How to Make a Small High Basement Window Look Bigger (with Trim and Blinds!)

by Robin

Have you got one of these too? A basement room with a weirdly small and awkwardly high window?  If you have a below grade basement, chances are you do.  It's so frustrating - how do you make it look less odd?!

I can't wait for you to see what we did to solve this problem in our basement guest room!  With just trim and cheap bamboo blinds, we made this odd little basement window look - dare I say it - beautiful.  And it was so easy!

Check it out...


How we paid off over $90,000 in debt! Part 1: Our Story

by Robin

Up until a couple of years ago - we had A LOT of debt.  To estimate: take a reasonable amount of debt.  Then double it.  Then add a bunch more to that.

Oh - and THEN multiply by stupid high-interest rates.

When we first started this blog in late 2011 we were still neck-deep in debt (way past the knees!).  It had always been my intention to chronicle our journey to debt-free here, but somehow, when we were in the deep of it, it didn't feel like much fun to dwell on the amounts.

I think the thought of adding it all up, let alone sharing that number with others, was scary.

But now, we have no debt - our student loans and line of credit is no longer - except for our mortgage (that's an important distinction for us).  It is this lack of debt that's given us the freedom for me to take this year away from my job to recuperate from burnout and pursue some creative opportunities.

I can't stress this enough: The FREEDOM of choices is the best part of being debt free.  Sure, paying less interest is great - it's a huge perk. But debt is bossy - it loudly tells you what you can't do with your life.  Not having that Debbie-Downer-Debt voice is liberating.

What follows is an account of our accounts.  It's how we got so deep into the muck of debt.  Hopefully, you're not down so far into a debt pit, but if you are, maybe our story will help you see some hope!  You can do it!


Ultra-easy Honey Garlic Chicken and Veggies Slow Cooker Meal (a Dump and Dash Recipe!)

by Robin

This honey garlic chicken recipe is the ultimate easy, one-pot slow cooker meal!  Seriously - get this recipe on your meal plan rotation pronto.

There are so many reasons to love this easy slow cooker chicken meal:
  • It is kid-pleasing - our kids practically cheer when they know this is for dinner - it tastes that good. 
  • It's got healthy, wholesome ingredients.

It takes less than 10 minutes to prepare - probably closer to five!  (Use my time-saving hack for making the honey garlic sauce to cut down on measuring and dishes...)


How to Add Library Lights to a Built-in Bookcase (without an Electrician!)

Intro by Robin
Steps by Ed

When we built our IKEA hacked wall-to-wall bookcase, we knew we wanted to add library lights.  We love the mood that bookshelf lighting brings - warm light that highlights our books and our wall-to-wall bookcase.  😍 It adds so much character and ambiance to the room.

And the room needed as much help as possible!  Have you seen the before?  It was an empty peachy-beige (Peige?) box.  In a basement no less.  There was nothing attractive about this space.

The other challenge that our bookcase lighting solves is, well...lighting.  This room had 7 potlights from when we first built the room 14 years ago.  It was WAY too much light for this small space.  And they were in weird spots.

The potlights could only be placed in the ceiling where there was no joist or ductwork running through.  There was no way to line up the bookcase and the potlights in a balanced way.  

So we scrapped all but two potlights in the room (which you'll see in a future post).  Picture lights over the bookcase were the perfect solution!

Now, we're no electricians.  Ed's done some wiring - but we wanted to make the installation of these lights as simple as possible.  For our sake - and yours! Simple DIYs actually get done - and on budget.

What follows are four simple ways to add library lights to any bookcase - or anywhere else - without hiring an electrician or complicated wiring.


20+ Almost No Prep Instant Pot Recipes (a Dump & Dash Collection!)

by Robin

I'll admit it. I'm not 100% comfortable using my Instant Pot yet. Are you feeling the same? 

I know how to fit a slow cooker into my planning for the day - that's where my Dump & Dash Slow Cooker Collection comes in so very handy for me.  But I feel some trepidation about this high pressure, steamy device that I'm supposed to love. A part of me is a tiny bit afraid of it.

I haven't quite gotten my head around the Instant Pot's pressure cooking function. But, as usual,  Ed's all in without hesitation.  In fact, he made this amazing Dark Beek Pulled Brisket for a football party and it was an absolute touchdown.  I want so badly to embrace this kitchen timesaving device, too!

But unlike Ed, I need to plan. It's deep within my nature. I need to exhaustively prepare for pretty much anything new.  That's what this list is about: I've done the overpreparing so you don't have to.

Below are more than 20 Instant Pot recipes that are super low prep (similar to my slow cooker list).  Not only is it easier to get supper on the table faster with ultra simple recipes - it's easier to get comfortable with your Instant Pot.  Getting dinner on the table in minutes - that's our goal - and this list should help.

Tonights the night!  I'm choosing one from this list and using that darn pressure cooker!  Which one would you make first?


How to Make a DIY Simple, Built-in Bookcase (a Billy Bookshelf IKEA Hack)

Intro by Robin
Steps by Ed

A small basement bedroom is tricky.  When that bedroom is in an equally small basement that needs to function for a lot of things - it requires some creativity and mad DIY skillz.   Enter our Basement Guest Room-Library with wall to wall bookshelves.  I've dreamed of having built-in bookcases my whole life! (Is that a normal dream?)

Now, of course, if we didn't want to make our guest room beautiful as well as functional, we could have just pushed some premade bookshelves up against the wall and called it a day.

But, as you may know, that just isn't our style.  We demand function AND beauty.  PLUS we love the challenge of creating rooms on a budget.  That's what all our DIYs are about.  (Have you seen the closet we turned into a powder room? We're still gaga for it.)

This basement guest room needs to work really hard for us:
  • It must to make our guests feel comfortable and loved.
  • It needs to hold the bulk of our book collection (our house isn't huge and we LOVE books)
  • It also must have hidden storage for less than beautiful things (I'm thinking bedding, gift wrap storage and files.)
  • And it needs to look great. (And it does! Despite what my beginner photography skills show...sigh.)

Like most basements, this one has small windows. The one in the guest room is weird and it isn't centred.  This made me bonkers.  The only comfortable spot for the bed was under this window.  With the window off to one side - the bed wasn't centred.  (It made me twitchy just looking at it.)

That's one of the reasons this bookcase built-in was so perfect down here.  By building it along the left wall it took up enough of the visual space to make the weird window look a bit more centred.  Win!

Another reason this built-in bookcase was a win is the character and personality that it adds.  You know from the other built-ins we've made that we are Co-Presidents of the Built-ins Fan Club.

Last fall IKEA had the sale I was waiting for: 30% off all their Billy bookcases and matching Oxberg doors.  The bookcases are already pretty affordable, especially in white.  The Oxberg doors were more costly - a pair of the doors cost as much as the whole bookshelf!  But I knew that we needed the doors for the hidden storage they'd give us.

So I added it all to my cart and paid to have them shipped.  That was a tough extra cost to pay - but these Billy bookcases are dang heavy!  And we didn't think we could fit 3 Billy's plus 6 doors in our Rav4.  There are times that delivery is worth splurging for.

Without further ado, here is our tutorial for how to make built-in bookcases from IKEA Billy bookshelves!  (And we added library lights to them too, so pretty!)