Giant Pancake would be in order. The thing is, I don’t have a big griddle, and I wasn’t sure how to do this.

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I found a recipe on my Kitchen Stories app (if you don’t have it GET IT it is FREE), for something called a Kaiserschmarrn. This is a traditional fluffy, Austrian pancake usually made with raisins. I adapted a version that pleased everyone, and I think would have made John Hughes, John Candy, and even a young McCauley Culkin proud.

Giant Uncle Buck Pancake (adapted from Kitchen Stories Kaiserschmarrn)

4 eggs separated saving both the whites and the yolks

1/2 cup of sugar

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

2 cups milk (I used whole milk)

1 tbsp butter

1/4 cup chocolate chips

1 cup fresh berries

Maple syrup optional

Giant Pancake 2


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Using a chilled bowl, and a hand mixer or a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Beat egg whites and 1/4 of a cup of the granulated sugar until stiff peaks white, glossy, and stiff peaks are formed. 

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Transfer this mixture to a separate bowl and set aside.

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Then, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, mix together egg yolks and remaining sugar until light in color and well combined. Next, add vanilla and milk. Finally, slowly add flour and salt until just combined. Do not over mix this portion of the batter.

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Next, using a spatula very carefully fold in egg whites being extremely careful not to deflate the fluffy consistency you created. Fold until combined. Pro Tip: When folding, it is ok if you can still see some white egg whites streaked through the batter.

Giant Pancake 7

Next, in a large oven safe skillet with deep sides spray throughly with cooking spray. Then, put over medium high heat and melt butter. When the butter is melted add the batter. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over top. Let the batter cook on the stove for about 3 -4 minutes or until the sides begin to set up.

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Transfer the pancake to the oven to finish cooking through. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the pancake is fluffy.

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Cut into servings and serve immediately with berries and maple syrup.

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What have you been inspired to cook from a movie?


Thirsty Thursday: Build Your Own Chai Tea Lattes

I’m cold. I’m not complaining, I’m just stating a fact. I’m cold. The weather in the Midwest is chilly. There’s snow. There’s ice. I have been driving to the bus stop less than a quarter a mile away because I’d rather get my exercise indoors this time of year. While, I know January is the month of healthy smoothies and getting fit, I also know that a drink filled with unseasonably expensive fruit and ice is not going to warm me up. Also, January 2016 is known as National Hot Tea month. 

Chai Tea Latte 13

My regular readers know, I’m a regular tea drinker and I make all kinds of fun drinks with it both hot and cold (like here, here, and here). However, I have never attempted making Chai Tea. I thought it was time I start.

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Anytime I have ever had a Chai Tea Latte it always tastes like it has a little too much anise or not enough cinnamon or something seems missing. To be fair, I am kind of picky with spices. So, I did some research on Chai, and found all of the possible spices that could be in a Chai Tea Latte, added one that is not typically found in Chai but I think is perfect, and made my own version of a Chai Latte that can be made easily at home.

Chai Tea Latte 3

All of these spices could be played around with adjusted or eliminated to your tastes. The old standbys for Chai Tea are cardamom, ginger, anise (or fennel), peppercorn, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon. I added vanilla powder. I thought this would be mild but highlight any sweetener you might add to the drink (I used powder rather than extract so I could let it steep with the rest of the spices and it is also cheaper than always having to buy vanilla beans every time I want to make this drink). Also, I tried to keep everything as coarsely ground or in its original state for steeping. This helps keep the straining process a  bit easier and makes it a lot easier to not have chunks of spice in your drink (yuck!)

Chai Tea Latte 2

Also, the best part of making something like this at home is you can use your favorite caffeinated or decaffeinated tea or your favorite kind of milk (skim, whole, 2%, soy milk, almond milk) or even your favorite sweetener (sugar, agave, stevia, brown sugar) if you wanted to get really fancy.

I used 2% cow’s milk and brown sugar.

Chai Tea Latte 8


Build Your Own Chai Tea Lattes (makes two)

2 cups water

2 inches fresh ginger room cut into circles

1 or 2 pieces star anise

1/2 tsp coarsely ground white pepper or  a few white peppercorns

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg (grate a whole nutmeg with a microplane)

2 whole cloves

1 whole cinnamon stick

1 tsp vanilla powder (or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract added to the warmed milk)

1/4 tsp whole cardamom seeds

2 black tea bags

3/4 milk of your choice (I used 2% milk)

sweetener of your choice to taste (I added 2 tbsp of brown sugar)

In a sauce pan over medium heat, add water and all the spices.

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Bring to a low boil and cook for about 2 minutes. Stirring occasionally.

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Strain spice mixture into a heat save container (if concerned about spices in water, strain twice).

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Steep tea in spice mixture according to package instructions. I steeped tea for about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a heat safe container or in another sauce pan. Heat milk until just warm. This should take anywhere from 1 to 2 minutes. Pro Tip: If using vanilla extract, add vanilla extract now.

Remove tea bags from spice mixture. 

Finally, whisk together tea, milk, and sweetener.

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Pour into mugs and serve immediately.

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How will you make your Chai Tea Latte? Do you like more cinnamon? Will you leave out the vanilla? What kind of sweetener will you use? 

Buffalo Check is my New Obsession: Or How I Made No Sew Cafe Curtains (Again)

After adding the new kitchen countertops and installing a subway tile backsplash, I decided that I liked the neutrality of our kitchen. I liked that everything was starting to look more clean and fresh and could kind of be tweaked with some flowers or dish towels to match the seasons.

Backsplash without Thinset 1

Rather than add a pop of color with a rug or curtains, I decided to go with a black/white/gray motif. So, I found a few black and white fabrics that I liked, and went with it.

Kitchen Curtains Black and White Fabrics COLLAGE

Ok, fine what really happened was that I saw this buffalo check fabric at IKEA, fell in love with it (and the price) and had to have it!

Kitchen Curtains Black and White 4

I thought of the “neutral theme” idea later when I realized that everything goes with black and white buffalo check.

If you remember, my old cafe curtains were made from cloth napkins. Which is still an awesome idea and for a non-sewer (or someone who cannot make up her mind) and I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to have a quick, easy, and cheap window cover solution.



That buffalo check fabric though.

Kitchen Curtains Black and White 3

So, I pulled up my big girl pants, and got out the sewing machine iron and extra strength hem tape. I made the curtains similarly to when I made them for Coco’s room a few years back. However, I also got super fancy and made a valence too!

Using my previous cloth napkins curtains as a template, I measured.

Kitchen Curtains Black and White 5

I ironed while watching Brooklyn 99 (Captain Holt, am I right?)

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I hung them up.

Kitchen Curtains Black and White 7

Again, this is one of those projects I waited awhile to post as kind of a “time will tell” experiment. While I have made hem tape curtains in the past, they were decorative curtains that weren’t really open and closed very often and used more as a way to frame a window. These curtains, however, are actual real utility curtains. The kitchen is a high traffic area and the window over the sink is one that is open and closed a lot, which means these curtains would be pulled open and closed a lot. Also, over the sink means water splashing, steam from pasta water being drained, and other cooking shenanigans that happen near the sink. I wanted to make sure that these curtains would hold up to a wash, water, and heat, and some traffic before I posted a tutorial. 

Here they were the first week.

Kitchen Curtains Black and White 7

Here is picture of them yesterday (over three months of cooking, baking, washing dishes, splashing, and one run through the gentle cycle of the washing machine and hung to dry).

Kitchen Curtains Black and White 8


Also, because I don’t know if I mentioned earlier, but I really like this fabric from IKEA, I overbought, so I also had enough fabric to sew iron tie backs, and another valence for the patio door. 

Do you have any easy, quick, and foolproof DIY methods that lasted longer than you thought?


How To Install a Tile Backsplash Without Thinset or Mastic

If you read Home Everyday on any regular basis, you know that the kitchen is where I can be found most of the time. I am usually cooking or baking, or crafting at the kitchen table, helping someone with homework at the kitchen table, or cleaning up a ginormous mess I just made. Since updating our kitchen with new countertops, you may have also noticed that we have updated our backsplash too. I love our kitchen even more because the space has become more practical (no more cracked countertops),  but also because of a few more useful and beautiful additions we have made to my most used room: a deeper more functional sink, an extra cabinet, a new microwave (that works correctly), some new curtains, a little paint, and a few new pieces of hardware, and most of all: a gorgeous wipeable subway tile backsplash. 

Ta Da!

Backsplash without Thinset 1

Backsplash without Thinset 2

When the old countertops were removed, with them came a small backsplash that was made of the same material. When the countertops were removed, this was left behind.

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We could have had a small granite backsplash cut and attached to the wall, but there’s a few reasons we didn’t do this. 

  1. I don’t think they are practical for cleaning. Why only cover part of a space that is going to get splashed on. Then I have to tile it anyway? No.
  2. Mo granite means mo money.
  3. I think that tiling all the way to the countertop would create a modern cleaner line.

So, we decided to tile.


With a method that requires no mastic or thinset.

Backsplash without Thinset FINAL

Before this project, I had never tiled anything before. However because I like to watch HGTV, and Ask This Old House like it’s my job, lay in bed and look at Pinterest boards and Instagram accounts of DIY bloggers, take free classes for projects that might happen some day at Home Depot, and talk with anyone I can about DIY, I felt that I could handle tiling a backsplash. Ok, I also asked our awesome friend Scott who has remodeled two houses of his own from top to bottom to lend a hand. 

For this project, we were able to do the entire backsplash including grout in one day! I know what you’re thinking. Whoa, whoa, whoa, Erin. You cannot tile anything in one day. You have to wait for the thinset to dry. Nope. We used SimpleMat. It is like double sided tape for tile that is perfect for basksplashes or other tiling projects that won’t get super wet (think a decorative table, countertop, or behind a wet bar or decorative wall). If you follow this easy tutorial, you can have a gorgeous backsplash, in a day too! (I was not paid or perked in anyway, I just adored this product).

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And if you’re worried, I waited three months before sharing this tutorial to make sure we didn’t have any problems. Even through a busy cooking season of Christmas where I wiped down the backsplash almost daily. So far, so good!




Tile Cutter or Wet Saw (You should talk to a pro about what you’ll need to rent or purchase depending on what kind of tile you’re using and what you think you’ll be using in the future.)

Scissors (good strong utility scissors, don’t skimp, you’ll thank me)

Simple Grout (This is a premixed grout with a sealer already built into the grout. I used this to cut out the steps of having to mix my own grout and to have to seal it later)

Tile Spacers




Lots and lots of Paper Towel

Drop Clothes

Waterproof caulk

Getting Started

  1. The first thing I did was decide on a tile and a grout color. I chose white ceramic subway tile and a gray grout. I chose this combo for many reasons.
  • I liked how it looked with our new countertops. It was fresh and clean, and with grey grout would be divine.
  • Gray grout would not yellow over time and look new for years to come.
  • Gray grout would also help show off the brick pattern I wanted to do with the subway tile.
  • I knew it this look would stand the test of time. There’s a reason you still see subway tile in houses built forever ago. It never goes out of style.
  • It is easy to work with for a beginner tiler. It is light for those not using thinnest (us), easy to cut with a simple tile cutter or nippers (us).
  • It was cheap and in stock. There was no ordering required in case I miscalculated how much I needed, and everyone has ceramic subway tile. EVERYONE!
  • Did I mention how adorable it looked with our countertops?



Decisions are being made. #HomeEveryday #SkibsSummer

A photo posted by Erin Skibinski (@eskibs) on

2.  I measured, and then I measured again (then again). I wanted to make sure I had enough SimpleMat, tile, grout, and anything else I may need to complete the project. There’s nothing worse that running to Home Depot again in the middle of a project.

3. Buy what you need and a little more. It is recommended that you purchase about 10% more tile than you will actually need for a project to make up for any cuts made, broken tiles, or any mishaps. We did a little more than that. Just in case. Pro Tip: Make sure you factor extra tile, supplies, and any equipment purchase or rentals into your budget for a project. 

3. I turned off the power to the area, and then removed all the all outlet covers, and unscrewed the outlets from the wall. Pro Tip: You want to be able to get tiles as close to the outlets cut outs as possible for a cleaner more professional look, but to also make sure there’s no gaps when doing replacing outlet covers.

4. I also then prepped the surface by  gently sanding the backsplash area with a low grit sandpaper. Then, I wiped the surface down with a wet cloth and let it dry. This helped the SimpleMat adhere better.

Backsplash without Thinset 10

5. We laid out the tile in a dry run on the countertop. ProTip: I know you want to get started, but don’t skip this step. Make sure to use your spacers just as you would on the wall. This will help you predict where cuts will be, how your pattern will work, and how to end the tile in each row. There is nothing worse than a teeny tiny piece of tile at the end of a row, which is a terrible hard cut to make and looks silly, when you could have lined everything up a little bit different and get a whole tile instead. Also, this helps you decide where you want to stop and start your tile. I put tile wherever there was countertop, meaning a had to tile into a corner (I did this for practicality and easy cleaning but love the look too). 

Backsplash without Thinset 8



  1. Since I had lots of people helping me, I knew we would be able to get this project done quickly, and we had laid out the tile ahead of time, we cut all of the SimpleMat and adhered it to the wall in one giant step. Pro Tip: We made sure to use the float to press the SimpleMat to the wall to get good adhesion. Also, we made sure to cover every area with Simple Mat where there would be tile.

Backsplash without Thinset 12


Backsplash without Thinset 13

2. Next, we peeled back the paper on the other side. Pro Tip: It should be noted that after you remove the paper, you should start adhering tiles immediately for the best possible security.

Backsplash without Thinset 14

3. Time to tile! Scott would keep laying out tile and show Brian where cuts would need to be made. I would stick the tile to the wall, using tile spacers lay another tile.  Pro Tip: After adhering a few tiles, I would press with a float to make sure the tile was secure.

We had an awesome system going.

Backsplash without Thinset 17

Backsplash without Thinset 15


4. For around the outlets, we would use outlet covers and the previous row as a guide to measuring where to cut the tile to keep the brick pattern going. For corner cuts, we made sure to leave a bit of room in the corner for grout.

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Backsplash without Thinset 3


ProTip: Before you start remember these three things about grout. Work fast but careful. Wetter is better. Paper Towels are your friend. Now, you may begin. (Also, cameras and grouting do not mix, so sorry for so few pictures.)

1. Once every tile was in place, we removed all the spacers, and made sure that all the surfaces were covered with drop clothes.

2. Next, we filled two buckets with warm water and a sponge. One bucket is your yucky bucket, the other bucket is your not so yucky bucket (technical terms, be careful). 

3. Then, in very small sections, using a float we added grout into all the spaces of the tiles. Make sure that you press the grout into the crevices. Pro Tip: Many people like to use a diagonal stroke with the float to fill the spaces with grout. I found using a rainbow like pattern worked best. Using small strokes from the bottom left, working up and around and back down to the bottom right in a small semi-circle pattern seemed to fill the most spaces with grout.

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Backsplash without Thinset 23

4. Even though we only did small sections of grout at a time, we would wash the float between each section, and close the grout container. Remember, grout is easier to work with when it is wet. Then, we would take a sponge from the yucky bucket, wring it out, and wipe the the section we had just grouted with a VERY light touch. Careful not to removed any grout from the crevices or spaces. Do this step again.

5. Then, wringing a sponge from the not so yucky bucket, we lightly wiped the tiles again. You’ll probably notice drips of cloudy water falling on the tiles, this is fine as long as you notice the water get “cleaner” with every pass. Pro Tip: Keep switching the water in the buckets to help keep haze at bay.

6. Finally, using a bunch of paper tiles, again with a light touch we would wipe the section again a few times until we noticed the tiles were starting to shine up, but also not so hard that the grout was starting to be removed from the crevices. Again, this is a very light touch. You may even want to wipe each individual tile. Pro Tip: While you may feel like you are using a lot of paper towel, this may save time and money later from having to use a tile haze remover. 

7. Repeat these steps until everything is grouted.

Finish it up

  1. Each grout has different rules about dry times. I didn’t wipe or do really anything in the kitchen for about 48-72 hours after we finished tiling and grouting, which I realize may be overkill, but oh well.

2. Once everything was dry, we put the outlet covers back on. 

3. Then we caulked the edges for a finished look.


Here are the after photos again. 

Backsplash without Thinset 2


Backsplash without Thinset 1

I would say for the beginner DIYer this project this project is definitely doable especially if you have the right tools and perhaps you practice grouting at a tile class first. While I realize not everyone has a friend like Scott with all kinds of experience, I would recommend asking  someone who has a little bit of experience using a tile cutter to help out with the first few tile cuts. Even if that means asking the rental facility or someone at your local Home Depot.

Backsplash without Thinset Pinterest Collage






Thirsty Thursday: Avocado Milkshakes

We are barely a week into the 2016! How are everyone’s workout and weight loss goals coming? Losing weight is a huge challenge, but for some gaining weight is a predicament too. I know it seems like a good problem to have. When I know someone who needs to gain a few pounds (like my middle guy after the worst stomach bug of all time), the answer is usually a few milkshakes. However, there’s only so many chocolate milkshakes one can drink, and it is sometimes more wholesome and gratifying to put in something healthy.

My sister in law, Kate, from Southern California who has a deeper love for avocados than I do for Harry Potter had just the solution for me. She told me about Avocado Milkshakes. I thanked her profusely, and did a little research. There are several ways to make them, and countries like Brazil, Vietnam, and even the U.S. have their own varieties.

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I whipped up one with a little vanilla extract for my vanilla loving son, and everyone else seemed to enjoy it too. This has become a great after school treat!

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Avocado Milkshake (makes 1 huge shake with three straws or three small)

1 large ripe Haas avocado, peeled and seeded

1/3 of a cup sweetened condensed milk

1 cup milk (I used whole milk for my kids)

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

lots of ice

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In a blender, add ingredients.

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Blend until desired consistency. Pro Tip: For smoother consistency add a bit more milk. For sweeter flavor add a bit more condensed milk.

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Enjoy immediately!

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What is your favorite flavor milkshake? Chocolate? Vanilla? Would you consider adding avocado?

Faux Noodles and Kitchen Gadgets: Zucchini Noodles with Shallot and Parmesan Cream Sauce

A few months ago, sister from another mister, Samantha Schultz of The Peanuts Gang got in a pretty heated exchange. I am a pretty passive person, and even as the presidential primaries edge closer, I still remain pretty even tempered. However, there are two topics on which I will debate fiercely: Food and Television. That’s right. Topics that matter. Samantha and I got into it about kale “chips.” Not whether they tasted ok or not, but whether or not if they were, in fact, chips or not. I was trying to explain to her that while by definition they weren’t “chips” in the American sense of the word, that in the U.K. chips are fries and sometimes fries are baked in the oven. She argued by definition chips are only potatoes deep fried and are delicious. After much heated discussion, eating of various foods, and a discussion about cutesy made up words like “staycation” (which bother me) she swayed me.

Which brings me to vegetable noodles, zucchini noodles, or zoodles (baahhhh!). For those that aren’t on top of their food trends, zucchini noodles by definition is zucchini (or even other veggies like, yellow squash, carrots, eggplant, etc) cut to look like noodles and then covered or cooked in some sort of sauce that might also be used to cover a tradition pasta. As I am a newly converted food purist, I have decided these aren’t “real noodles” they are fancy cut vegetables, but it doesn’t change that they are delicious. So I made my own recipe using one of the many gadgets I received this holiday season. 

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For my birthday and Christmas, I received all things cooking and kitchen. George got me The Pioneer Woman: Dinnertime and my mother-in-law bought me a KitchenAid hand mixer so I can finally make my Grandma Nano’s 7 minute frosting recipe. Brian who loves to be my taste tester, went overboard this year. He decided to purchase for me some new Williams and Sonoma Oven Mitts, a KitchenAid Pasta Press Attachment, and a KitchenAid Spiralizer Attachment.

I have made tons of pasta, peeled lots of potatoes and apples, and have pretty much lived in the kitchen since my birthday. I’m ok with it.

There is one problem, however, someone has to eat all this food I’m cooking and baking. It is the New Year after all, so if I am going to make a cream sauce, perhaps I should give these fake noodles a try. Which is why instead of making another pasta in my pasta maker to go with this Shallot and Parmesan Cream Sauce I made up, I thought I would use my spiralizer to make zucchini “noodles” for something a little lighter (as if you can lighten up a cream sauce containing butter and cream, but I can try dammit).

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Zucchini Noodles (or vegatables) with Shallot and Parmesan Cream Sauce

3 or 4 very large zucchini

1 small shallot minced

1 TBS olive oil

2 TBS unsalted butter

2 TBS all purpose flour

2 cups cream or whole milk

4 oz grated Parmesan cheese 

pinch of nutmeg (1/8 tsp)

Salt and Pepper to taste

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Using your machine of choice (a spiralizer or even a vegetable peeler) cut zucchini into “noodles” and set aside.

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(My sous chef measuring how long the spiralizer can make the zucchini)

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In a large pan over medium low heat, add butter and olive oil.

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When the butter has melted, add the minced shallot and sauté stirring consistently until the shallot is soft. This should take about 2 or 3 minutes.

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Next, sprinkle the flour into the pan. Stir the mixture for about 1 minute. This helps to create a roux, but also helps to remove the raw flour taste from the flour. 

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Then, slowly stir in the cream. Cook this mixture stirring often until you have a warm sauce that can coat the back of a spoon. This should take about 2 or 3 minutes. 

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Finally, stir in the Parmesan cheese and toss in the zucchini “noodles”

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Pro Tip: Zucchini is mostly water, so when you toss it in the sauce, don’t leave it in there too long. Just enough to heat through and get coated, otherwise the sauce gets watered down.

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Serve immediately with a few Parmesan shavings for garnish.

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My taste tester, Brian said it was delicious, but he wished it was a bit heartier and suggested next time I add some chicken. I was thinking maybe even a chicken or turkey sausage? What say you? Would you try faux noodles? 





I Kept a New Year’s Resolution: A Good News Jar Recap

I recently told a friend how sometimes I feel like my memory fails me. I can remember obscure Smiths lyrics, or I can remember my grammar school friends old home telephone numbers, and yet, there are things that I cannot recall. For example, every morning when I leave the house, in a hurry, carrying a million things, shouting to someone, “Ok, I’m walking out the door!” I try to plow through the storm door. However, the door is always locked. Then, under my breath, I utter, “What the…?” in complete shock that the door is locked and I cannot just go careening through it at full speed. I am often the one that locked the door the night before. Every. single. morning. this. happens. We will have lived in this house for 5 years in February.

The fact that this happens to me every morning scares me. Which is why, in addition to using my phone, a DSLR, writing kids’ quotes in the notes section of my smart phone, scrapbooking, creating a photo gallery, and keeping both a digital and written calendar to capture events and milestones, I decided to write some memories down when I remembered and placed them in our 2015 Good News Jar.

I have found over the course of the year that writing these things down has served three purposes:

  1. I am infinitely more grateful for what I have.
  2. I am able to recall smaller things.
  3. I have a year’s worth of notes to put in a scrapbook some day.

Good News Jar ReCap 2

Some memories are pretty significant and might have been remembered anyway because of their significance or  the photos we took or because it was something that was all over the news:

Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup! Celebrating with our friends has been our favorite part! WOOHOO!

But most of my favorite memories that were written down were things that I probably would not have remembered otherwise.

It has snowed all last night and today. Sunday School has been cancelled and it looks like school tomorrow will be cancelled too. Time to play in the snow while Daddy snow blows the driveway and Mommy makes snacks for the Super Bowl.

To be honest, I was pretty surprised at how often I found myself writing down little tidbits about our lives. Often times the moments I chose to write down were small every day occurrences that would not have been captured on a camera:

After some hard practice, George moved to the next level of sight words at school. He learned that hard work does indeed pay off. Good boy, Big G. We love you!


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And while they might not be captured on digital film or be considered conventional milestones:

Family Date Night: We went and saw Big Hero 6 and we all loved it. Now we have a secret family handshake. Ba la la la la.

These are definitely moments that are worth remembering:

Russell lost a tooth at school.

I am grateful I kept this resolution, because now I have all these memories written down where I can remember them. Memories that might have otherwise been forgotten. I am so grateful I kept this resolution, that I think I will begin calling this our Gratitude Jar as we head into 2016. It has meant so much more to me than a few extra pounds shed or an organized closet. I cannot wait to read all the cards we write in 2016.

Good News Jar 3

Readers, talk to me! What are some events, moments, things you are grateful for in 2015? What are some goals in 2016? Is one of them to just write some memories down on index cards?


We Don’t Have to Sneak Cereal Anymore

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #AwakenYourTastebuds  #CollectiveBias

When I was a kid there were a few things we were obsessed with: playing whiffle ball in the backyard, getting to sleep on the screened in porch in the summer, cereal, and Star Wars™. I think the main reason why we loved cereal so much is because it was a perfect food for before school, after school, and for when we were watching movies like Star Wars™ late at night.

However, my Dad was an extremely frugal man. So frugal, in fact, that he had a brown expandable file folder dubbed the “coupon caddy.” He lived by a few simple rules, one of them being: Never Pay Full Price. When you’re a kid of the 80’s and 90’s and you have a stodgy Dad, this was not cool, and hipstery, and Pinterest worthy like it is now. It was a bummer. Sometimes it meant being deprived of our favorite cereals.

Star Wars Gift Basket and Snack Mix4

When I was about six years old, and my older siblings were teenagers old enough to be left in charge, my parents went out for the night and left us some money for dinner. Rather than order a pizza or grab fast food, the older ones had the genius idea to walk up to the store and get our favorite cereals. You know kids love cereal when they have cash for dinner and a million different options, and they still would rather walk to the store to get whatever cereal they like. Afraid our parents would be upset with our breakfast for supper choice, we hid the leftover cereal in our toy closet. Then, forgot it was there. Months later, Dad found it when cleaning the toy closet, and instead of being in trouble laughed at our cleverness.

Now, that we are adults and don’t have to sneak cereal anymore and the new Star Wars™ movie is days from being released, I had a genius idea!

Star Wars Movie Gift Baskets for my Star Wars™ and cereal loving siblings!

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At Walmart, I found Star Wars™ Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal®, Star Wars™ Go-Gurt®  along with a bunch of other fun Star Wars™ cereal products and a few other things to surprise my brothers and sister.

Star Wars Gift Baskets and Snack Mix Star Wars Gift Baskets and Snack Mix 1

My favorite part of this surprise was that the Star Wars™ Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal® came with a droid toy, jus like when we were kids.

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While I am sure everyone would be happy to just eat a bowl a cereal while watching a movie, I thought upping the ante and creating a sweet and salty snack mix for this time of year to add to their baskets would add some seasonal flair while sitting by the tree and watching the original trilogy and gearing up for the new movie.

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Cinnamon Toast Crunch Snack Mix

5 cups Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal®

5 cups any shape pretzels (I used pretzel sticks)

2 cups dried cranberries

1 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

1 stick of butter melted

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Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Melt butter.

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In a large bowl, add Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal® and pretzels.

Pour melted butter over the cereal and pretzels and toss gently until all the pieces are coated.

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Place the cereal and pretzels on a baking sheet, and place in the oven and bake for 12-17 minutes.

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Remove from the oven and place in a clean bowl to cool to room temperature.

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When the mixture is completely cooled, add the dried cranberries and chocolate chips, and then toss it together.

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Store in an airtight container (I used a Mason Jar for easy transport) or serve immediately.

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Are you going to hunker down the new few nights and watch Star Wars™? Do you have a favorite cereal you can eat any time of day? For more ideas for movie cereal treats, you can visit General Mills.