Kitchen Face lift (Under $300) Continues…

I’ve been plugging away at the kitchen for the past week and I must say it’s coming along better than I expected.

The goal:  revive one very dark, outdated kitchen for $300 or less.  Think it’s impossible?  Read phase one here and the second phase here.

The biggest part of the face lift was making something out of the floor.  The vinyl tiles were in good shape and I didn’t have the money to lay a new floor so I had to come up with a plan.

Serviceable, yet it needed help

Serviceable, yet it needed help

With a very neutral wall color, the room needed a shot of color so I purchased a gallon of red (Bolero) and a gallon of white (Antique Lace) for a total of $22.  A quart of high gloss polyurethane ($10) would provide enough for three coats of durability.

I painted the entire floor with two coats of white and after it had plenty of time to dry, I marked off each vinyl tile with painter’s tape.  Using a small roller I applied two coats of red on every other tile to create a checkerboard pattern. 

Blue painter's tape marked the tile borders

Blue painter's tape marked the tile borders

Once the paint had a full day to cure, the polyurethane was ready to be applied.  Polyurethane darkens objects by a couple of shades, so pick out colors a little lighter than what you think you want.

The only bathroom in my house is accessed by tramping through the kitchen and I just knew the minute I polyurethaned in front of the bathroom door, I’d have to “go”, so the poly was only applied at night, just before bed.

Three coats later, I had a kitchen floor to be proud of.  The project was easy but time consuming. 




The kitchen has come a long way from this:


And the total to date?  $198.45

Considering I had more than $100 left to my budget, I made a pair of cafe style curtains ($2.99) and purchased a bamboo blind for the kitchen door ($22).

Robert and his friend Lew are building a cabinet/work surface to fit between the fridge and the stove, which is very very cool of them…and they work cheap, which fits my budget.

Some pictures on the wall and the kitchen will be complete.

I have, with the help of friends, created a pretty and functional kitchen on the cheap.  Just goes to show you what a little money and a whole lot of ingenuity will accomplish!


Yankee Ingenuity (Kitchen Facelift Under $300)

Progress on my kitchen has been slow but coming along nicely.  It doesn’t even look like the same room (for phase 1, click here.)

  Keeping the price tag to under $300 has been easy so far but the most recent project was an exercise in Yankee ingenuity.  The mission:  re-purpose an old blanket cabinet into an island of sorts to give added workspace closer to the stove.



The cupboard presented several problems:  it was 2 inches shorter than average counter height and the legs made the cupboard appear to “float” in the kitchen. 

Enter my friend Robert and his creative genius.

Robert raised the cupboard with some 1 x 4’s he had lying around which eliminated both issues in one fell swoop.  He attached the 1 x 4’s around the bottom of the cabinet, raising it the needed 2 inches and boxed in the legs to give the visual effect of the cupboard sitting solidly on the floor.

1x4's raised the cabinet to the needed height

1x4's raised the cabinet to the needed height

I purchased a bead board panel from the hardware store  ($31.49) and we attached it to the back side of the cabinet so it would visually flow with the existing cabinets in the kitchen.

I used an orbital sander to remove the old cherry stain from the top of the cabinet and found a very lovely red pine work surface underneath.  A few coats of polyurethane ($5.99) will ensure the work surface stays looking lovely.

I removed the hinges and knob from the cabinet doors, spray painted them satin black that I had left over from the switch plates and school house light and painted the cabinet the same Spanish Chestnut ($10.47) as the walls but used a high gloss for ease of cleaning.

An old blanket cabinet given new life

An old blanket cabinet given new life



Total to date on my kitchen face lift:  $166.45. 

But wait!  There’s more!

If you look at the top picture you’ll see the cabinet butted up against a wall.  That wall was a huge waste of space.  Look at the picture again and you’ll see the refrigerator kind of stuck in the corner. 

I think the wall was put up to hide a chimney and perhaps create an alcove of sorts for the fridge.  It didn’t work, it was wasted space and it had to go.

Enter Robert and his tool box again.  The idea was to gain space so the refrigerator could be turned to face the same direction as the stove (you know, just like everyone else’s kitchen). 

The wall came down and Robert used a scrap piece of sheetrock to close in the chimney.  I gained two more feet of usable space, we switched the hardware on the fridge so it would open on a right hand swing, and voila!

The  biggest project will be the floor.  I don’t have the resources (read “cash”) to put in a new one, so the peel and stick vinyl flooring is next on my hit list.  The room needs color and that’s where I intend to use it.

the floor

Next on the list: the floor

So until next time, be assured I’ll be in my Downeast paradise scheming up more ways to save a buck  ( a lot of bucks) and get what I want:  a functional and pretty kitchen for under $300.

Kitchen Face-lift (Under $300)

I love my home, I really do.  When I moved to Eastport 18 months ago I bought what a friend refers to as a “working man’s Victorian”.  No cupolas, turrets or round rooms vaguely reminiscent of towers. 

When you buy a house, you buy someone else’s taste and it takes time to make it your own.  I had been ignoring my kitchen for a full 18 months and knew the time had arrived for a face lift.

I couldn’t afford to tear it out and start over, so I challenged myself to make a pretty and functional room, fitting to the age and style of the house for under $300.

I had to think long and hard about the kitchen.  With five doors and two windows, it was a very busy room.  Add  green plaid wallpaper, fake pine panelling and a wagon wheel light suspended from the ceiling and it was clear to see I had my work cut out for me to rid the kitchen of what I call “1970’s chic”.

1970's chic

1970's chic

The most important part of my mission was to make the room less busy.  I had a plan but first things first:   the wallpaper had to come down.

Now nothing ever goes easy when your working around the house, especially if it’s an old house.  When I tore off the first sheet of green plaid wallpaper I began what amounted to an archaeological excavation. 

Under the first layer I found another layer of wallpaper and then another.  Hearts and ribbons that made me think “1980’s”, the orange, brown, yellow and avocado that screamed “1970’s”.  On and on it went until I discovered the wallpaper that must have been put up in the 1930’s.

I’m not sure but I think this may be a new Eastport record:  12, yes, 12 layers of wallpaper covered the walls of my kitchen. 

I recruited the help of my indomitable friend Rose who said she loves to wallpaper.  I went to Sherwin Williams and purchased two rolls of wall liner ($30).  Wall liner is meant to cover less than perfect walls and it did a decent job of covering up all the bits of Americana I couldn’t pry off.

Rose hanging wall liner

Rose hanging wall liner

Rose spent the day applying, adjusting, and perfecting the art of hanging wall liner and I had to listen to Rose insinuate my walls were less than square.  She’s a good sport, is Rosie.

The plan was simple:  make the room appear less busy.  I wanted all those doors, windows, and their casings to fade into the background where they belong. 

I decided to paint everything one color.  Spanish Chestnut, to be exact ($22).  It’s a good neutral color that stops way short of tan.  The panelling, doors, casings…everything one color.  

2/5 of the problem (doors, doors, doors!)

2/5 of the problem (doors, doors, doors!)

It’s really easy to paint when everything is painted the same color and easy is my idea of the best kind of home improvement project.

The wagon wheel light had been scaring me  since the day I moved in.  I’m an early riser and there’s nothing funny about flipping on your kitchen light at 4:30 a.m only to turn it off again because you can’t face starting the day looking at a wagon wheel taunting you from across the room.

What can I say?

What can I say?

The light simply had to go.

I knew what I wanted, I just wasn’t willing to pay $200+ for it.  Enter eBay.  I found an old school house light ($12.50) circa 1900 that had been removed from (you guessed it) an old school in Oregon.  A simple rewire and a can of black satin spray paint ($4) and the old girl was ready to serve again.

At $12.50 it's a steal

At $12.50 it's a steal

The same can of black spray paint worked like a charm to change all my plastic switch plate and outlet covers to a little more sophisticated look than the standard almond seemed to provide.

I convinced my pal Robert to construct a simple farmhouse bench ($50–but don’t tell Rose; I only took her out for supper. But  hey, it’s not my fault if she works for substandard wages).

Sometimes I’m not sure who’s more patient with me, Rose or Robert.  They have a way of listening carefully to my schemes and help make them happen.  They really are the best friends anyone could ask for.

So, I gave Robert $50 for the bench and it’s worth every cent of it.  I found similar benches at Target for the same money but wanted something handmade and a color of my choosing. 

Robert comes through again!

Robert comes through again!

I have to admit the monochromatic scheme of the kitchen freaked me out for a minute or two.  I found myself thinking, “what have I done?” but when I came out of my pantry and did a double take because it looked like a regular room, not a room loaded up with 5 doors, I knew my idea would work.

There’s still a long way to go, and I plan to keep you updated in one or two more installments. 

A checkboard floor, a  linen cupboard reborn as a kitchen island, window treatments, and more….all works in progress and all for under $300. 

For now though, I think I’d better wash the paint out of my hair and out of  Midge’s fur (please, don’t even ask).  But stay tuned; there’s more to come!


I don’t usually get excited about snow but this storm was something else.   Mother Nature thought enough of Downeast Maine to drop a foot or more of snow just in time for Christmas. 

But it wasn’t the amount of snow that has me sitting at my computer this morning, it was the wind.  Granted, Eastport sits seven miles off the mainland and bitter winds are the hardest part of winter here.  

But never in my life have I felt the force of the wind so strongly inside my house.

  This kind of wind doesn’t howl; it shrieks down streets and through alley ways.  The windows were shaking and rattling and I was in fear for my roof.  The bed was literally shaking (and at times I was shaking too!)

The waves, according to the weather reports, were 21 feet and I couldn’t doubt it as I stood in awe and watched the water in my toilet suck in and out of the bowl and thought, “this can’t be normal”. 

I’m not sure how many people would actually admit to staring into their toilet bowl, but if you live in Eastport and did take a gander, you know I speak the truth.

When you’re talking that kind of wind, snow drifts are inevitable.  The front of my car was buried under a four foot, ice encrusted drift.





My fearless terrier supervised while I dug what felt like a tunnel out my front door  then we headed downtown to see how the rest of Eastport was faring after Mother Nature took her frustrations out on us.









 These sea walls range from 3 - 4 feet tall 

These sea walls range from 3 – 4 feet tall

      I receive a fair number of emails asking what winter is like in Eastport.  While this isn’t the norm, this is what you can expect from time to time, just like any other New England town.     

So for those of you who have written to ask, has this answered your questions?

Festival of Lights (Eastport, Maine)

Santa Claus chose one of the coldest nights in December to pay a visit to the children of Eastport.  He came with Mrs. Claus, elves, Frosty, students from Shead High School, and the Husson University Boat School.

Santa visits Eastport

Santa visits Eastport

Shead Class of 2011

Shead Class of 2011


Santa's Little Helper

Santa's Little Helper


People gathered around barrels to warm their hands by the fire and lend an ear to the  musicians who braved the frigid temperatures to sing Christmas carols.


Eventually even Santa had enough of the December chill and he dashed away to Peavey Library to sit fireside with more than 150 children and adults from Eastport, Pleasant Point, Pembroke, Perry, and other surrounding towns. 


 Patrons of the library brought snacks and cocoa for everyone ( I was spotted at the buffet on more than one occasion) and as I sat eating one feta truffle too many, I stared at the organized chaos.

I watched the rapt faces of the children and their proud parents and saw  the smiles of those  whose children have long since grown.

 I laughed at Santa who was having his lap worn out ( I just know there will be a lump of coal for me on Christmas morning). 

I thought about the Shead High School students who weren’t too “cool” to participate in a Christmas parade.

I considered the unique character of Eastport and the generous, open hearts of the people who breathe life into this little city and I wondered:  do they really know how special they are?


Happy Holidays from Downeast Maine!

From Bad To Worse To Grateful

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to write about the doings in Downeast Maine, but this time of year is busy.  We’re buttoning up for winter and the mad dash is on to finish up outdoor projects.

Not too long ago I discovered a leak in my shed roof.  As an aside, a “shed” in Downeast Maine is considered to be an unheated room attached to one’s house.  My house has a shed and I use it to store pellets for my pellet stove, tools, recycling bins etc.

The carpenter who originally planned to replace the roof called and announced he was too busy to tackle the job, so the hunt was on for a new carpenter to replace the crumbling mess before the autumn rains began.

So I hired a carpenter who was new in town and looking for work.  The idea was simple:  he needed work and I needed a new shed roof.

After 41 years I should know that absolutely nothing is that simple.

The project began in earnest but after nearly a week, the roof (which covers a 10 x 12 room), was nowhere near completion.  As a bonus, the weatherman was cheerily predicting three days of rain and 60 mph winds.

I stared up at the half finished roof and thought, “Oh joy,” (Okay, maybe my thoughts were a little more colorful than that, but you get the idea).

I guess now’s the time to tell you that my shed shares a common wall with my bathroom. 

I had nightmares about a deluge of water pouring in between the walls, mold growing like spanish moss,  while tons of wood pellets exploded like sponges.

Then the unthinkable happened:  the roofer, who I may remind you was new in town, took off.  Yup, he split town.  Hit the high road for parts unknown.

I guess Eastport wasn’t to his taste.

Three days of rain and gale winds on the way, a half finished roof, and I was more than a bit irritated.  But there’s always a bright side…

I’ve mentioned several times the unbelievable generosity of the people in Downeast Maine.  People without two nickels to rub together will give you anything they have without question. 

Life can be hard in an economically depressed area like this and we look out for one another here.

In a state of anxiety and righteous anger, I called my good friends, Rose and Robert.  I ranted and raved about the audacity of the fleet of foot carpenter. 

They sympathized, they empathized, like good friends should.

Would you believe it?  Robert showed up the very next day, tools in hand,  and worked like a madman.  Shingles on, cedar shingles replaced, new corner boards on, just as the first drops of rain began to splatter against the new roof. 

The man is amazing.

 Like magic, my nightmares of spongey wood pellets disappeared.

I got out my wallet and tried to pay Robert but he wouldn’t hear of it.  He laughed and said, “Put your money away; that’s what friends are for.”

What do you do with a friend like that? 

You thank them profusely and thank your lucky stars, that’s what.

Not only am I fortunate enough to live in one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, I am truly blessed with the friendships I have made.

So, Robert, as I sit here listening to the rain pound the roof, confident there won’t be an explosion of wood pellets, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Of Travel And Contentment

For as long as I can remember I have always loved to travel.  Never content to sit at home, I was always planning a trip to somewhere. 

The travel bug may have struck when I was 17 and a friend was headed to Milwaukee to visit relatives.  She got a ride to the airport with a friend of hers and asked me if I wanted to come along for something to do.

I looked at the flight board and in a half-whine said, “Wish I could go.” 

My friend whipped out her credit card and egged me on.

With $1.49 in my pocket and no change of clothes, I boarded a plane to Milwaukee.  I was kind enough to fill out a postcard with a picture of a Delta plane soaring through the friendly skies and mailed it to my parents.

“Hi Mom and Dad!  Gone to Milwaukee!” (or something to that effect).  No wonder my father’s hair went gray early.

I still remember the names of the people I stayed with all these years later.  College girls who were too happy to loan me clothes and take me to dinner at Uno’s in Chicago. 

The travel bug had bitten me square in the backside; I was hooked and wanted more.

I never wanted to stay home.  Spinning like Mary Tyler Moore, arms outstretched, at  Place de la Concorde in Paris. Sunning on the white sands of Bahamian beaches.  Taking my grandmother to England for her first trip to Europe.  Trying my best to sample as much chocolate as humanly possible in Belgium.  Checking my shoes for scorpions in Costa Rica and climbing a volcano in Nicaragua. 

I was always scanning travel sites looking for deals, and short notice travel was never much of a problem for my sister, who is my favorite traveling companion.

When I first started plotting my move Downeast, my sister sensibly asked, “How far to the nearest airport?”

Two hours and forty five minutes, one way, to Bangor International Airport, but that was okay as I pointed out, “It isn’t as if I will be driving it once a week, right?”

In two weeks I am headed to sunny Florida to visit my 85 year old grandmother (known to all as “Gram”).  I haven’t seen Gram in over a year and miss her terribly.

As the departure date approaches, I find myself dreading it.  Nothing to do with Gram, of course;  I can’t wait to see her.  She is an amazing lady and when I grow up, I want to be just like her.

The problem is, I don’t want to leave home.  I don’t want to leave Eastport and fly all the way to Florida (there’s that half-whine again). 

 I know as soon as I leave the island I will wish I was back home, where I belong.

This attitude has startled me.  I was the type who could have my bags packed at a moment’s notice.  “Get me outta here” was my motto.

My home is my castle and I have no desire to leave it.  What was I running from for all those years when I would be planning my next journey just weeks after returning from a vacation? 

 What is this about?  I have a list of must-see destinations, for God’s sake:  Egypt, Botswana, Scotland, Italy, Lithuania….

I  realized that aside from some of the hardships that come with living in Downeast Maine that I have become content.  At long last I am happy with where I am, and contentment is a beautiful thing.

So I will be flying the friendly skies in October with mixed feelings.  Certainly happiness to see my beloved “Gram” but also warm in the knowledge that I will come home again, back to Eastport, back where I belong.