We Moved!

Guys!  We recently moved the blog to a new address: http://www.beginninginthemiddle.net.  All of the fun stuff from our old blog address (www.beginninginthemiddleblog.wordpress.com) has been transferred over to the new site, including followers, but we’ll keep the old site active just in case you forget.  All of our new posts from here on out will be on our new site.  Hope to see you over there soon!

Before and After: $387 Budget Kitchen Update

Well folks, we’ve finished our kitchen mini-update which means it’s time for some before & after photos!  In our last two posts, we shared how we updated the cabinets and added a backsplash.  We also swapped out the old ivory switch plates for new metal ones, which made a huge difference.  We went with the Style Selections brand at Lowe’s because it was the least expensive, but still looked nice.

All in all, here’s what we spent on the project:

Cabinet Update – $113
Marble Backsplash – $244
Replace Switch Plates – $30

Total Cost: $387

I know we talked about doing the floor with these tiles, but realized it would be a lot more work than we expected.  Since the kitchen floor extends under our fridge and washer/dryer, we would need to disconnect and move them in order to access those areas with the new tile.  We didn’t have the time to do that this time around with renters coming and going, and just didn’t want to deal with the hassle.

So, with that being said, here’s what the kitchen looked like before:

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And here’s what it looks like now!

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We love it.  We don’t even mind the white appliances or the plain white countertops anymore!  If we decide to get adventurous again, we’ll do DIY concrete countertops (like these) and tile the floor.  And maybe replace the appliances.  But for now, we’re happy with the way our mini-update looks… especially since it cost under $400 to do!

On another note, we have some news to share in the next week or so.  No we’re not having a baby.  But it’s still pretty exciting!

To Doggy Heaven We Go

As many of you know, we lost our pup, Baci, last week.  He wasn’t even 4 years old.

It all started less than 2 weeks ago with him being a little lethargic.  It progressed into him not wanting to eat or drink for a few days.  Not even treats.  We knew something was up, so we brought him to the vet and they gave him some special food for upset stomach, and some pills to take.  He didn’t want to eat the pills or the food, so we brought him in again a few days later so they could give him the meds through an IV.  The doc said if it was a stomach ache, he would start to feel better within a few hours.

Well, that didn’t happen, so I left work early and brought him back the following afternoon.  The vet recommended we go to the ER so we could get blood work done.  We took him right away.  The doc at the ER wanted us to leave him there overnight so he could be hooked up to an IV and stay hydrated.  I went home, thinking it wasn’t anything serious.  We got a call a few hours later, and found out the reason he wasn’t eating or drinking was because he was in severe kidney failure.  The doc said that the unfortunate thing about kidney failure is that dogs don’t show any symptoms until their kidneys are 75% or more damaged, at which point it is hard for them to ever fully recover.  It’s called “the silent killer”.

The first question I asked was will he die.  And the doc paused… and said most likely, yes.  She said that we had two options:  put him to sleep, or pay $10k to aggressively treat him and do surgery to find out what was causing it.  He would need to be in the hospital for at least a few days, maybe weeks.  She said that even with all of the treatment available, there was a 90+ percent chance he would not make it past a few months.  Worst case scenario, it would be kidney disease and he would not last more than a few weeks after treatment.  Best case scenario, it would be an infection and he could live another 1-2 years tops, but would not be the same dog because he would be living with damaged kidneys.  We wouldn’t be able to find out exactly what was causing the kidney failure and what his prognosis was until we put him through all of that surgery and treatment and hospitalization.  There was also a large chance that his body wouldn’t be able to withstand all of that.  It was the worst decision we’ve ever had to make, but we knew what we had to do.  We cried.  And cried.  And cried.

It broke our hearts to think that our little Baci was going through all of this.  He was completely normal just 2 weeks ago, playing with toys and chasing squirrels and barking at street noise and begging for treats and supervising home improvement projects.  We knew he would die someday, but not this young and this suddenly.  We got Baci when we first got engaged almost 4 years ago.  He’s been with us through our whole relationship, and was always so loyal.  He made us smile every single day.  He wasn’t perfect, but he was perfect for us.

Baci, we hope you’re having fun in doggy heaven, chasing squirrels and eating treats and going on nature walks and sitting in shopping carts and watching birds all day long.  You’ll never have to get your ears cleaned or take a bath ever again!  And you can get doggy hair EVERYWHERE and no one will care.  We’ll never forget you, buddy!

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It’s All About the Backsplash, Baby

Welcome back, friends!

Last week, we started our kitchen update project by painting the cabinets white and adding hardware.  Since then, we’ve finished the second phase of our project: the backsplash!  We weren’t originally going to do one, but when we discovered that these pretty marble mosaic tiles were almost 50% off, we took it as a sign from the DIY gods to go for it.


I will admit, I was hesitant about getting this tile because of the pineapple/brown color in it.  I really wanted carrera marble, but Bryan was in love with this one and was convinced that it would look fantastic.  It didn’t help my case that the one I wanted cost twice as much.  So I lost that battle, and we took a chance.

We’ve done tiling in our guest bathroom and our powder room (which we’re still working on, PS), so we knew what we were getting ourselves into.  We also knew what tools and extra materials to get so we could budget accordingly.

Here’s what we purchased to get the job done:

36 sq. ft. of marble mosaic tile – $204.50
Tile adhesive – $13
1/4″ trowel to spread adhesive – $3
1/2 gallon of white premixed grout – $17
Grout sponge with haze remover – $2.50
9×4 rubber grout float – $4

Total cost: $244

Before we started tiling, we decided to rip off the white Formica backsplash that was there so we could go all the way down to the counter with the new tiles.  This is what it looked like before we took it off (so happy it’s gone!)

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Once that was done, we started adhering the tiles to the wall.  Bryan applied the adhesive directly to the back of each tile with the trough.  The tiny little tiles made it easy to adjust them to fit between the cabinets and the counters.

To get around the outlets, we measured the distance from the counter to the bottom and top sides of the outlet.  Then we measured the distance from the end of the adjacent tile to the left and right sides of the outlet.  We applied those exact same measurements to the tile itself, so we would know where to cut the hole.

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After we got all of the tiles up on the wall, we let them dry for a few hours before grouting.  Since the cracks were so tiny, we really didn’t need that much grout at all.  We have over half of our 1/2 gallon container left!


After applying the grout, we let it dry for about 10 minutes before wiping it off with the haze sponge.  The haze sponge got all of the grout off much quicker and easier than a regular sponge.



This is what the area above the sink looked like after we wiped off all of the excess grout.  So shiny!


Remember what that same spot looked like before the new backsplash?


Here’s what the area above the stove looks like before & after the backsplash and updated cabinets.


So much better, don’t you think?

Full kitchen reveal is coming next – can’t wait to share!

How We Ditched Our Dated Cabinets for $113

If you’ve seen our home tour, you know that our kitchen is one of the only rooms we haven’t touched since we moved in.  It’s also the room that we’ve been wanting to change the most, but we’ve been trying to balance time in our house between renters (we explained here how we’ve been renting it out as a vacation rental), money in the bank, and quick-ish return on investment.

Here’s what we’ve been working with.  Brown ’90s cabinets, white appliances, and lovely laminate floors (our favorite).  B-E-A-UUUTIFUL!


Bryan and I would have loved to gut this kitchen and start from scratch, but that just wasn’t going to happen.  We figured we’ll take one thing at a time, starting with what would give us the biggest bang for our buck:  painting the cabinets.

We’ve been stashing photos of kitchen remodels on Pinterest and Houzz for the past few months, just in case the day would ever come for us to make moves.  We both like the look of bright, white cabinets with a neutral backsplash, dark floors, and light countertops, like this beauty:


… Someday….

In the meantime, we used this photo as inspiration to paint the cabinets white.

We made a few trips to Lowe’s to gather supplies for the project.  All in all, we spent $113!  Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

Cost Breakdown:

1 Gallon of Valspar Ultra White – $23
2 Foam Rollers (2″ and 6″) & Paint Trays – $10
2 Cans of white, oil-based primer – $12
Chrome knobs for upper cabinets (1 pack of 10 for $15 + 3 individuals)- $24
Chrome handles for base cabinets (1 pack of 10 on clearance for $30 + 2 individuals) – $42
Paint brush – $2
Tarp (had it)
Drill/screwdriver(s) for removing cabinet doors (had it)

Once we had everything in place, we got to work and followed these steps:

1.  Remove all doors and drawers from the base cabinets. 

We split up the job by doing all of the base cabinets from start to finish before starting the upper cabinets.  By focusing on just the base cabinets first, it made the project feel less overwhelming.  It also helped with space management, since we didn’t have a ton of space to lay out all of our cabinet doors and drawers at the same time.


2.  Clean. 

We cleaned the base cabinets, doors, and drawers really, really, really well.  We used standard household cleaners to remove all of the grease and dirt.  It took several rounds of cleaning to get everything off.  After that, we went over all of them again with a wet paper towel to remove any residue that was left from the cleaning products, and let them dry.

3.  Prime.

I read lots of different articles about whether to sand or not to sand before priming.  Some sources say you must do it; other sources say primer is sufficient.  Since our cabinets weren’t very glossy, we took our chances and skipped the sanding.  We used a Kilz oil-based primer spray from Lowe’s that one of the guys recommended, and let it dry for about an hour.

4. Paint. 

We used both the 2″ and 6″ rollers for the job.  The 2″ came in handy for the trim on the face of the doors, the sides, and the areas on the base cabinets in between the doors and drawers.  The 6″ was perfect for the face of the doors and drawers, and the larger areas of the base cabinets.  The rollers we used were perfect – foam is definitely the way to go.  We also used the paint brush to get into the cracks on the edge of the trim, and then went over it again with the roller to smooth it out.  We gave each door 2-3 coats of paint to make sure everything was fully covered.  After we were all done, we let everything dry overnight.


Quick tip:  Instead of painting the front and sides of each door at once, try painting all of the fronts first and let those dry.  Then paint all of the sides (1 or 2 at a time) and let those dry.  Tackling them in sections makes it easier to turn the doors and pick them up without getting paint all over your hands.  Also, if you have two horses or paint buckets or crates that you can lay the cabinet doors on, it makes it easier to get to the edges than propping them up yourself!

5. Re-attach doors to the base cabinets. 

After both the base cabinets and the doors/drawers were dry, we put them all back where they belonged.  Once they were in place, we touched up the doors and let them dry before putting on the hardware.

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6. Install hardware. 

We used a measuring tape to get to the right location of each drawer and door, and marked the spot.  We used a drill to make holes where the spots were marked, and then screwed in the hardware.

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7.  Repeat steps 1-5 for the upper cabinets. 

Nothing more to it!  The cabinets took us a few days to finish because we both had to work.  If we didn’t, I feel like we could have had it all done in a day or two.

While we were in the middle of our project, we stopped over at a discount tile & floor outlet here in Columbus.  Just to look.  Kind of.  They happened to be having a clearance event, and we found the perfect marble mosaic tile for a half off ($5.99/sq ft)!  So, we caved and got it for a backsplash.


We also have our eyes on these dark gray porcelain tiles ($1.76/sq ft) for the floor!  This is what they would look like:

We can’t wait to share more on our budget kitchen makeover, including our full reveal photos.  So stay tuned!

Total Money Makeover: 7 Month Update

Well guys, I have to say… I’m REALLY excited to write this post!  A few months ago, I mentioned that Bryan and I started to focus on getting rid of all of our debt.  We realized that if we could live life without payments, we’d have so much more freedom.  Over the past 7 months, we’ve been perfecting our monthly budget and limiting spending money on unnecessary things.  Some months have been better than others, but we’ve been sticking with it.  Thanks to some extra income from our house rental, a few work bonuses, and persistence, our 7 month debt payoff tally is… drumroll please… $23,111.51!
We can’t believe it!  It’s so incredible to look back at the numbers and see our progress.  Our plan for the second half of 2014 is to hit the 40k mark, and hopefully seal the deal on a second house (fixer upper!) so that we can use our first house as a full time vacation rental.  We know we’re not following Dave’s baby steps exactly, but we feel really confident that this is the right choice for us right now.
Has anyone else made progress on a journey to being debt-free?  It’s always encouraging to hear from others who are in the same boat!