Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals. I'm a recovering former vegan and vegetarian, now healing with a nutrient-dense mostly Paleo diet, and love at-home CrossFit and yoga workouts. I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

New mom to baby Otto born April 2018!


What kind of DIYer are you?

Writing this post brought to mind the saying - there are two kinds of people: those who put people into categories and those who don't. Not sure where that comes from, but in this post I'm the former!

With all the house shopping and planning we've been doing, I've been thinking about DIY projects and talking to friends who've done them. And I heard this podcast where Diane Sanfilippo explains why she decided to pipe the frosting on her special-ordered gluten free cupcakes on the day of her wedding... she explained it as, she's the kind of person who will cut herself slack if what she makes isn't perfect, but who would be disappointed if she spent more money to have it done and didn't like the result. I hadn't thought about that perspective before!

It got me to thinking, maybe some people don't feel that way. Maybe some people are super hard on their own projects, but more forgiving of others or store-bought items. Maybe some of us do DIY projects just for a creative outlet, whereas others really need or want the item either way, and count the cost difference as a significant savings and money that can go to other things.

So, I think I've identified three types of people who DIY (although maybe it's just three types of attitudes!)--what do you think??

3 types of DIY/DIYer

1. I want to save money.

I'll be honest, a LOT of the projects in my home were inspired by this reason. So often I get my inspirations from catalogs and home tours, and I probably could find the item for full price online! But I'd run out of money pretty fast if I did that. Also, a lot of times I don't want the item enough to pay the big bucks! Often I do DIY projects as a way to get a home decor or fashion trend, something I might not want for years and years to come, but I'm willing to spend a few bucks and some time on.

Examples include this starburst mirror, my recovered Louis XV chair, my nailhead dining chairs...

My tufted headboard is another great example! Padded headboards are so common now you can buy them for not a ton of money, but I had my dad help me build a padded frame years ago and I've done different things with it until I did this awesome tufting project. I really love it, and the total cost was WAY less than even the most affordable store-bought one.

2. I want it exactly how I want it.

Some people do DIY projects to get the most custom product imaginable--one conceived, designed, and created by you! It's so frustrating when you're ready to part with your money for something important for the home or your wardrobe, but you can't find the right thing. It can drive a lot of us to DIY! That's kind of how my huge zigzag ikat wall art came about, and I imagine why a lot of DIY statement pieces are made!

It's also the attitude that brings us DIYs that look (as well as are) totally unique, like this antique chair I made over with vintage chunky fabric. This project was a product of serendipity (buying the chair at the Restore), garage storage (it sat around for a loooong time), and more serendipity (I got inspired and happened to have the right fabric already). There's absolutely no way this chair could be store-bought, and it serves a different design purpose than a plain chair you could buy at IKEA or Target. You have to DIY if you want something unique like this!

You can also do so much with custom words and messages when you DIY. Coming up with a saying is actually the hardest part for me most of the time... I'd love to do more graphic print tees with my Silhouette... here's one of my fave wording projects--this saying was easy to come up with! I love this pillow!

I think the "I want to make something!" attitude also goes in this category. Sometimes the creative bug hits and you just want to make something from something else, even if you don't really need a new lampshade or potholder or whatever. Sometimes when I give in to this urge I end up with things I don't really need! Not always.

3. It either has to be perfect or done by me.

If I had to guess, I'd say most of us DIYers are perfectionists in some way or another... maybe not about everything. Some of us notice every time we walk past the bump in the paint or the mismatched stripes on the skirt we've made. Maybe you get a compliment on a DIY project and can't help but say, "Thanks, it was supposed to be longer..."

Others feel satisfied regardless of how it turns out because of the pride of making. I think that feeling ads to my enjoyment of my tufted headboard! It's not perfect (I can see where I didn't pull the fabric left or right enough, and a few of the covered buttons are a little funky), but it was a fun challenge and I'm so proud of it!

Then there's the Diane Sanfilippo wedding cupcake attitude: if I make a few mistakes, whatever; I did my best. If I pay the extra money and have a pro do it, and if it doesn't turn out perfect, I'll be disappointed.

The best example I could find from my DIY repertoire is this striped accent wall. I did it myself with masking tape, a level, and a yardstick, and because of our orange peel wall texture there are plenty of little blips and bumps if you look up close. But it does not bug me at all. I seriously don't care. If I had paid someone to do it or put up striped wallpaper instead, would I care??

I dunno. Maybe.

Which are you?

It occurs to me as I write this that most people probably fluctuate between groups... maybe these three categories are of attitudes, rather than people. But what do you think? If you're reading this you're probably an inspired, brave, creative DIYer with a few projects in mind! Are you always in one camp or another? Are different projects born from different reasons? Am I missing a big category??

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Super tea! Grassfed collage protein blended tea recipe

I've been making this nutritious tea recipe here and there for quite a while now, but I saw a pregnant friend over the weekend who reminded me how helpful it can be. I discovered the power of collagen protein powder last spring, and came up with this recipe for a homemade chocolate protein shake made with grassfed collagen protein (it's dairy free since it's made without whey protein or milk).

My pregnant friend was having a hard time getting enough protein in her diet some days, but mentioned that she liked tea in the evenings and that she can't have any artificial sweeteners and is avoiding processed foods more than usual in her pregnancy. It suggested this tea recipe as well as the protein shake, and I had to write down/publish this it to share with you as well!

Super tea! Grassfed collagen protein blended tea



    1. Make tea with almost-boiling water; let steep a little longer than you might usually for a strong tea.
    2. Pour tea in blender and add collagen peptides or collagen protein gelatin. The peptides dissolve in hot or cold liquid so if you only buy one and also want to make my protein shake recipe, I recommend that one. I like the gelatin for hot drinks since it makes them thicker! Stir/partially dissolve in tea.
    3. Blend tea and peptides or gelatin. It gets very frothy!
    4. Add honey and milk or cream of choice; blend again.

    Serve hot & immediately! It will be very smooth and frothy, like a chai latte or something. It's very calming and delicate, and has 8.5-9 grams of protein! (You could use two scoops of the collagen peptides for 18 grams of protein, although two scoops of the gelatin might have a bit of a flavor like unflavored Jello does.)

    Great bedtime ritual if you use herbal tea! I find the combination of protein and fat keeps me full and helps me sleep, and there's evidence that both raw honey and gelatin can improve sleep

    Or drink it whenever you want because it's yummy!

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    Sharing my dresses with you!!

    Update: All the dresses have gone to reader homes!

    I've never done this before!!

    Many times I've had readers ask if I do custom sewing, or could make them a version of a dress I've blogged about in a custom size. I've never done it, and aside from costuming a few plays and making my bridesmaids' dresses and some little girl clothes, unfortunately I've kept almost all my creations for myself. I'd love to make things for other people, but it's never penciled out for me to do custom sewing at reasonable prices, and I don't have a ton of time these days for sewing everything I come up with...

    But, we're moving next month (cannot wait to share house pics and news! We will have our work cut out for us!), and I'm cleaning out the closets and getting rid of things around the house. I have quite a few dresses (as evidenced by the partial dress gallery I've made), and... I don't wear all of them. I started pulling out dresses to give to Goodwill and realized, hey, these are some GREAT dresses!! I want them to go to someone who will appreciate them!

    I hope some of you readers are interested. I don't want any money for them, other than to cover the cost of shipping unless you live around Portland and want to pick one up. Please take a look through these 9 super cute, well made, fun and playful dresses and send me an email to reserve the one (s) you want!! Most of them have only been worn once or twice.

    Dresses for the taking!

    So, here are the dresses. Check out the dress gallery for more photos/How to Wear DIY outfit photos for quite a few of them. They're not really in any order, and thanks to my medication- and nutrient-deficient diet-induced weight fluctuations, they range from size XS to M. I've included waist or bust measurements for each.

    1. Red! Gone!

    Waist: 26"

    2. Blue lace! Gone!

    Waist: 27.5"

    3. Blue gingham! Gone!

    Waist: 28"

    4. Navy with teal lace! Gone!

    Waist: 31"

    5. Yellow seersucker strapless! Gone!

    Waist: 26"

    6. Lace shift! Gone!

    Bust: 34"

    7. Vintage print! Gone!

    Waist: 27.5"

    8. Polka dot lace! Gone!

    Waist: 27.5" (but has some stretch)

    9. Navy stripe! Gone!

    Waist: 27.5" (but pretty stretchy)

    Want one?? Instructions!

    If you're interested in one or more of these, send me an email with your address! They will go first-come, first-served. I want to get this wrapped up by next Tuesday, 9/22.

    I've done some calculations and I think shipping will be about $8, plus the envelop at $2.19... so the shipping cost will be $10. If you're the first one for your dress, I'll send you a PayPal invoice for $10 and ship your dress. (If you want more than one, only $5 for each additional dress in shipping.) (I can only ship to US addresses, sorry!)

    So get shopping and measuring and let me know which ones you want! THANK YOU so much for helping me clean out my dress rack and send these lovely creations to good homes!!

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    Lemon garlic zucchini recipe--a family classic!

    Zucchini has been one of my favorite vegetables for a long, long time. I like it grilled, sautéed, spiralized into noodles, added to soups... but sometimes I blank on an easy way to cook it.

    So last week husband took over the dinner preparations and made his mom's classic zucchini recipe. Her garden produces tons of zucchini around this time of year, and I'm pretty sure she always makes it exactly the same way.

    So over the long weekend (Labor Day, then my birthday yesterday!) when all of us were up visiting husband's grandparents, his mom gave me her recipe and I want to share it with you!

    It's SO simple, super fast (I used to overcook zucchini, but the texture is great when cooked this way), and real food/Paleo-friendly so everyone can enjoy it.

    Lemon garlic zucchini recipe


    • 2 medium zucchini
    • 2 tbsp unsalted grassfed butter
    • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • generous sprinkle pepper
    • 1/2 tbsp lemon juice


      1. Chop zucchini into smallish quarter slices.
      2. Melt butter in a large sauté pan on high heat.
      3. Reduce to medium-high; add zucchini and dry spices. Stir and flip zucchini pieces to get them browning on all sides. 
      4. Once zucchini are softened, add lemon juice.

      Serve hot!!

      We made a double batch to serve the whole family. Had to make it in batches in the pan since you need surface area for all the pieces.

      I know it seems simple, but when you have a ton of zucchini on-hand and need a quick and easy vegetable side dish, you seriously can't beat this!

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      Slow transition to fall... a navy geometric stripe miniskirt (aargh, accidental sideways skirt again?!)

      This happens every year. I'm a summer person, and I'm not ready for cooler weather, earth toned clothing, and pumpkin everything. Not ready yet. It's not even Labor Day, and I'm seeing fall and holiday stuff everywhere.

      But I can't resist forever. I realized this year that I should slowly transition into the next season, and gracefully shift my wardrobe, cooking, and habits into fall-friendly ones. So I'm starting with this miniskirt!

      It's a heavier brocade fabric, so it's not too summery for a fall look, but it's a miniskirt so it's good in the still-warm weather we've been having. I found this cool fabric and wanted a super simple design, so I used New Look 6003 but without the waistband!

      Oh--the super bummer thing--this is not the first time I've done this, but unfortunately I designed the skirt for a horizontal stripe and then just went to default mode when cutting and cut it out in-line with the grain. URGH, why do I do that?!! I didn't remember or notice until I was almost done with the skirt, even!! "Wait, didn't I want to do this with horizontal stripes....aaaaack, crap!!!" is about how it went. I'm just so used to cutting things on the grain.

      So, it turned out okay, although not as fun and pattern-emphasizing as I was hoping.

      It still works well for a late summer outfit--I could even wear it to work, like with a navy sweater or button-up--and was a reason to pull out some riding boots for mid-week date night this week!
      Jacket: Old Navy (similar). Tee: Gap. Necklace: Old Navy. Bag: Wilson's Leather (similar). Boots: Urban Outfitters (similar). Skirt: DIY!

      Here's to a slow, seasonally appropriate wardrobe shift this fall! And, may I pay more attention next time I cut something out!

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      House-hunting the second time around: ups and downs

      We've been through a lot of ups and downs this summer thinking about houses.

      We started thinking about selling ours back in April or May. The market was looking pretty good for selling, a lot of people we know are buying or moving, and we've been really getting the itch to get chickens and a dog--which we need a yard for!

      We love our townhome. We watched it get built in early-mid 2012. (Seriously, watched the whole thing--here, here, here, here, here, and finally here. See all the construction and progress here.) We picked out finishes, wall/ceiling color, a built-in, even a little bit of the closet shape. We waited for more than 8 months while the house was constructed, and lived in our tiny, dark, 80's townhouse in a funky neighborhood in Portland and visited our home site almost every weekend. I started collecting decor pieces and ideas months ahead of time.

      Now, we've lived here just over 3 years, and for the past 2 or so I've hardly changed a thing! It has been so wonderful to live in a comfortable, adequately sized space with all my favorite stuff in it, not having a list of house to-do projects every spare moment.

      But... pros and cons, all good things must come to an end, all that. We developed 3 primary goals of moving from our lovely home into a new unknown. Three big goals:

      1. Yard. It's time. When we bought our townhome, we were excited to have two decks, a common green between the rows of houses, and no yard to mow. It's been good, but we've about hit the limits of container gardening and we'd like chickens, a dog, and bees! And a garden!
      2. Be closer to family. Both Jason's and my parents live west of us, farther from the city. We want to be closer and see them more often!
      3. Save money. I know, I know... we want to buy a (potentially) bigger house with a yard and save money?? Thankfully we have some equity in our current place and the market has picked up so we'll walk away with a good down payment on the next place, which will help, and we won't be paying the $103 HOA anymore. With husband hoping to attend physical therapy school for the next few years starting next fall, we saw the opportunity to sell as a great chance to be in a more stable position during that time. One thing we considered was finding a split level home with a basement apartment unit in the bottom that we could rent out to family or a tenant. More on that later... 

      We started our search in May looking for the perfect split-level home. The price range was pretty wide and I found quite a few very nice houses!! But even the nice ones often needed construction and a kitchen added or wet bar expanded in the basement... it got overwhelming thinking about everything we'd need to do, and imagining our profit from the sale slipping away. It got pretty stressful.

      So, we started from scratch. We stopped with the ambitious renovation plans and thought, what kind of house would we want for just the two of us?

      In order to still achieve goals 1 and 3, that got us looking at a relatively limited list of homes with at least a 6,000 SF lot but still in a pretty low price range. We did a few weeks of serious house-hunting with our realtor (who we love, by the way--Claudia Pobanz at Knipe Realty) and looked at a lot of depressing places. Some very small, some very boring, some very gross ("The Cat Pee House") or damaged, one nice but literally under powerlines, some okay but too expensive... 

      Then, in an act of desperation, before our last round of tours I flipped through my Redfin favorites and saw a split-level home for way cheaper than the others. No trendy updates (original 1977 kitchen, lighting, doors, etc.) but really well kept up, great yard, good size, all that. I gave it some thought and asked husband--should we look at this one just to see?? What if it's almost ready to be divided for a basement apartment and all it needs is a few fun, cosmetic updates? What if it's a totally great deal and home for us and we can go back to the old split level plan?

      So, we looked at it. We fell in love. 

      We listed our house Thursday, had a full price offer on Saturday, and accepted it Monday. We're making an offer today (Tuesday) on "Grandma and Grandpa's House," as we're calling the split level (it's a one-owner home that is clearly occupied by elderly people with familiar-looking grandma-ey decor and two twin beds in the master bedroom), and we really hope it works out. If not, it'll be back to boring, small, and/or gross ranch houses and garages with houses attached! ;)

      Update: We did not get Grandma and Grandpa's house. Someone else submitted an offer at the same time, and theirs was not contingent on the sale of their home. We did find another split-level home, though--it needs a lot more work!

      Update 2: We didn't get the second one, either. It needed a lot of exterior work as well (scary inspection!) and the sellers weren't willing to make it what we consider market-ready, given the price. We don't know what we're going to do now.

      Here are a few of the houses we've toured, favorited, and thought about. Some of them have gone pending in 2 days, some were too expensive, some were terrifying inside...

      It's a tough world out there, house hunting in summer 2015! I'm so grateful that we're able to sell our place and hopefully find a great opportunity to move up.

      While we wait to work out the details of the new place, we're SO excited it's hard to handle. I lie awake at night thinking about how I'll install the new floors and whether or not I should paint the window trim (probably yes). I seriously can't wait to start the project! I already have a spreadsheet started!

      In the meantime I'm also looking for split level/70's remodel success stories. This one is super similar to the house we want, and I'm so impressed by their entry stair remodel! This one is a little bigger, but also some great ideas (here and here).

      Wish us luck, and pass on any words of wisdom if you have them!

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