Switch Plates and Home Updates

A friend recently completed a total DIY kitchen remodel. I was alternately proud and terrified. It’s a huge undertaking, in my humble opinion, and even if it’s totally do-able from a DIY standpoint, it’s still an overwhelming proposition for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to whip up one of those HGTV remodels from the floor up, but it’s not in my budget and the thought of having my kitchen out of order for an extended period of time really terrifies me. However, there really are easy, low cost alternatives to a complete gut and remodel. Simple, inexpensive updates that give an updated or finished designer look aren’t that hard to do.

I’ve recently updated my cabinetry with new hardware, it took us a couple of hours one Saturday afternoon. It probably took longer to decide on a design and finish than it did to install. Next up the plan is to install a custom tile back splash and all new switch plates to coordinate with my cabinet hardware and new sink fixture. These really are easy, inexpensive, weekend projects that can make a big impact.

My finish of choice is oil rubbed bronze. But, it’s safe to say you can find finishes in just about any color, material, and design. Wood, copper, tile, ceramic, even brushed nickel switch plates. Swapping out switch plates requires a screw driver and very little time.

If you are looking to make a quick update to your home, you might want to check out SwitchPlateStore.com

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Valentine Cupcakes, Cookies, and Cheesecake

Valentine cupcakes were a hit for Valentine’s Day this year. Kate and I baked up a gorgeous batch of chocolate frosted strawberry cupcakes with adorable Valentine sprinkles. We couldn’t seem to stop there because we followed that up with some of the cutest sugar cookies frosted with a lemon frosting and, again, more Valentine sprinkles.

Valentine cupcakes

Over the last year Kate and I have really gotten in to baking treats for holidays. We bake treats from scratch throughout the year everything from chocolate chip bar cookies to brownies, but we’ve never really focused on holiday treats aside from traditional Christmas things. It used to be that we would bake sugar cookies at Christmas and maybe an angel food cake at Easter. We changed it up this year by adding to our cookie cutter collection.

We bought a set of different sized heart shaped cookie cutters for Valentine’s Day. Then we ran across the cutest shamrock cookie cutters so now we have plans for St. Patrick’s Day cookies. And, we’ve already stocked up on Easter shaped cookie cutters as well.

But, back to Valentine’s Day! The Valentine cupcakes were inspired by Kate finding the most adorable red and white polka dot cupcake liners. The Valentine cupcakes became our spin on chocolate covered strawberries by using a strawberry flavored cake batter and homemade fudge frosting.

cherry cheesecake for Valentine's DayMy gift to Mike this year was a cherry cheesecake. Cheesecake is his absolute favorite dessert and I’ve finally gotten around to learning how to make cheesecake. Christmas marked my first New York style cheesecake and for Maggie’s 10th birthday I made a triple chocolate cheesecake.

So, for Valentine’s Day it seemed only right to make a decadent cheesecake with a homemade cherry topping. Although the picture doesn’t do it justice, it was a huge hit. I’ve actually found that making cheesecakes from scratch isn’t all that hard and it’s so worth the trouble!!!

5 Ideas for Renewing Your Wedding Vows

Vow renewals are a wonderful way to recommit to your marriage. There’s really no wrong way to do a renewal ceremony. Some couples that didn’t have a big wedding may choose to pull out all the stops and create the ceremony of their dreams. Others may prefer a low-key affair with just a few friends and family. Still others, like Michael J. Knapp and his wife, choose to have a destination ceremony so they can combine a family trip with the event.

Here are just a few ideas for planning the perfect vow renewal ceremony:

Pick a meaningful theme: Your marriage has no doubt been filled with meaningful moments. Any one of your important shared memories or interests can spark inspiration for your ceremony. Whether it’s a favorite vacation spot, a shared love of a culture or cuisine, or a favorite movie or novel, you can create a theme that reflects your unique marriage. Or, you can choose a broader theme that reflects your shared journey, looks back at your happy past, or looks forward to the next chapter in your lives.

Write your own vows: When you get married, you typically say traditional vows designed to join you as husband and wife. A renewal ceremony is your opportunity to create vows that are truly personal and reflective of you as a couple, based on how well you know each other now. Try incorporating shared memories, personal stories and reasons you would marry your spouse all over again. Many websites offer templates for vow renewals to use “as is” or as a springboard for your own ideas.

Consider a destination ceremony: Coordinating a large wedding that will take place far away can be challenging and expensive. However, because renewal ceremonies tend to be simpler and more intimate, they may be the perfect opportunity to travel somewhere fun or meaningful. Michael Knapp and his wife Amber, decided to head to Hawaii to renew their vows, and it was one of the best experiences of their lives.

Include your children: If you have children, consider making them part of the ceremony. They can be ring bearers or flower girls, they can walk you down the aisle or they can say a few words in your honor. They can also help with the decorations. For example, they can draw pictures of your family that you can use for the invitations or as table centerpieces.

Add personal touches: Incorporating special decorations or entertainment that reflect your life together, your heritage or your family traditions is a nice way to make your ceremony truly meaningful. Enlarge your favorite wedding photo and place it where everyone can see it. Or, place your wedding album and a family photo album on a table for guests to leaf through. You can also highlight a piece of heirloom jewelry or clothing in the ceremony or reception. Also consider honoring your roots by weaving in traditional wedding practices that reflect your heritage. Michael J. Knapp and Amber Knapp honored Amber’s Scottish heritage by incorporating the ancient tradition of handfasting into the ceremony.