Category Archives: Decorating

We are all obsessed with decorating and redecorating our homes. (What fun girl isn’t!?) And we all do it. A lot. (much to our spouses’ dismay)

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

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

Saturday Morning 2.23.13

Wynn’s birthday was yesterday, so I made a yummy birthday brunch for us. And, I discovered a new easy recipe in the process.

The menu: Maui grown coffee (from my recent trip), campari tomatoes and tangerine slices with a balsamic reduction, French vanilla custard, and fresh strawberries

Confession: The French vanilla custard started out as spinach quiche. The plan changed when I grabbed the French vanilla half and half instead of the regular stuff on accident.

New (EASY!) recipe: Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9″ glass pie pan. Whisk together seven eggs, one cup cake flour, and one cup French vanilla creamer (I used Organic Valley French Vanilla Half and Half). Pour in pie plate, bake for 35-40 minutes, slice, and serve warm or at room temp. Voila! Temporary crisis averted, and new great recipe created in the process.

Laura spent her morning curled up with a homemade latte and her favorite magazine, Southern Living (it’s the favorite of all of us!) She loves making lattes and tea because she LOVES her fantastic collection of adorable, vintage tea cups (courtesy of TJ Maxx — another favorite of ours, we love a good deal).

Jeanne spent her morning relaxing in front of the fire at her wonderful lake house on Lake Hartwell, South Carolina. (OK, so it wasn’t all relaxing — there was a water leak, a security alarm issue, and all the chaos that comes with those things. At least she can laugh about it.)

Relaxing by the fire and watching Argo

Relaxing by the fire and watching Argo

Sasha was the only one of us who had a productive morning. After a healthy breakfast of egg whites and berries, she set to painting her bathrooms. I’ve also done a lot of painting lately, and we’re here to tell you — there is NO other way than to use a high quality paint + primer combination. A second coat is hardly needed.

Valspar Signature paint plus primer (Bonus: low VOC too!)

Valspar Signature paint plus primer (Bonus: low VOC too!)

We hope your Saturday morning was filled with smiles, love, and fun!

1 Comment

by | February 23, 2013 · 9:30 pm