Farmhouse rustic on the CHEAP!

For the last few years, farmhouse rustic/distressed furniture has been the desired trend.  Buying furniture pieces with this desired finish can be quite costly.  So, how can you get the same look for less?  I put my creativity to work and this is how I successfully gave my furniture pieces a farmhouse rustic look on the cheap!

When you think farmhouse rustic or distressed, you think chippy peeling paint and a tattered appearance.  Your desired finish should look old, worn, and weathered.  It’s easy to achieve this look even if you’re not artistic….I’m certainly not an artist!  For years I was a stay-at-home caregiver living on only one income.  I didn’t have the luxury of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a distressed piece of furniture.  Using my lack of funds as inspiration, I decided to test my DIY skills to achieve my shabby furniture goal!

1.)  Choosing A Project Piece

Trying to decide what type of furniture to distress is an important question.  Too big of a project….you may lose interest; too small of a project….it may require too many details.  As for me, when chosing my starter piece, I chose a functional piece of furniture that would serve a purpose in my home.  Unlike some, I don’t have a huge house.  Therefore, whatever furniture I decide to makeover needs to serve some purpose….storage, accent table, end table, ect.

2.)  Where To Find It?

Once you figure out the piece, GO FIND IT!  I visit thrift stores, yard sales, free classifieds online….you never know what you may stumble across.  Remember, the least amount of investment possible is preferred.  I set my limit at $10-$20!  Try to find a project that doesn’t involve a lot of fixing….missing legs, missing half of a tabletop!  Make a smart purchase!

3.)  Supplies

Now that you have project piece, what do you do with it?  Go to a local store and pick up some cheap primer (latex), paint (latex), brushes, sandpaper (160 grit and fine grit), and polyurethane (water-based).  These five basic supplies are all you need to successfully finish many distressed furniture pieces.  I prefer to use latex or water-based primers, paints, and sealers.  They are SO much easier to clean-up and you can wash and reuse your brushes!

4.)  The Process

Clean your project piece with a damp rag and remove any dirt.  Now, lightly sand your piece with any grit sandpaper just to rough up the surface.  This will allow your primer to adhere better.  After sanding, wipe down the piece again and remove any dust.

Ready to primer!?  Using any type of paintbrush, apply the primer to the piece.  Let the brush strokes show!  I prefer using only one coat of primer.  This allows for easier sanding and a better finish.  Let the primer dry for 24 hours.

It’s primed, so LET’S PAINT!  Again, apply your favorite paint right over the primer.  Go crazy here!  Paint in all directions!  Show a lot of brush strokes!  These techniques add to the distressed look of your piece.  After you finish applying the paint, allow it to dry 24 hours.  At this point, it’s entirely up to you if you want additional coats of paint.  I usually apply two coats, but it’s all individual preference.

Finally we can sand!  Using your coarse grit sandpaper, start sanding your piece until you get your desired look. Don’t worry about messing up, it’s only paint!  You may want to wear a dust mask when sanding….it can get a little messy!

Everything is sanded down and you have your rustic look. Let’s preserve it for years to come!  I prefer a water-based polyurethane.  Some people prefer other sealers, but again it’s personal preference.  For me….whatever is on sale or the cheapest!  Remove any dust from your piece and brush on your sealer.  This is the only time I recommend trying to reserve your craziness and take it easy on the brush strokes.  Try to be consistent and go one way with your strokes.  It gives a more finished appearance.  After applying your topcoat allow it to dry at least 24 hours.  At this point, I prefer to gently sand the entire piece with fine grit sandpaper, wipe down, and apply a second topcoat.  This ensures a nice appearance and better preservation.

All done!  Now step back and admire your farmhouse rustic furniture piece.  Let’s not forget, you completed this project on the cheap!  Using my secrets to achieving that shabby look, get creative and showcase your DIY skills on more projects!  Let me see those finished projects by commenting below.  Do you have tips to add?  Comment below. Talk to you soon!

Tips on being a caregiver AND keeping your sanity!

By now most of you know my story….30-something woman, B.S. degree in Chemistry, full-time caregiver for 11 years.  How did I manage to successfully care for my grandmother and keep my sanity during the entire process?  It wasn’t easy.  I applied the same trial and error mentality I had used in my Chemistry courses to create a caregiving strategy.  The following day-to-day tips will help you create a balance between your caregiving duties and personal life.  Everyone needs balance!

1.)  Create a Routine

Although each day as a caregiver has unexpected twists, try to create a routine that’s beneficial to you and your loved-one.  An environment becomes less stressful when those involved know what to expect.  Feed meals and give medications at specified times each day.  Try following an effective sleep schedule.  A customized sleep schedule is vital in avoiding caregiver stress and burnout!

2.)  Make Time for Fun Activities

My grandmother was house-bound, so we spent A LOT of time inside the same four walls.  Planning fun activities enabled us to laugh and be active while being limited to the home.  Those activities included baking cookies, watching her favorite television shows, dancing or rolling (she was in a wheelchair) around to her favorite music, going outside in the warmer months to plant flowers and mulch the flower beds.  These little things kept her happy and me sane!

3.)  Remember Yourself

When caring for an ailing loved-one, it’s easy to forget yourself.  Your most important concern is the well-being of your patient.  But, try to dedicate some time to your own personal life.  An unhealthy caregiver is not beneficial to themselves or the patient.  Allow 30 minutes of YOU-TIME a day.  These 30 minutes may be available early in the morning, before your loved-one wakes or during your patient’s afternoon nap.  Whenever you can sneak a little time for yourself, DO IT!

4.)  Be Happy

Caregiving is a stressful situation and if given the opportunity your loved-one nor you would choose this life path.  Whatever the circumstance, your loved-one is dependent upon you for their well-being.  Never make them feel like a burden.  No matter how stressful the situation or lifestyle becomes, try to keep a smiling face.  It provides your loved-one with security and reassurance.

5.)  Ask For Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help!  Short-term breaks can alleviate a lot of stress.  If given the opportunity, ask someone to relieve you from your caregiving duties.  Take an extended lunch break or arrange a date night with the hubby.  It sounds small, but those few hours will make the coming days SO much easier.

Caregiving is a stressful but rewarding experience.  As a caregiver you have the ability to create an amazing bond with your patient.  I’m so glad I chose to be my grandmother’s caregiver!  We created an unbreakable bond filled with happy memories.  GOOD LUCK!

Caregiver stress….YES it’s real!

You have a B.S. in Chemistry….what do you know about caregiver stress?  A lot more than you think.  If you’ve had the time to read my others posts, you realize I’m a CHEM enthusiast.  Five grueling years of mathematics and chemistry courses to garner my degree and academic distinction amongst peers.

It was at the beginning of these five years that my caregiving journey began. My grandmother had a stroke when I first entered college….I was 18 years old.  The stroke left her with right-side paralysis and speaking difficulties.  My family and I were faced with a decision….who will care for her?  My older brother was working full-time and my younger brother was still in high school.  Then there was me….the college bound Jersey girl with big Chemistry dreams.  Who says the middle child isn’t the best child?  Faced with the dilemma of nursing home or homecare, I spent many days in a daze thinking about the future.  What’s more important, the happiness of my grandmother or my career path? Hands down….the happiness of my grandmother.  So, in 2004 my grandmother and I embarked on a memorable 11 year journey.

As I said earlier, I was 18 years old when my caregiving journey began and my grandmother was 73.  How was I going to convince this, up until now, extremely independent woman that I was capable of caring for her during her time of need?  My grandmother’s thoughts were written all over her face….I’m going to be dependent on this teenage girl, who barely knows how to drive or cook?  Yes.

There we were, two women separated by decades, expected to get along and balance life.  Easier said than done.  Although I chose to care for my grandmother, I didn’t want to delay my education.  So, I decided to balance caregiving and college.  It was difficult, but doable!  Besides, the life skills I was learning through my Chemistry course work were coming in pretty handy at home.  My grandmother’s recovery was slow, but steady.  She never recovered from the paralysis, but was successful in overcoming her eating and speech difficulties.

Fast forward 5 years….2009.  I just graduated college with my degree in Chemistry and WHAM, grandmom had another stroke!  Not again.  This stroke left her completely dependent on me.  Because of the seriousness of her condition, I wouldn’t be able to work and I WASN’T putting her into a healthcare facility.  I became my grandmother’s 24-hour caregiver.  From feeding tubes to tracheostomies….we covered it all!  I should have majored in healthcare!

From 2009 until her death in 2015, I cared full-time for my grandmother.  It was during these 5-6 years I suffered from caregiver stress.  When you say you’re a caregiver, people jump to the conclusion that you don’t work, stay at home, eat bon-bon’s, and watch television all day.  These people couldn’t be more wrong!  Caregiving is a full-time job with a lot of overtime.  You sleep when the patient sleeps.  Caregivers are at the mercy of the patient’s schedule.  Adapting to this schedule is difficult and can’t be achieved overnight.  Realistically, you may never adapt to the schedule….you just go with the flow.  That flow involves many sleepless nights and hours of direct contact healthcare.  No sleep and hours of helping the patient causes mental and physical exhaustion.  There’s no break from these relentless hours and no one to relieve you from your duties.  It’s just you and your patient….just me and grandmom!

Days turned into nights and nights into days, but one thing stayed constant, my devotion to my grandmother.  Just when I thought I could no longer deal with the stress of caregiving, there she was smiling and nodding, letting me know how grateful she was for my presence.

Don’t let caregiver stress deter you from caring for your loved-one.  Caregiving is HARD, but with proper knowledge and resources you can avoid stress and burnout.  Thank you for reading and take care!

Tips and Tricks for Passing a College Science Exam

EXAM.  That horrible word that plagues so many students attending any educational institution.  Why does an educator administer an exam?  The answer is obvious….to torture and tear down the minds of their students.  Just when you’re feeling secure about the presented material, the word EXAM or TEST creates all new mayhem.  That one word alone can make the calmest person shake and quiver.  However, our disapproval will never make these awful assessments disappear.  So, if you can’t beat’em, join ’em!  As long as students and teachers exist, so will EXAMS.  The preparation a student is willing to devote to an exam directly correlates with the overall outcome of that exam.  How are you going to guarantee a passing grade for your next college science exam?

1.)  Don’t Cram for that Exam

Usually teachers or professors will let you know in advance when each test will be during the course of the semester; sometimes two weeks, sometimes one week.  The moment your teacher mentions the possibility of an upcoming exam, that’s your cue to start studying.  Whatever you do, don’t wait until the night before an exam to review and study all of the material covered in previous weeks.  DO NOT CRAM.  Use every day prior to the exam to utilize your study skills.  By reviewing the material a little each night, studying doesn’t become so overwhelming.  By allowing yourself small segments of study time, the information presented during your lectures can be understood and not memorized.  Studying in advance will also enable you to discuss any questionable material with your teacher prior to the assessment.

2.)  Know Your Notes Inside and Out

Educators give you notes for a reason….to detail the information they find important in a specific chapter or lecture.  Therefore, it’s only reasonable that the upcoming exam will cover those detailed aspects.  Having taken and successfully passed several science courses, I found the majority of any science exam is composed of questions stemming from your notes.  After all, an exam is not only an assessment of what you know, but also how successful the teacher or professor was in conveying their message.  It makes total sense that teachers will include A LOT of their lecture on an upcoming exam.  Review your notes until you can recite them by heart.  Don’t just memorize the material; understand the material.  I found that rewriting notes in my own words helped me absorb and comprehend the information given during lecture.  I couldn’t just read the notes and make sense of the material.  I had to write, write, and rewrite summaries of my notes until the material was ingrained in my brain.  For those of you who are able to just read your notes and retain the information, I’m definitely envious!!!

3.)  Practice Problems

Who’s guilty of skipping the example problems embedded in or at the end of most chapters?  I’m 100% guilty.  Who has time to stop mid-chapter and do a practice problem?  Who wants to do chapter problems that weren’t even assigned as homework?  Nobody.  However, as my education progressed and I entered more demanding courses, I began to appreciate all of those problems within the textbook chapters.  I realized the unassigned practice problems were greatly increasing my chances of acing that science exam.  Remember when I said the majority of content presented on a science exam comes from your lecture notes?  The remaining content of the exam is composed of problems very similar to those within and at the end of each textbook chapter.  I’ve found that teachers and professors will choose MANY of their exam questions from chapter practice problems.  The exam questions, while not word for word, will mimic both assigned and unassigned chapter problems.

Try these three study habits.  They’ve helped me successfully pass seemingly impossible college science exams.  What tricks help you ace your science exams?  Let me know by leaving a comment.  Please share! Thank you again and GOOD LUCK!!!