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Sam Dobson Writes: July 2014

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lush Cosmetics, My New Bath + Body Obsession

I very rarely promote products on my blog, that's not really what it's for, but I've stumbled upon a product line that is too good not to share. Apparently I've been living under a rock because this particular company has been around for twenty years. One of my best friends swears by it, says she has been using their products for years. Not sure how I missed that one. Anyways, I was in Vegas for a convention and finally stumbled upon Lush.

Lush Cosmetics

Lush is a cosmetics company in which all the products are handmade using fresh ingredients with as few synthetics as possible. Many products are completely natural with no preservatives or synthetics. Their products come naked (without packaging) or in packaging made from recycled material. They buy from small-scale producer groups all over the world. One of the best things about this company is that they fight against animal testing. They buy their ingredients only from companies that do not commission tests on animals. They do so much more including funding different charity groups through the profit of Charity Pot, a hand and body lotion. To read more about why this company rocks, click here to visit the Lush website. 

Lush Cosmetics

I know this stuff sounds boring, but it's important and makes this company awesome. Now for the fun part. Walking into Lush is like walking into a candy store, except this candy store is filled with natural, luxurious bath and body products. Your sense of smell will be electrified by the many delicious aromas that fill the air of the colorful shop. 

Lush Cosmetics

Try the many lotion bars, soaps, and body butters. Take in the dozens of different bath bombs and bath melts. Lush carries many different hair products, including the first invented shampoo bar. Many colorful cosmetics include solid perfume and delicious lip tint. 

Lush Cosmetics
Lush Face Mask Bar 

Gush over Lush's face mask bar. Each mask is so fresh it must be refrigerated and has a shelf life of just under a month. There are many options to choose from, with different kinds of natural ingredients to provide your skin with different health benefits. I opted to try the Brazened Honey to refresh and brighten my skin.

Lush Cosmetics

Shaving has always sucked for me thanks to sensitive skin. I get unsightly bumps under my arms and razor burn in my bikini area. I asked the very helpful sales associate at Lush for advice. Her name is Erin and she doesn't make commission, or so she said. She suggested my under arm problem could be due in part to store bought deodorant which contains ingredients like aluminum to block pores (yikes!) and store bought shaving cream. So I went with a more natural form of deodorant and a shaving soap made with strawberries. Switching to the new deodorant without perfume and fragrances is a slower process, it takes some getting used to. The shaving soap has won me over with just one use. It required very little, made my skin feel super soft, and made my shaving experience a lot less irritating. I highly recommend it. 

One of their most popular products, Lush soaps are made with essential oils, fresh fruit, and vegetables among other things. There are many different colors, scents, and textures to choose from. They are rumored to last long and for an added bonus, they're pretty. 

For quality products with fresh ingredients, you'd think such an obsession would be detrimental to your budget. I was pleasantly surprised to find most of their products pretty reasonably priced. You could go to other bath and body stores and spend the same if not more. I rather buy natural and innovative products that aren't tested on my beloved animal friends.  


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

From Closet To Dog Nook

I know you are all probably pretty sick of the home reno posts, but that's what's going on in my life right now. All I can say is that I promise they will stop...well, maybe after this one. We changed pretty much every inch of this house, it's become a complete transformation. One of my favorite parts is our "Dog Nook". Please, allow me to explain.

Dog Nook

Rewind to about a month and a half ago. We had just signed our closing documents and immediately started to demo and paint. A friend of mine, who helped consistently pretty much throughout the whole process, was helping us paint on day one. After a quick tour of our new home, she gave us a brilliant idea. While rolling on the light gray hue I picked out, Jessie turned to me and said "you guys should turn that closet into a dog nook". She was referring to an awkward-shaped under-the-stairs closet. Blake and I loved that idea.

Most people would think we were crazy to give up one of the very few storage spaces we had in our new little condo, but we didn't see it as wasted space. We have three dogs and quite frankly, our mutts and all their belongings can take up a lot of space. They have two huge dog beds, plenty of toys, necessary cleaning supplies, and a small gaggle of leashes. Not to mention it would be nice to have the couch to ourselves once in a while.

So, we took the idea and we ran with it. Blake took off the cheapy closet door and tossed it at the dump. I painted the inside the same gray as the rest of the walls and the frame a basic white. We squeezed in their dog bed, it barely fit. Blake installed a small shelf on one wall where I store lint rollers, ear wipes, dry shampoo, and other necessities in a cute wicker basket lined with dog print fabric (I found it at TJ Maxx). I tossed their toys in a matching dog-print linen container and placed it next to their bed. I found freaking adorable dog butt hooks from Ikea for their leashes and hung them on the wall adjacent to the shelf. Voila! A cozy little dog nook.

Dog Nook

Dog Nook

Dog Nook

The big question was, would the dogs actually use it or did we just throw away what little storage space we had? I was worried. After all, it was a closet. Not only is it a small space, but when someone walks up the stairs, it can sound rather loud inside the dog nook. Once we started to really get settled into our new home, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the dogs really took to their new den. I mean, they still prefer the couch and will never pass up the opportunity to cuddle with us, but they have come to find their new space quite comfortable.

Below is a short video of our dog nook. The voice in the video is mine, explaining all the elements of our pups' cozy den. Our nook is simple yet perfect for our little pack. Visit my friend, The Brighter Writer's site to see a different, more creative way of providing your dog with his or her own space using an under-the-stairs closet. Although we didn't plan it, we were both creating our own versions of this project around same time. I guess great minds think alike, so my fellow dog lovers out there should too.

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Tips For Installing An Ikea Kitchen

Blake and I have been living in our new home for two weeks now. Yup, we finally turned that ugly, outdated condo into a fresh new home, well at least enough to move in. It's not a complete project just yet; there are still base boards to nail in, lights to install, and a few more finishing touches to top it all off. At least our kitchen is pretty much completed, except for that oven hood that we keep battling with, but that's another story. All our hard work, all our mistakes and do-overs, our sweat, blood, and tears, it has all finally paid off.

We knew building a kitchen from "scratch" wouldn't be easy and we weren't wrong. We bought our kitchen (minus the appliances) from Ikea and while it does come with instructions, it also comes in a million frickin' pieces. While choosing an Ikea kitchen is easier on your wallet, it's not so easy on your patience. The wordless instructions will leave you scratching your head and wracking your brain many times over. To aid you in this frustrating process, here are some tips from an Ikea kitchen survivor.

A million little pieces. 

After you design your dream kitchen on the Ikea kitchen designer website, it's time to head on over to your local Ikea and make the big purchase. Don't be disappointed when your kitchen comes wheeled out on a flatbed in a million little pieces...seriously. Almost every piece comes in its own separate packaging with its own special instructions. Don't worry though, with some patience you will find that the base every cabinet is pretty much assembled the same way. You'll be an Ikea pro by the end of it.

My mom accompanied me to Ikea to order my kitchen. 
Later that evening she texted me asking for pictures of my new kitchen...this video was my reply. 

No matter how hard you try to avoid it, you will have to make a follow trip to Ikea. 

It's up to the Ikea staff alone to pull every individual item of your order. Chances are they will miss one door hinge or a set of cabinet legs. Our truck load of pieces (literally) was missing one door handle and a few cabinet door dampers (they keep the doors from slamming shut). If by some miracle they get your complete order right the first time, chances are also pretty good that you will ruin at least one piece of your kitchen. For example, the drawers and cabinet doors don't come with pre-drilled holes for knobs and handles. This means that you have to measure, drill, and install the hardware for each door and drawer in the hopes that they match up. I drilled a hole in the wrong corner of a cabinet door...twice. Your bound to make a few mistakes; try not to punish yourself.

Tips for installing an Ikea kitchen.
My handsome hubby installing some cabinets. 

Mind your cabinet height. 

Your Ikea kitchen cabinets will require cheapy-looking black plastic legs. I seriously considered how in the world these rinky-dink legs would support my kitchen yet somehow they do. Anyways, these legs are adjustable. My husband is tall so of course he wanted our kitchen to be at a relatively tall height as far as kitchen cabinets go. Well...that can complicate things. The taller your base cabinets are, the taller your appliances will have to be or else it will look funky. Make sure you don't make your base cabinets too tall. When anchoring to the wall, you will also want to take into account the height of your counter tops.

Tips for installing an Ikea kitchen.
Next step, counter tops! 

"Filler" pieces do not exist. 

As I mentioned before, the first step to an Ikea kitchen is designing it online. When you are ready to take the plunge, you take that design to your local Ikea. As an employee in the kitchen department assisted me with placing my order she explained that our kitchen design required two filler pieces. She showed me where they needed to go and even gave me a rough estimate of size. I assumed these pieces would be included in the truck-load I had purchased. As Blake and I assembled our new kitchen, we got to a point in which we could no longer continue without our "filler" pieces. I searched through all the remaining packages to no avail. Tired and frustrated, I got in the car and headed up to Ikea on a Saturday afternoon in just enough traffic to cause annoyance. I bobbed and weaved through the masses shopping for cheap furniture and made my way to the kitchen department. I found the same employee who assisted me with my order and notified her that I had been shorted my filler pieces to which she replied "There are no 'filler' pieces". I'm sure you can imagine my confusion. She went on to explain that there are no such pieces, that I was expected to make these pieces by cutting excess material off of other panel pieces. WTF? My reply, "So, I am basically supposed to figure it out for myself?" to which she replied "pretty much". Fair warning people, filler pieces don't exist. It's up to you to create them.

Tips for installing an Ikea kitchen.
Now, it's starting to look like a kitchen. 

Tools not included. 

Unlike the Ikea bookshelf you bought and proudly assembled by yourself, your new kitchen will require more than a Ikea standard issued allen key. You will need much, much more than that to complete an Ikea kitchen. Many pieces come with the necessary bolts and screws, although not all of them do. Aside from some screws, you'll also need many tools that aren't so basic (at least not to me!). You will need clamps, an automatic drill, a long level and ruler, a skill saw, special drill bits, and more. This is something to consider when deciding to install the kitchen yourself, tools like these aren't cheap. 

Tips for installing an Ikea kitchen.

Don't forget plumbing and electric!

It should be no surprise that you will most likely need to hire professionals to do your plumbing and electric. We were able to complete the plumbing ourselves, but it was a lot of work. First we had to cut a hole in the counter to fit our sink. Then we had to install the sink and the faucet. Next was the actual plumbing which included the installation of a garbage disposal. Keep in mind that depending on where your plumbing is coming from, you may need to cut holes in your cabinets to feed the pipes through. Our skin was on cabinet away from where the plumping comes out of the wall, so we had to cut a few holes in the sides of our cabinets. Electric is another story. If you don't know what you are doing, you can potentially shock yourself or do faulty work which is a fire hazard. We did not attempt to install outlets into our cabinets by ourselves. Luckily, my father in law was an electrician in his past life. Otherwise, we would have just hired a professional. 

Tips for installing an Ikea kitchen.

Our overall experience building our Ikea kitchen was an interesting one. There were many times we got so frustrated that we ended up screaming at each other, but every time we saw some progress there was an immense feeling of accomplishment. If you can afford to hire professionals to install your kitchen, do it. If you can't, be prepared for a few bumps in the road. Don't worry though, if we can do it, so can you! 

Tips for installing an Ikea kitchen.