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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Small Bathroom Remodel for less than $2000


This small bathroom picture had been filed away for two years in a folder as the exact look I wanted for our home's tiny upstairs bathroom. When I saw it, I knew when the day came when my husband was mentally ready for another home project and was fed up with the ever-clogging pipes in our 100+ year home, that I would pull out my dog-eared magazine clipping and say yet again,"well, I was thinking...". The designer who did this bathroom, Mrs. Phoebe Howard, as she is affectionately known in the designer world has made quite a name for herself through magazines such as Coastal Living and has a store front in my home town of Jacksonville Beach, FL. Well Mrs. Howard, thank you for planting the inspiration seed in my brain and I would like to show you my version (for less than $2000) on your great design.


So here is my reality. Yes it is a tiny bathroom, but it lives large and has a decent size closet that helps. We had to take all the drywall down and remove the entire sub floor to access all the pipes. We jackhammered out 6 inches of poured concrete from the floor, you read that right. Previous owners had leveled the floor with concrete right over the old pipes. I took advantage of attic space above and just like the picture, arched the ceiling in my bathroom by using plywood forms that attached to the top of the old ceiling. My talented drywaller then scored the green board and patiently bent into place, using 5 coats of durabond for a smooth and perfect look. I need a better picture probably. It turned out so pretty I have been afraid to put the accent molding like the inspiration picture. Still looking for a pendant light but it is wired for it. I found the basket weave tile on-line for $13 a square foot. For the record, I called Mrs. Howard about the inspiration floors and was quoted $75 a square foot. I used my old vanity which I had made myself previously out of plywood, but added more stock molding to it so that it would accommodate a new marble top I found on craigslist for $150. Bought a new undermount sink for $80, and sink fixtures for $89 (big time sale). My tip is find the product you love on-line, copy and paste it to google search and start your price comparisons. You can't see it in the original picture, but I will add a close up the ceiling in the shower where I took glass beads (found at hobby stores) and used silicone glue to attach them randomly on the overhead tile. The art work is just two shadow boxes from Hobby Lobby that I took the back off and cut two pieces of clear plastic sheets (also found at Hobby Lobby) to fit inside. The coral was found for $4 each at Ace Hardware in Jacksonville Beach, FL. I painted each one a greyish blue. Walls were painted with Benjamim Moore, Revere Pewter (Aura, Bathroom and Spa) The Aura was a splurge upgrade but with all the steam from a bathroom I considered it a wise investment. Bought new fan vent but threw away the vent cover and made my own out of decorative metal work from Home Depot. Much nicer look. Here are some close ups and some of those ideas, and feel free to comment me and/or let me know if you want more details or links from any of my purchases.


Vent cover is actually a metal screen from home depot. As luck would have it, the protective paint coating on the screen was identical to the paint color I chose. I cut it with metal cutters and framed it with simple molding that I painted with the wall color.


Carrara Marble tile floor with a basket weave pattern. Chose polished, not honed. This has a pretty taupe-grey square mixed with the carrara marble. Used white (not too white) grout. But make sure to mix the grout with a product called "milk" instead of water. It will add the needed protection you need from mildew and mold. Do that in the shower as well. You can not find this product in Home Depot. Try a tile store. Then use an impregnator sealer after it cures such as one made by Dupont that can be used on marble floors. Oh, and can you tell what the legs of the vanity are? Yep, those are post finials that are used mainly for decking (found at home depot). For this project I actually taught myself how to use a paint spray gun. It makes a huge difference on the final look. Husband set up a room of clear plastic sheeting for me on all sides...the prepping takes the longest. Spraying is actually quick. You want to do multiple light coats with the primer and then with the final paint. Lightly sanding when needed.


This was my grandmother's mirror that I already had in the bathroom. Problem was that it was gold. It had a beautiful patina and could be 150 years old. I love it, but gold wasn't working and I really wanted to keep it in the mix. So I purchased some silver leaf rub on paint called Rub n' buff (1/2 FL. oz, tiny tube and goes a long way)at Hobby Lobby and literally used my finger and an old sock to rub it on. I tried my best to keep some of the aged patina. I am just happy that it worked out and didn't totally destroy my grandmother's old mirror.


So this is a picture of the arched ceiling in the shower. Yes, that is glass beads that you buy in a bag for like $2. I used the one that has random clear, white, and buffed beads and randomly placed them as you see in the picture. Everyone that sees it loves it. Because my ceiling arched, I was very limited on what type of tile I could use. I had actually tiled this myself over 8 years ago so all the new hip glass tile in sheets was not available to market yet. This is just floor tile from Home Depot that I modified to look different. I have to say, I still love it. This is so easy to do, and not a single bead has ever fallen off.


This is the marble top I found on craigslist for $150. This is one those purchases you make before ever doing the project just praying that what you think will work, will. Otherwise this would have been passed on to another craigslister. It originally was a piece from Restoration Hardware for $650. So I did score a great deal. I was worried though I wouldn't find a sink to fit. But I believe that if you find something that is a little bigger than the opening it actually looks better. Having more of the counter top overlapping your undermounted sink hides the silicone caulk that is sometimes used to mount the sink. Mine was actually mounted by routering the top of the vanity so that it fit snuggly right on top. All the credit for that rigging job goes to Daniel, my drywaller who is a great "out of box" thinker.


Hopefully this picture shows the extra stock molding detail added to the base of the vanity. The marble top was bigger than the original top that was on here (a yucky goldish fake marbly thing). So I had to beef it up a little on the sides and back so that the top fit better and didn't extend out too much. This is simple to do with any cabinet piece. Think of those flat sides in kitchens. If you were planning on painting them, it would be a good time to add detail such as molding. There is a closer look at the deck finials for legs. You can highlight the picture and see the molding that was used up closer. My pictures are not very professional, and I am now noticing that there is a yellow glow from the light that is on, but hopefully you can get the idea. Mrs. Howard has a staging team that I am sure does all her pictures.


Close up of my inexpensive frames ($20 each, I think I got them half off for $10 at Hobby Lobby). Every room in my house has some form of coastal element to it, usually shells. I grew up in Atlantic Beach, FL but have lived in Chicago now for about 14 winters. Having beachy items reminds me of home and warmth, even when there might be 16 inches of snow on the ground. For this project, just remove the back and cut sheets of plastic (found at Hobby Lobby...I am starting to think they should sponsor this make over) to fit inside. Glue the coral in the center and let dry. Then glue the whole piece so that it sits in the inner rim of the shadow box. Be careful not to let the glue ooze so that it shows past the rimmed frame. Then I glued a second piece of plastic to the inside where the old back use to go. It is a shadow box, so there is space inside for the object. Just make sure your object is not too large.


Hopefully you found one or two ideas you can take away from this project. The bulk of my budget had to go to fixing the pipes underneath, so there wasn't very much for the sexy items that people actually see. I am a naturally cost-saving frugal person, so even if I had extra money to spend on this project (which for the record I don't), I still would have made the same product choices and do-it-yourself design elements. I love the final outcome, dare I say it....even better than Mrs. Howard's design.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Life, Lunch, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Recently I had lunch with a friend who was discussing with me her concerns that her daughter wasn’t getting invited to certain social events, or wasn’t always included within the pack of girls she considered her friends. The mom said she would express her concern over such matters to her child, but she would say “mom, I really don’t care…it doesn’t bother me in the least”. I asked my friend, “is your concern, that it really is bothering her?” She said, “no, I really don’t think it does bother her”. And I could tell on some level perhaps that was what was perplexing to the mom. It is hard to know as a parent in situations like this with your child what to say, how to say it, or do you decide not to say anything at all.

Starting down the road of parenthood, there is so many unknowns and we can’t wait for the next achievement. At first, we are just monitoring them to make sure they are healthy and reach all the milestones within the norm. Then they go off to school and you hope please let my child not be bullied, or worse…be the bully. You pray they are kind, and thoughtful, and secretly you hope that academics will come easy for them. I use to tell everyone that I named my children Mark and Luke so that I was assured that they would at least be able to spell their names by the time they were in Kindergarten. Little did I know that my biggest concern would be that one of them insisted on sliding into the reading area as if he was running to home plate for the winning run. Apparently, in the “teacher world” this meant he was socially immature. As I am listening to my son’s teacher talk about such incidences with disapproval I am thinking to myself “it is a good thing you weren’t at my home a couple years ago when this same child dropped his pants and did his (#2) business in my front yard with onlookers across the street. Or when this same child stuck a dehydrated blueberry up his nose and it took five people holding him down at the E.R. to extract it”. I don’t know about you, but with that kind of past social lack of judgment on my child’s part, I wasn’t taking her sliding into the reading area concerns too seriously, obviously I had bigger issues than that. But slowly, my child outgrew his fetish for putting things in his nose and ears (I still don’t know what on earth possesses kids to do that) and he also learned to at least do his business in private…sadly not always in a bathroom. Even my 14 year old gets lazy about that. What’s with boys…just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Yes my kids have issues, and like my friend I do worry that they will be socially accepted for who they are. But I also told her that her concern that her child feels included was something that follows us into adulthood. And that she needs to rethink how she is viewing her daughter’s situation. I told her that she should be forever grateful that her daughter doesn’t care that she isn’t included. To me that means she is comfortable with who she is even at such a young age. And to know that now about herself is such a gift. That in life, we don’t need a lot of friends, we just need the right friends for us. I also told her that “in my prayers I always ask one thing of the lord when it comes to my children…that they will always be content with who they are”. Because I feel that so many children and adults make themselves unhappy by trying to be someone they are not, by living up to someone else’s expectations of success, or look, dress, and act a certain way because society says that is what is cool, and will make you loved by your peers. Being in honors classes, or playing every sport…or later, having a big house, driving the right kind of car or cars, being a member of the country club, or a member of some social circle…it doesn’t make the person. And it certainly doesn’t make a person happy in the long term.

When it comes to happiness, “think small.” A study with America's elders at Cornell University revealed that we must be aware and attentive to small pleasures in daily life, even as we may be waiting for something in our lives to change. Seniors are consciously grateful for what they have, right now, rather than pinning their happiness on future achievements or possessions. How nice it would be if we all acknowledged that concept sooner rather than later in life.

I believe what makes us all “content” as humans is an inner core belief, and just a knowing of oneself. It is definitely not the stuff we accumulate, which is all that is…stuff. Friends will come and go our entire life, many of us will feel rich and poor within our life time, we will go from relying on shelter from our parents, to squatter-like quarters in college, to ultimately for many owning your own home. The only difference you will find with people is some will take what they have for granted, other’s will feel entitled to it, and lucky are those who are “content” and appreciative of who they are, what they have, the contributions they make to their fellow man, and the person they have become.

"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called. ~A.A. Milne

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My Eulogy for Mom



My Eulogy to my Mom, Barbara Ann Bowen Phillips:
Born July 3rd, 1933-Died April 26th, 2013

My mom was born on July 3rd, 1933 and while growing up she couldn’t understand what made her so special that they would light off fireworks for her birthday. She was led to believe they were all for her. Each year we enjoyed celebrating her birthday in my brother’s backyard and watched as our club would launch their fireworks a day early; and we would tell her, “those are just for you mom”.

My mom really loved when we would all get together as a family. And she had the great fortune of witnessing many life events; from weddings and graduations, to each one of 9 grandkids births. My husband affectionately called their home the “control center” and there you would always see a myriad of people: grandkids, neighbor’s kids, and friends. When I would come to visit, I noticed that one by one every grandchild would visit mom and dad daily to discuss their day or just sit and watch the weather channel with her. She loved watching the weather. These little slice of life moments were wonderful to witness. Because the most important lessons from my mother were not verbal; they were in her actions. She loved her husband, family, her families’ friends, and she never had an unkind thing to say about anyone.

My mom was quite funny. You could say anything to her and she loved to laugh. She would seemingly debate with you, but in the end she would just always agree with you. In her eyes, her kids were always right and could do no wrong. She just was so amicable, sweet and kind; a true angel on earth.

Funny thing about Mom was that she was a sucker for allowing stray animals refuge for a bit. I remember my brothers were always bringing dogs home for the summer from the fraternity house for their friends. But, she didn’t take too kindly to the two baby rattlesnakes that my brothers, Bob and Brian once snuck in the tree house. When I reminded Brian of that the other day he said, “That’s nothing, once, Bob and I captured a baby possum and decided we were going to keep it as a pet. We collected frogs and bugs in jars to feed it”. He said they named it Sam and figured if he was going to be a true pet that “Sam” would have to get his rabies shot. I’m not kidding when I tell you they actually talked my mom into taking this baby possum to the vet to get his rabies shot. Mom explained to the vet what these boys wanted to do, and he turned to her and said, “Mam, this is a wild animal, and the best thing you can do for this animal is to let it go free”. It could be another one-liner for that comedian Jeff Foxworthy, ”if you find yourself in line at the vet waiting to get your pet possum’s rabies shot…you might be a redneck”. Later when Brian was older, he worked at a bank and one of his directors was a local vet. One day at lunch with this man Brian said to him, “man, you must have some crazy stories”. He said, “yeah, once I had this crazy lady who had brought in a baby possum to get its rabies shots because her kids wanted to keep it as a pet”. Brian was like, “umm, that was me”.

But mom will be most remembered for taking in stray people. My brother Brian’s friend Edwin Kahn lived with us his entire senior year after his parents were transferred by the Navy to Hawaii. My husband’s flight buddies stayed with my parents when they were doing their cross countries here to Jacksonville. For us kids, it was a given that her home was open to anyone…you didn’t have to ask. My husband once asked me, “does your mom ever say no?’. I turned to him and said “no”. She had a home cooked meal ready and waiting for all that visited and was affectionately known as “Momma P”. She had a “To Do List” permanently affixed to her fridge that said: 1. Always offer free hugs and kisses. 2. Keep the candy jar full, and 3. Make her famous cheesecake.

Our pastor Gabe had asked us when he brought our family together what word or words would you use to describe your mother? I looked at him and said “content”. I am not sure he expected that but I went on to say that “each night in my prayers I pray to the Lord that my sons will grow up content with whom they are, and what they have become. Because success in life means different things to different people, but I believe the most fortunate among us are the ones "content” with the path that they themselves and God chose for them. My mom was the most content person I know. She lived her life through her kids and loved every moment of it. She reveled in our glory, and would make light of any worries. Her grace and ability to forgive was such a wonderful gift to learn as a child. She really was our champion and number one fan. We are thankful that our mom taught us to love each other in a way that made getting through this possible.

And even though I knew that someday I would have to let her go, I just didn’t know how hard it was going to be. Today we return her back to the earth, wind and water. But it was better for me and all of us when she walked among us.
There was a card someone wrote that summed up in simple fashion how we all probably feel today that I will leave you with:

Because we loved, there will be tears.
Because we laughed, there will be memories.
Because she lived, there will still be joy.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

How I named my Company

You may have noticed the name of my company is rather unusual. The correct way to say it is "apples" with a "bra" in front. The name really doesn't mean anything and that was the point. I wanted something catchy and simple; that would coordinate with the logo I had in mind. I sort of did things backwards; I could envision the logo I wanted but I didn't have a company name yet. I knew that this was initially going to be a company that would be marketed on-line; so in order to get a domain and trademark, it is easier to have a made up name.

So why Brapples? Well, I tossed around a lot of names, and actually had settled on one name initially that my trademark lawyer hated...."Sisterstraps". Looking back, he was so right. But at the time I thought it was sort of cool. Whenever you think of a company name, the first thing you should do is google it and see what comes up. The name "sisterstraps" exposed me to a world of new accessories I never knew existed - and I don't mean the kind that you wear out to lunch with the girls, more of an item you might wear during an afternoon delight. So it was back to the name game for me. Then one night I had a dream. I was dreaming of the movie "Good Will Hunting" and specifically the scene you see on the post here. In my dream my husband and I are walking by the bar and Will, played by Matt Damon, is doing exactly what you see in the picture. And for those who didn't see the movie he is saying "hey, you like apples?...Check out them apples". My husband is beside me and is checking out a girl who is wearing my beaded bra straps and says "hey, you like Brapples?....Check out them Brapples". Perhaps, looking back, his version of Brapples wasn't the same as mine but I woke instantly, noticed it was 3:00 a.m, and shook my husband awake and said "I got it". He said, "got what?" "I got the name for my company...Brapples". He was like, that's nice honey...go back to sleep. Of course I got up, and immediately googled the name. Thankfully no crazy images, and no products existed with the name. YEAH! Sadly the same wasn't true for the initial name of my patent-pending faux fur scarf Fur Babyz. It was initially called the "Fur Daddy...every girl needs one!" I ordered hundreds of product tags. Try googling that one, I dare you. But do it after you eat your lunch.
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