How to whitewash your brick fireplace and build a new mantle.

I’ve neglected this poor blog for a very long time. Not because I have nothing to write (oh, trust me, things are movin’ around here…), but purely because I haven’t taken the time. I’m not too busy. I’m not too exhausted. I just haven’t made it a priority.

I often think of entire paragraphs when I’m in the shower or snapping a great picture with my iPhone. And then, once the little goes to bed, I spend entire hours reveling in the silence and solitude of being alone at home. It’s really quite wonderful.

BUT… as many of you know, in May of last year, Redneck Husband and I bought a house. After a long and grueling process of looking at house, after house, after house, we finally found one that had everything we wanted.

In the last year, we’ve done many DIY projects that deserve their own posts. But two weeks ago, Redneck Husband and I were spending a rainy Sunday afternoon on the couch. He was watching hunting shows, I was staring at this ugly monstrosity.

Fireplace makeover: before

Dirty. Stinky. Old. Dated. Gold…?

After about 30 minutes of Pinterest searching and coming up practically empty-handed in a search for fireplace tutorials, I decided I was going to spend the next few hours doing something about the ugly fireplace. I knew I wanted to whitewash instead of paint, and I knew the gold had to go.

At about 3 p.m., I walked out to the garage and got started.

Since I’ve had a couple of my blog friends ask, here’s what I did:

1. Tape off all areas you would like to protect in the whitewash process. For me, this included the floor, tile on top (see picture), and walls. I wasn’t worried about the mantle or doors since I knew those were going to be painted next.

2. Pick the white paint you would like to use. I used an old gallon of off-white paint I had in the garage. It’s called Churchill White from Lowe’s, but any white will work.

3. Test a brick, then debate for way too long whether or not you want to take the plunge. But trust me, you want to take the plunge. If you need to call my mom and hear the words “it can’t get much worse than it already is,” I’m sure she’d be okay with me giving out her number on the internet.

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4. Mix your white paint with water in a 2:1 ratio in some kind of disposable container. I used a coffee container. At first I started using a 1/4 cup measuring cup (2 – 1/4 cups of paint, 1 – 1/4 cup of water). After doing that twice, I increased to using a 1 cup measuring cup ( 2 cups paint, 1 cup water). Regardless, 2:1 ratio was the best.

5. Grab a brush (I used a 1″ brush), and get to painting. I started light, and was wiping off with a t-shirt after applying like I read in many tutorials. This was too light for me, and I wanted to avoid having to repeat the process too many times.

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6. Put on your big kid panties and started straight painting and not wiping off. I kept the t-shirts handy to soak up drips. I also used a flat cardboard box on the floor to keep drips from getting on my wood floors.

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7. It takes a while to get in a groove, but once you do, you move pretty quickly. Dab the paint on pretty thick. It soaks into the brick, and you may still end up going back for a second coat.

8. Once finished covering the entire brick surface with your 2:1 whitewash (without wiping down after), you can decide whether or not you want a second coat. I did, so I went back to the beginning and knocked out the second coat while I was covered in paint drips.

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9. Give yourself a break after all that painting. Painting my fireplace took about 3 hours total for 2 coats. Really… once you get moving, it goes pretty quickly. The beauty of whitewashing is that it doesn’t have to be perfect or exactly even, just be sure to get in all of the cracks. Anyway, my break lasted an entire work week. I know, some break, right?

The next weekend, I took on that ugly brass and gold that I had been staring at all week. I mean, yuck.

10. Pick up some high heat spray paint from your local hardware store. I didn’t want a shine, so I used Rustoleum’s high heat spray paint in black matte. Be sure to use high heat paint if you EVER plan to use your fireplace.

Image11. Use painter’s tape to tape off the windows on your fireplace door, then use scotch tape to add newspaper over the glass, around the edges of the doors, and on the bottom surface.

12. Generously spray your high heat spray paint on your brass fireplace doors.Image13. Allow time to dry before assessing the need for a second coat. If you want to sufficiently panic about messing up your fireplace like I did, go ahead. Because when it’s drying, it will look like this:

ImageDon’t worry– it will dry matte and beautiful.

14. Once dried, take off the newspaper. You may not need to give your ugly gold mantle a makeover, so you may be able to enjoy your beautiful fireplace at this point. If you need to touch up the brick around the edges of the doors, do so. If not, get to work on your ugly gold mantle.

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We opted to sand our original mantle down because it had custom cuts for our mantle lights. This seemed like a great idea at the time, but I did the sanding, and I’m ashamed to admit that my arms are still sore from about 2 hours of sanding. Oh well. Our plan was to sand down the original and add molding, and that’s what we did.

15. Anyway, regardless of your plan, take your stripped or fresh wood mantle, and cut molding according to size. I didn’t take pictures here because Redneck Husband did it while I was at work. He used 40 degree angles.

16. Attach the molding using liquid nails wood glue and clamps. Cuss in front of your three-year-old because the damn liquid nails doesn’t hold it right, then resort to using tiny nails at each end of the molding. Or learn from our mistake and skip the cussing part. I still recommend the liquid nails AND the nails at each end though.

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17. Mount your mantle back to your brick fireplace. We are lucky, and our mantle sits neatly on top of our fireplace with little attachment.

18. Pour yourself a glass of wine, sit on your couch, and admire your beautiful modern whitewashed fireplace that went from drab eyesore to beautiful living room focal point in a matter of hours.

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Although we spread our project out over two weeks, if I would have had the motivation before 3 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, I really do think it could be easily done in a weekend. It was, by far, the easiest DIY project we’ve completed thus far. Few cuss words, few threats of divorce, and huge payoff in a matter of hours. Right now, I’m sitting on my couch and staring at my beautiful new fireplace that lightened up my living room more than I would have ever imagined.

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I can’t stress enough how easy and quick this project was. What are you waiting for? Say goodbye to those hideous brick fireplaces with those ugly brass doors!

Firsts. And Seconds. And Thirds.

We’ve had quite a few sharable moments in the past two years, my little family and I.

There have been invaluable firsts–baby.

And wonderful seconds–birthdays.

And even dreaded thirds–moves!

And then? Things settled down. Finally.

And because we’ve got one child, and my parents have one grandchild, we’ve got lots of photos. My parents? They’ve got more time than I do. They print theirs off in batches of twenty. Me? I discover one day that, despite what’s suggested by our refrigerator photos, Jayce no longer has fluffly curls and arm chub. So I log onto my Shutterfly account and print hundreds of beauties like these:

So this Christmas? No, it’s not our first holiday season. But it’s a season of firsts.

For the first time, we’ll spend a Christmas fully settled in our home.

We’ll have things that are never where they belong, but that belong somewhere.

We’ll have photos on our walls that have not been updated since our wedding, but there are photos on our walls.

And also? We’ll be sending out a Christmas card.

When I realized that, in fact, I am organized enough this year to send out a Christmas card, I turned to Shutterfly. Much like my camera’s memory card, they’ve got hundreds of choices from adorable to cuu-uute.

Or, if you’re like my mom was when I was growing up, you always talk about sending out a Christmas Card, but it quickly turned into a New Years card. Mom’s philosophy: “They were sent, weren’t they?”

I’ve learned many things during my adventures of motherhood, and one of them is this: You’ll have countless memorable moments, but it’s how you celebrate them that matters.

 I was given 25 holiday cards in exchange for this post. As a proud mother to an adorable toddler, I can assure you that I’ve learned of Shutterfly’s quality by choice, not force. So don’t worry, I’m still broke. But thanks to Shutterfly? At least I’ll save some money on my holiday cards.

And if you’re a blogger? Shutterfly wants you. For details about how to earn 25 free cards this holiday season, register here: http://goo.gl/DDw7Q

Rules of Pitching to Mommy Bloggers

I’ve never done a product review on my blog. I’d love to, and I have faith that this will come in time.

You know, when my blogging audience is more than just my friends and family.

However, I came across this article from Bloomberg Business week, and it got me thinking. Like any audience, there are rules to pitching to mommy bloggers.

Here they are:

1.) Do not, under any circumstance, use mass media to reach mamas. Don’t send mass emails. Don’t forward them a press release. These ladies are busy. Their days of leisurely shopping trips and coffee dates with friends aren’t over, but their scarce. Make them feel special, and they’ll make your product feel special.

2.) Shut up and get to the point. Like I said, these ladies are busy. They’re spending their days wiping poop off of bums, shoveling food into mouths, and folding Laundry Mountain (or not). Keep your pitch short and sweet. Get to the point because I’ve only got 5.9 seconds to read an email, and that’s only if I’ve locked myself in the bathroom to do it.

3.) What’s in it for her? Make it great! While some charge, many mommy bloggers review products for free. After all, they get a free product outta the deal. But why not make it even better? Throw in a gift card for your company. If she likes you (and if you follow these rules & create great products, she will), she’ll come back, credit cards a-blazin’. In return for a thoughtful review, help her out. Make that returning trip easier on her wallet. She’s got kids to feed, ya know.

4.) Giveaways, giveaways, giveaways! I’m not a giveaway enter-er. I don’t spend hours after my kid goes to bed writing comments and sending tweets to have a 1 in 215 chance of winning a prize. I’m too busy for that. But… I do know loads of moms who do! So, help a mommy blogger gain traffic on her blog. Give her a second product so that she can hold a giveaway. Boosting blog traffic is always a winning factor.

5.) Don’t expect dishonesty. That’s just plain insulting. A mama’s blog is her domain. Literally. It’s her space of freedom so respect her and allow her to write and review honestly. Don’t ever….EVER offer extra incentive for a positive review. Don’t coax it and chances are it will be fantastic. We mamas are pretty darn smart.

Mommy bloggers are becoming an increasingly useful marketing tool for products. Because let’s face it–we’ve got large mouths. If I like something (ahem… I LOVE Mary Kay products), I’m going to shout it from my rooftop laptop.

Let’s face it. I shop. And I’m willing to scream how much I love some things–maybe even your thing. All it takes from you is a little bit of class and a whole lotta prizes.