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!


Husband's take on my 'west coast clean and fresh' design style

As I shared earlier this week, we now have our FLOORING and getting that installed is making the whole place feel much homier. I feel like I can finally think about where furniture and art go--so key to feeling at home here!

So, I'm really thinking about the decor. As I shared a while back, my primary design goals have changed a little since talking to the husband about what we want our home to look like. But we both want white walls and dark floors, and a lot of black fixtures instead of brushed nickel or brass. We both love vintage-look oriental rugs with mid-century minimal furniture. There are definitely trends we disagree about, but for the most part our tastes are similar enough. I think of my style as "west cost clean and fresh"--light, open, natural elements, lots of neutrals and plants...

However, he recently got some questions from a friend about how our house was coming along. Did he really like the stark white walls? Was it too girly or design-ey for him? Was he getting vetoed on what he wanted? (I think were the questions.) I was really curious what his answer would be! He sent it to me and I really like it and thought you might, too!

In my husband's words, with some of my favorite inspiration images!

I like the modern styles, clean lines, etc. I just don't like when it seems not functional, so I like wood, metal, stone, and function before form. I don't like stylish things that have no purpose other than to look a certain way. 

We both watch Fixer Upper and often disagree about certain decisions in houses, so the things that appear in our house are a collaboration and compromise of things that we've both looked at. I take this really seriously because I care a lot about my house and Suzannah and I both care about making this house feel homier and less girly than the last one


It's a hard balance because I don't want everything to be too stark and constrasty, but I also want an open fresh feel. 

I think our challenge is going to be, how do we have the light walls and dark floor and still make it feel like a home and cozy?

So, that's what he thinks. After talking design with him for months now for our specific home, I have a better sense of what he likes and doesn't, though he can be a little unpredictable based on mood and details of photos! And I'll admit I chose these inspirations to go with his words. I hope he likes them.

I'm curious what your significant others think of your tastes!

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Our flooring is HERE!! Now I have to decorate. #stanley90sreno week 11

The biggest update of the past week is by far that our flooring is here. Finally! We have been living on the subfloor (painted) since we moved in and haven't brought much of our stuff in from the garage, so it's really felt more like camping around here (especially since our furnace is still broken so we huddle around space heaters a lot of the time!).

But last week, with the snow melted and delivery folks working again, we got our flooring shipment and started laying laminate as soon as possible!

I'll do a full post about our flooring (provided by Select Surfaces) when we have more progress, but for now had to update you on what we've fit into this holiday week!

We knew the first priority area would be our bedroom. We don't have a bed yet (DIY project planned!), or a rug, or curtains, or art, or a sense of where our furniture will ultimately go, but getting the floor down is an essential first step in those for me. Plus, we miss being able to walk around in socks or bare feet in our room. The subfloor was not comfy underfoot (understatement) and never felt truly clean.

We've never had a bedroom this big before, so now I'm not sure what to do with all the extra space we have! We may move the bed over and  maybe put the cool mid-century dresser under the window?? Which would be closer to the closet so would make sense. But I think we'll still have extra room and corners. Thoughts??

I did the closet by myself!

We brought in lots of boxes of the flooring from the garage to bring them up to room temperature a couple days before the big downstairs install yesterday.

Jason set up the saws (three--table saw, chop saw, and jigsaw) in the back yard and thankfully it didn't rain all day.

We made huge progress on a really tricky side of the house--two air vents, a wall, the stove cubby, the cabinets, the dishwasher cubby, and the sliding glass door. Jason had to go back to work today by my office is closed all week (YAY) so I'll be doing more flooring, hopefully much simpler cuts, this week!

You lay out at least three boxes at a time to pull from different ones in a pattern so you don't get rows or chunks of very similar ones.

Getting the flooring in should really help with decorating, and I hope to hang some art soon! The only piece I was able to place is this wood-framed round mirror from Target. I'm about 95% sure this is what I want over the fireplace. ;) So I took a risk and hung it. (After patching and texturing hundreds of holes in these walls before painting, I take every nail/screw hole we make pretty seriously!!)

As you can probably tell, I didn't dress up the family room before taking this photo. So just for you, here's the behind-the-scenes of that moment in time of our construction zone!

So, it's back to flooring for us for a while, with of course plenty of other little to-dos that we hope to get to soon. I'm very curious how long it will take us to do the flooring in the entire house!

You can shop this very cool  mirror and some similar ones here!

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Essential grain-free, gluten-free baking tips, perfect for holiday treats!

We're deep into the Christmas season!! Are you doing any baking this year for family and friends?? Maybe spending some time with folks with limited diets or food allergies? My mom has asked me to make a dessert for our Christmas dinner and I have lots of ideas!

I've been eating a grain-free, gluten-free diet for 7 years if you count my raw vegan days, but I've been learning grain-free baking for the past 4 years on a mostly Paleo diet. I've had lots of successes (see my recipes page!) but in the beginning there were plenty of failures as I learned about using new ingredients.

I don't keep baked goods around most of the time (even grain-free, naturally sweetened, Paleo treats are still not exactly health foods) but I do love to make them for special occasions and I love impressing family and friends with a healthier version of a classic or just super delish dessert!

So, I've compiled a few essential tips I've learned over the years. Use these and your grain-free baking should be much easier and more successful!

4 essential grain-free, gluten-free baking tips

1) Don't substitute flours 

Almond, arrowroot, coconut, tapioca... they are all very different and have different functions. Back in the day I used to try to swap whole wheat cake flour for white flour and it usually kind of worked... you definitely can't do that kind of switch with grain-free flours. Coconut flour is very absorbent and fibrous so it can give things a dry texture if you don't have enough eggs or moisture--so unless you want to experiment and make a bunch of batches, just don't use it unless it's called for. I've found finely ground almond flour is the easiest to work with, but I don't like to use recipes that call for only almond flour, so I look for others with a blend of flours rather than taking it on myself to try adding another one in! Bottom line: stick to the recipe's flours!

2) Stock up on ingredients for the season

Grain-free recipes can have long ingredient lists, and often items you may not already have in your pantry. I like to plan ahead and order almond flour, tapioca starch, arrowroot powder, coconut flour, and some natural sweeteners (like maple syrup and coconut palm sugar) and keep the pantry stocked so I can bake when I'm ready! (I've linked my favorites of these below!)

3) Refrigerate delicate ingredients

Nuts and seeds can get rancid when exposed to light and warm temperatures. I can totally taste the difference between raw sunflower seeds that have been refrigerated and those that have been in a pantry for a few months. Blech. It's pretty obvious with walnuts, too. Store nuts, nut flours, and coconut flakes or flour in the fridge unless you'll be using them right away.

4) Sift!

I had never owned a flour sifter before (in my standard American diet baking days), but after making a few Paleo recipes that ended up with clusters of starchy coconut flour in them...... now I'm more careful! Almond flour also can chunk up or have bigger pieces in it. It doesn't take much time to sift the dry ingredients as you add them to the wet ones, and it makes such a difference!

Hope those are helpful! Happy holiday baking. If you want some serious knowledge about grain-free, healthier baking, check out one of these books from the pros. I've also linked some of my favorite ingredients!

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How much should you share in a holiday card?? Here's ours!

Every year I wonder about this. We're two adults, no kids, no big family dog or dramatic changes in appearance most years, and other than our wedding 5.5 years ago, my book being published, and buying our townhouse and our current fixer upper house, nothing super duper huge has happened.

At the end of 2015 I was feeling pretty discouraged, especially thinking about what to share in our holiday cards. We had tried to buy a house that summer and it didn't work out. Husband applied to physical therapy school but didn't get in. I honestly felt like my most interesting accomplishment that year was learning about 80% of Taylor Swift's catalog. So I was a little stumped on what to share in our holiday cards!

This year we had a few more positive things to say. We are very proud to be fixing up our house, and husband and I are both doing great at our jobs, and we did celebrate our 5-year anniversary! But we've been struggling a little, too, and I don't want to be complaining about being busy or overwhelmed to our family and friends, even though sometimes we feel that way.

Last year our card was just a photo of us and "happy holidays," I think, in script. I forget what was on the back. It was very pretty but didn't show a whole lot about us.

So this year I was really excited that Minted has some new backing options including this cute infographic template of big things to share throughout the year and seasons.  Front...

And back!

I really get writer's block trying to summarize what's happened to us in the year, but with this template it was super fast to write some highlights and check back in my calendar to what we were doing each season! Laid out like this, even simple things like berry picking and trips to the coast make our year look pretty well-rounded and fun!

We used this photo my friend took of us the other weekend when we went up to the mountain to play in the snow. (My hands were cold so I hid them under husband's vest and didn't realize it would look like I didn't have a hand. Is that weird?) We traded off and I took some photos of my friend's family, too!

I had a hard time choosing the card as usual, since there are so many cute ones, but I loooove how Minted lets you plug the photo into all the designs at once.

I was originally thinking something plainer, but I really love the white text, which doesn't work well on the pretty snow background. Husband chose this "merry" wintery look one.

I'm so glad we have the happy news of our house purchase to share this year, but even if not, I feel really good about sharing some more personal details than we did last year. I hope our family and friends enjoy reading our little recap!

How much detail and good and bad do you share in your cards??

You can get an extra 15% off and free upgraded shipping through today, 12.20 at Minted!

Thanks to Minted for providing me these holiday cards!

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Finally, our DIY butcher block countertops! And DIY faux beam install! #stanley09sreno week 10

Oh boy, we conquered some milestones this weekend! On Thursday and Friday I was feeling like a total Scrooge about the snow because our flooring delivery was scheduled for Thursday, and the shipping company's warehouse was practically shut down and is now all backed up for residential deliveries. We were SO excited to get our floors here and in. We still feel sort of like we're camping or living in a construction zone because we've only brought in the bare minimum stuff to sit on the painted subfloor while we wait.

But, of course it all worked out fine and we had plenty of projects to do in the meantime. We were able to pick up our butcher block countertops at Lumber Liquidators and installing those was our primary goal this weekend! But we had already started our faux beam installation project so we wanted to finish that first.

So, the beam. It's from AZ Faux Beams and it's this high density foam that's been carved and stained to look like wood. They actually used something very similar in Season 4 Episode 1 of Fixer Upper! They come in all different styles, like super rustic barn wood or ski lodge splintery, and lots of colors or unstained. They're super easy to install. We had already cut it approximately to size the other week so we just had to install the 2x4s and mount it this weekend. We still need to fill the holes where the screw heads are.... but it's up, which is huge! (They sent it to me to review--I will do a more detailed post about it soon!)

And here it is!! I couldn't really capture the whole room with it with my lens but it really helps with the scale, and anchors things a little better rather than the huge void of the high ceiling. It will look even better with flooring in!! ;)

And the countertops!! We decided to go with Lumber Liquidators butcher block over IKEA because the pricing is actually pretty similar for some of the woods/colors and it is solid wood rather than particle board with wood veneer like some of the IKEA ones are. Butcher block is probably the most affordable countertop option there is, right?? and while it's great for just an island, our kitchen is so small we don't have room for an island or a lot of variety in countertops throughout the room, and I love the look of it, so we are doing butcher block for all of it. And, we can do it ourselves!! Husband has been following this tutorial from This Old House and we borrowed saws from my dad, and wow, this is one of our greatest DIY projects ever. Husband spent most of Sunday in the 33 degree garage cutting and sanding. So grateful.

We got two of these 8' maple countertops (they both fit in my Prius and the door closed just fine, thankyouverymuch)

Per the tutorial, we drilled holes in the mount structures to allow the countertops to expand slightly with temperature.

We measured and did a lot of math, and finally cut and sanded the pieces.

Once installed (screwed in with a washer, and glued around the edges), we oiled them with butcher block oil.

We still have to do the piece that goes behind the sink... more math and thinking on that one... but we now have three mounted countertops!!! What a joy! (These were also provided for me to review and I will be doing a more thorough post about them when we're done!) Oh, this also means I'll be able to reinstall the cupboard doors under the sink! And of course we can do the tile backsplash soon. (And, last week I installed the hardware, but then I changed my mind so now I need to get an install the new ones.)

We also had some other little goals this weekend... like fill, sand, prep, and paint a couple of small windows I hadn't gotten to yet on the big door/trim painting project, and install a new bamboo blind on the kitchen one. Finally, privacy when cooking at night!

This windowsill really took a beating with the previous owners/tenants. So beat up. I scraped and filled to even it out.

Then I did my primer plus two coats of Benjamin Moore Advance like I did for our doors and trim, and it's looking great! (The wall around it will be tiled so I'm not worried about fixing it up right now.)

But I really wanted to get this window done since I've been pretty tired of being totally visible from the neighbors across the back yard when I'm cooking dinner. It's not so bad during the daytime or if there were leaves on the trees. But now my bamboo blind is up!! These things are SO easy to install and all custom sizes so they fit perfectly.

What an improvement from that first photo, right?!?

Also, just want to say, realized--most used purchase for the reno so far: this many-piece "drilling and driving kit." We've had screwdriver bit sets before but this one is SO useful and easy to carry around since it has the drill bits in secure spots right there with the screwdriver bits, and it has the extender for screwing in curtain rod brackets or tall things, plus the spade bit we used for making the bigger holes for the countertops. Love this set!

So, we're feeling very accomplished after this past week and weekend despite the delay in flooring arrival--and now our schedules are a little more clear for starting on it next week/weekend. Making all this progress is a really good feeling!

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Healthy holiday gift guide

We usually forget about January and New Year's resolutions coming up until right before January 2, don't we? We give tins of cheddar and caramel popcorn and go holiday shopping after work instead of to the gym or making dinner and packing lunches, right?? We stay up late at parties and work really hard at work to gear up for taking some days or a week off.

I imagine some people enjoy every part of this season, including abandoning habits in favor of celebration! But it's not that way for everyone, and I know I, at least, like to think about my health and make good choices even now. I've rounded up some favorite products that will help you and your loved ones with gifting fun, quality items that might make creating or sticking to productive habits easier! (Let's be honest, I'm not done with my holiday shopping yet--are you?!?)


  • Le Creuset enameled cast iron mini skillet, 6 1/3". I have one of these and I use it for my eggs. They don't stick!! It's so fabulous.
  • Lodge enameled cast iron 11" skillet. Such a good price; we use ours for burgers, stir frys, big sautes and skillets, pork chops... it goes right into the oven, so convenient!
  • The Instant Pot electric pressure cooker. I got one earlier this year and have gotten so much value out of it! It works like a slow cooker but in only 30 minutes or an hour! Or cooks rice in about 4 minutes. It does all kinds of things.
  • The Fed & Fit book. I have heard nothing but fabulous things!! Cassy Joy has zillions of healthy, nourishing recipes on her blog but has just published this book that presents four pillars of health--mindset, sleep & hydration, food, and fitness--before offering a 28-day reset plan for healthier habits and meeting your goals, then 190 easy, versatile recipes and a bunch of workouts designed by Juli Bauer of PaleOMG! These ladies are so energetic and positive, and also real, that you can't help but feel inspired by their helpful ideas and attitudes for making those four pillars easier in your life. This book would be great for a friend looking for some grain-free recipes or for yourself as we get into the new year!
  • The Inspiralizer! My mother-in-law got us a spiralizer for Christmas one year and it was just a great gift. We use it for zoodles, spiralized sweet potatoes for skillet/hash, and more (and yet I wouldn't have bought it for myself). This model is supposed to be the ultimate one!


  • High density foam roller. I'm literally kneeling on ours right now. We keep it in our living room most of the time so we can use it while watching TV together or working on our laptops. Of course, it's also good for focused rolling (I love this tutorial) and the big one is so easy to use for opening up back and shoulders! Aaah...
  • Really cool workout pants (I love these and these). I am a super minimalist with my workout clothes and usually wear any ol' tank top and bare feet or socks for most of my workout if I can... but I do like colorful or cute yoga pants! They're great on long walks or hikes, too!

Other goodies

  • Clean body products like Dr. Bronner's (peppermint bar soap, lip balms, or liquid soap gift set). These are such high quality and always organic and fair trade.
  • Really, really good chocolate. The Money on Honey brand are sweetened with California wildflower honey and sprinkled with fleur de sel. No cheap mystery ingredients. What a treat, and much better than candy sweetened with corn syrup or GMO sugar!

You can shop all these fun things directly here!

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Back at it! Cabinet knobs and kitchen painting. #stanley90sreno week 9

So, last week at this time we were feeling a little worn out and less excited than before about all the house projects on our list. Turns out taking a weekend off (a night away plus lots of Christmasey things!) gave us a serious energy boost. We were really excited to get back to the to-do list around the house this past weekend!

Our flooring delivery was supposed to come last Friday but was delayed--hopefully it will be this week and we will have our hands (and knees, and feet/weight for holding boards in place) very full/busy with installing flooring room by room for a long time! We also are waiting on our counter tops and tile for the kitchen, so things aren't moving super fast but we can still get plenty of other tasks done in the meantime.

What we wanted to do this week/weekend (successes crossed off):

  • Clean up kitchen demo junk in back yard
  • Put up final doors
  • Put up final curtain rod
  • Fix fridge door
  • Fix half bath door closing
  • Tidy garage so I can park there
  • Fix wheel on entertainment unit drawer
  • Tighten kitchen faucet
  • Get/install correct screws for ceiling fan
  • Install beam
  • Demo master bath door frames
  • Remove final floor staples in spare room (need final doors installed first)
  • Touch up kitchen cabinet paint
  • Install cabinet hardware (1/2!)
  • Finish painting kitchen

Lots of 10-minute tasks! And some bigger ones (like the beam! We don't have a tall enough ladder!) and some that rely on others. But, my primary goal was to install the cabinet hardware.

I have been kind of terrified of doing it since you want the handles perfectly centered, level, and matching each other. [Nervous emoji.] The holes on the hardware we used are 5" apart, too wide for the hardware template I bought!! So I had to do a lot of measuring, leveling, centering, marking, double-checking, drilling, and some correcting.

I tried to make my own but it was more trouble than help. So I marked dimensions on my level.

I bought these 5" spread handles and debated about the cabinet doors but bought round knobs for those instead. Now I've decided I really don't like the way the round knobs look, but the 5" handles are too long turned vertical and look funny horizontal on the doors, so I think I need to buy some 3" handles in the same style for the doors.

I have spent literally hours debating about our cabinet hardware, scrolling through my pinboards and shopping all the hardware places. Ugh. So tough. We are limited with these flat-front, rounded-corner 90's cabinet and drawer fronts so I can't do a really nice shaker style cabinet with more traditional handle like I might like. I want to choose something that fits what we have but is also stylish.

Although, I'm still actually totally torn about the handles in general and am debating switching to brushed brass!! Something like this.

But, I also go back and forth about if I should go true black on the cabinets and repaint them all. It wouldn't be that hard, really, but also I could just live with the beautiful dark grey for a while and see how I feel.

Would it be weird to have the brushed brass modern pulls and the brushed nickel faucet and stainless steel appliances?? I don't mind mixing metals in concept but it's hard to figure out in practice!

Please, cast your vote for the brushed nickel pulls we have now or the brushed brass mode modern ones!

Back to what we did this week/weekend... we did finish painting the kitchen, even the window wall which I'm going to tile, but it's just so much better to have clean-looking walls and ceiling (the grease stain is cleaned and covered up!!) as we continue to make progress on other little things in the kitchen.

This week we're gearing up for lots of flooring installation, if the delivery makes it on time! That and, of course, my cabinet hardware saga continues. Please let me know what you think! Brushed nickel or brushed brass??!? (And, dark grey or black cabinets?!?)

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