Author Archives: brookecarney

DIY: Replacing Outlets

My husband and I are in the midst of a major overall of our 1979 home. One of the millions of tasks on our list is to replace the old outlets, which are ugly and barely hold onto the cords we put in them. Last Saturday morning, I tackled the first room and replaced all the outlets in it! As it turns out, it’s not that hard. It just takes a few supplies, watching a some You Tube videos, putting on your thinking cap, and rolling up your sleeves. Here’s how.

Supplies (you really do need ALL of these):

  • new outlets
  • voltage sensor ($20 at Lowes)
  • outlet tester ($5 at Lowes)
  • needle nose pliers
  • flathead screw driver
  • wire strippers (You may not need these, but I did.)


Before you begin, schedule a manicure (or plan to give yourself one as I did). After a few hours of this, I had total man hands.

First, watch a few You Tube videos on how this is done. (You can learn anything on You Tube these days! Thank you, self-filming handymen.)

Next, go to the store and get your supplies. No skipping on the voltage sensor or outlet tester! No one wants you to become a vegetable because you touched a live socket, and we don’t want you to burn your house down because you unknowingly wired the outlet wrong.

Now you’re ready to begin. Find your breaker box and turn off the breaker that leads to your outlets. Instead of running back and forth through the house, I plugged in a radio to the outlet I wanted to kill. Test that there is no juice coming to the outlet by holding your voltage sensor up to it. (Test the little booger first on an outlet that you know is hot.)

voltage sensor

Testing the outlet after I’ve turned off the power

Once you’re certain the power is off, unscrew the outlet from the wall. Gently (but firmly too, if that makes sense) pull the outlet away from the wall. If your outlets aren’t that old, you can just unscrew each of the wires. Mine were old backstabbed boxes (learned that new term while doing this project), so I had to cut the wires out with my needle nose pliers and then strip the coating off the end of the wire. Put the white wires off to the left side, the black wires off to the right, and the ground to the bottom of your opening.

Old outlet out of wall and ready to be clipped

Old outlet out of wall and ready to be clipped

Now put the wires onto the new outlet. I found the best way to do this is to make a little shepherd’s hook on the end of each wire. Then it slides right in behind the screw…sometimes. The wires can be kind of a pain to get onto the outlet. Once the wire is in, hold it taught and tighten the screw. Do this for the remaining four wires. (This part gave me man hands!)

Now that the new outlet is wired up, gently but firmly place the wires back into their little box. I found this to be really hard. I pretty much gave it everything I had to get the stupid, I mean, functional wires back into place (more man hands). Once everything is back in box, screw the outlet back onto the wall.

New outlet with tester showing it was wired correctly

New outlet with tester showing it was wired correctly

Insert the outlet tester you bought for five bucks. Now go turn the power back on. Use the little color codes on the tester to see if you’ve wired the outlet correctly. If so, congrats! Replace the decorative plate, kill the power again, and move on to your next outlet.

Time for that manicure…


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Filed under Decorating, DIY, Our Saturday Morning

Munchie Monday: Better Than Your Grandma’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ooh, Lawd! They must be good. My Monday evening plans for a workout just went out the window. I’m making these cookies instead!

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4-day hair experiment

I have fine, blondish hair that tends to get oily after one day (without product of some sort) and an acne-prone T zone. None of these qualities make me a good candidate for going four days without washing my hair, and so I’ve always ignored the benefits associated with having dirty hair (shiny, less damaged hair, faster mornings, curls that hold). Before moving to the west coast, I washed my hair daily (humidity + oil + sweat + fine hair = gross). Since moving west, I skip one day between shampooing, mostly to save time.

This weekend, I decided it was time for a 4-day hair experiment. I got my hair cut on Thursday and used the salon-freshness to kick start my experiment. Armed with Osis Dust-it texturing powder, Oscar Blandi dry shampoo, a shower cap, and head band, I began my quest. A few caveats: I refuse to spend more than about 30 minutes total getting ready in the morning, so any hair-style must adhere to that strict schedule.

Day 1: Fresh from the salon. (I can’t take any credit.) I love salon days!

post-salon hair, freshly washed (by Kari at The Beauty Room)

post-salon hair, freshly washed (by Kari at The Beauty Room)

Day 2: Quick shower wearing my oh-so-hot shower cap, and five minutes of applying Dust-it using Laura’s guidance and brushing out my hair. Voila!

Day 2 hair: Osis Dust-it works, Laura!

Day 2 hair: Osis Dust-it works, Laura!

Evening 2: Because I have acne-prone skin and am sporting second day hair, I added a few additional steps to my daily routine. First, I did an afternoon face wash with Burt’s Bees sensitive skin facial towelettes followed by a new, light application of facial moisturizer. (I don’t wear any base makeup, so this works for me.) Second, I slept with a soft head band on and swept my hair up in a loose bun (to keep any additional oils away from my face).

Day 3: Quick shower wearing hot mama shower cap, a few blasts of Oscar Blandi dry shampoo, and five minutes of twisting my ends with a curling iron. Not bad! At some point during the day, my husband kissed me on the head and said, “ooh, you’re hair smells great!” Thanks, honey… if you only knew.

Day 3 hair: rocking the curls

Day 3 hair: rocking the curls

Afternoon 3: My hair was still looking good, but I got a little grossed out. So, I swept my hair up into a side bun following the steps in this awesome post on up-dos by my girls at the Glitter Life. Now I’m ready for our evening out!

mid-day 3: swept up the curls into a side bun. Thanks for the tutorial, Glitter Life girls!

mid-day 3: swept up the curls into a side bun. Thanks for the tutorial, Glitter Life girls!

Day 4: I spent a lazy morning at home with my hair in a head band and loose top bun. It looked ok, and I could’ve rocked a more polished version of that bun, but I broke down and washed it (mostly because I didn’t want to leave the task of washing to the Monday morning after daylight savings time began… I must maintain my 30-minute rule).

The Result: No acne, a love affair with two new products, and the know-how to rock one shampooing every three (or four) days from now on. Rejoice, girls with fine hair! We can do this!

P.S. I’m now on my third round of this three day ritual, and it’s still working!


Filed under Health and Beauty, Trying Something New

Saturday Morning 3.9.13: Wedding Bouquets

Happy Saturday morning to you!

Jeanne spent her morning making bouquets for a friend’s wedding. The look for this wedding called for a bridal bouquet of red roses and baby’s breath.

Bridal bouquet made by Jeanne this morning

Bridal bouquet made by Jeanne this morning

Jeanne is a fantastic amateur florist. She was taught by her mother who had a floral business for several years. The skill and joy that comes along with it is contagious, and I’ve tried my best to pick it up over the years, doing the flowers for several friends’ weddings (with my mother on the phone, of course). For Laura and Chad’s wedding, she tackled the bridal bouquet, coached me through the other bouquets, and instructed Sasha and a few girls from our family through the other arrangements.

Laura's bridal bouquet made by Jeanne

Laura’s bridal bouquet made by Jeanne
(photography by Angela Frances)

Simple flowers in a mason jar give a warm, vintage feel to the ceremony

Simple flowers and herbs (from Jeanne’s yard) in a mason jar give a warm, vintage feel to the ceremony

There’s something about caring for and arranging flowers for someone’s special day that adds an extra touch of love to the occasion.

Flower arranging can be intimidating at first, but it’s really not that hard once you try it. Making bouquets can be great fun and save a lot of money. As with anything these days, there are countless articles on how to make your own bouquets. Here are a few good ones from A Practical Wedding and The Knot.

Saturday morning for the rest of the gang included P90X at 5 am for Sasha (go girl!), knitting and a plyometircs workout for me, and a road trip to Chattanooga, TN for Laura (and Chad).

Ruby Falls in Chattanooga, TN

Ruby Falls in Chattanooga, TN

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Filed under Event Planning and Hosting, Our Saturday Morning

Sasha’s Detox Smoothie

Sasha is trying to maintain a healthier lifestyle and recently did her first ever detox juice cleanse for three days. She’s such a rock star — the only detox diets I’ve done have lasted about 12 hours…until I’m mean and hungry for dinner. Go Sasha!




Combine in a blender (or really fancy juicer as pictured) and mix on high:

1 cup kale leaves

1 cup spinach

1 cucumber (Tons of benefits, including hydration & loaded with B vitamins)

1 stalk celery

1 carrot, peeled

1 Bosc pear (or apple if you prefer)

1 lemon

½ cup fresh parsley (which is great for cleansing your blood!)

& whatever other fruits or veggies you have lying around. Strawberries or a kiwi are more great additions

solids on the left, healthy yummy juices on the right

Pulp on the left, healthy yummy juice on the right

The detox consisted of consuming this juice her meals for three days. After it, Sasha felt like a new (and clean!) woman!



-Update from Sasha:

Great enthusiasm from Brooke! But those three days were not that fun. I had such a major headache from the caffeine withdrawals and my skin broke out from all the “toxins” exiting through my pores. But hey I stuck it out! It was a good way to kick-start my healthier lifestyle and I think essential for myself in getting started, but I would much rather practice healthy eating habits every day & maybe the occasional 24 hour detox. I don’t see how people do these juice diets for 14 days. More power to them! Nonetheless this is a great juice/smoothie recipe and is loaded with good stuff for you! & yummy 🙂

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Filed under Cooking & Eating, Health and Beauty

Multi-Vitamin Smoothie

I’m generally a healthy person, but I loathe multi-vitamins. For starters, they make me feel nauseous. Secondly,  half of them don’t fully dissolve before moving through your system. (Check by placing your vitamin in a half-cup of vinegar for 45 minutes. If it’s not dissolved there, it won’t dissolve in your belly.) And third, a diverse, healthy diet provides all the vitamins you need. (Trust me, I did research on the entire multivitamin ingredient list.) So instead of taking a huge, nasty pill, I make a vitamin smoothie every morning that gives me the same “good stuff” that I would get from a vitamin and provides me with a healthy, quick, eat-on-the-go breakfast. (Bonus: it’s one of the few breakfast meals that actually keeps me full until noon.)

This morning's blended vitamin smoothie

This morning’s blended vitamin smoothie

This is my recipe, which inevitably varies towards the end of the week when I run out of one thing or another.

Combine in a blender, and blast on high:

1 cup  pomegranate juice (vitamin K, vitamin E, B vitamins, antioxidants)

1 cup  baby spinach leaves (vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, and a slough of other good compounds)

1 cup frozen blueberries (antioxidants, fiber, Vitamin C)

1/2 to 1 cup plain greek yogurt (20 grams of protein)

1  banana (potassium and mellow, creamy flavor to compliment the tartness of the berries and pomegranate)

1 Tbsp flax seeds (omega-3 fatty acids, lignan, fiber)

If I’m feeling sweet, I’ll add about a tbsp of honey or agave nectar.

1/4 to 1/2 cup water (just enough to make the blender go)

Pour into your favorite water bottle, and out the door you go.

When available, use organic ingredients. Why organic? First, craw out from under that rock. Then, educate yourself. Even if you can’t eat all organic, there are some foods (and other items) that are more importantly organic than others.

Confession: At lunch today, my husband asked why my nose was bleeding. It turned out that it wasn’t bleeding. I had been wearing a splash of smoothie on it all morning. Watch out for that!

In addition to this daily smoothie, the list of staples at my house includes other foods that round out all the recommended daily supplements on the back of that multi-vitamin label: salmon (Alaskan wild caught!), lots of leafy greens, a variety of fruits, bell peppers, avocados, tofu and other soy products, eggs, brown rice, nuts, dark chocolate, and quinoa (Laura provided a great quinoa recipe a few weeks ago).

Sasha and Laura, what smoothie recipes have you tried recently? I know you’ve done it b/c I’ve seen your green concoctions on Instagram!


Filed under Cooking & Eating, Health and Beauty

The Simple Things

Feeling renewed and centered from my recent trip to Maui, I’ve been approaching the simple things in life with renewed excitement. Here are a few highlights that I especially love.

A clutter-free counter that I love -- more of my kitchen ideas on my Pinterest board, kitchens

A clutter-free counter that I love — more of my kitchen ideas on my Pinterest board, kitchens

1. Purge, toss, hide. I’m a big fan of this anyway, and this weekend, I purged my kitchen in preparation of an upcoming renovation (more to come on that). Haven’t used it in a year? Toss it. Have two (OMG three!?) of a gadget? Toss it. Wedding gift hasn’t been used six years later? Toss it. The result: six bags of items to donate and neat, clutter free cabinets, half of which will soon be open shelves. There are some great tips for doing this on Apartment Therapy and DIY Life. My inspiration came from the latest issue of Mother Earth Living, formerly Herb Companion, which arguably has the best home life articles of any out there (without an over abundance of ads).

2. Animals to soothe. It’s no secret that viewing animals reduces one’s stress. While I love my adorable dogs, Mango and Cokie, I decided I needed a little more. The result: two small and easy fish tanks (betta in a bowl, five gallon tank to transport me to the tropics) and a simple bird feeder.

A 5-gallon tank (thanks, Katrina!) brings a touch of Tahiti into my living room.

A 5-gallon tank (thanks, Katrina!) brings a touch of Tahiti into my living room.

3. Knitting. I love knitting, but I rarely have time for it anymore. Over the weekend, I made time and focused on a few quick projects to keep my attention (with all natural wool, hand-dyed yarn). The result: a hat and mittens for my best friend’s new baby. Want to try knitting? Visit Ravelry for thousands of free patterns. You Tube has all the how-to videos you need to get started.

knit newborn hat from baby alpaca wool in pink and orange

knit newborn hat from baby alpaca wool in pink and orange

4. Turn off the TV. My husband and I have a six-month cable plan. Each year in October we get cable, and then in March, we cancel it. It may sound silly, but it’s our balance between wasting hours in front of the tube (necessary during those long winter nights) and focusing on the many other, more productive activities without it. Instead of watching TV, we are reading, talking, knitting, and working on house projects together.

5. Celebrate love. OK, you’re saying, “duh! Of course.” But, we all get in our habits and routines. From time to time, it’s so important to spend time and energy focusing on the one you love and the relationship you share — the love, fun, laughs, quirks, and interests of the couple and the individuals in it. I am so thankful that I have a wonderful husband and a healthy marriage. It’s a love worth celebrating daily, constantly.

Sasha, Laura, and Jeanne — I know you’re always focusing on the simple things in life. What is your latest “simple” focus?


Filed under Crafting, Decorating