Kids Upcycle Sun Catcher Project

As moms we are always looking for cheap easy and creative ways to entertain our kids. A huge bonus is reusing an otherwise discarded item. My kids and I made sun catchers on a recent rainy day. I had all the prep-work done I was just waiting for a day when the kids would be cooped inside due to rain.

What you will need:

As I mentioned I pre-prep these frames with out the kids. I took the glass out and sometimes that is just better to do with out those munchinkins. Take the backing out of the frame at this point you can paint the frame if desired. I decided to paint ours yellow.  Take the glass and hot glue it in the frame. You could even use wood glue and let it sit overnight.

So I let mine sit for a few weeks waiting for a rainy day. Finally we had the perfect rainy day. By afternoon I could tell the kids needed something to occupy them for a little while. I pulled out everything we needed for the sun catchers.

It’s really quite simple mixed a little bit of water in with the glue and let each kid pour a little on to their frame. We made sure that the entire surface was covered in the glue water mix. Then I let them go crazy with the food coloring. These looked so cool when you first put on the food coloring! The ended up spreading all around and blending in but still very neat.

Let these sit and dry for a few days, ours took 4 days it was hot and humid so possibly in winter it would not take as long. All and all this project cost me .10 cents a piece for the picture frames, I already have everything else on hand.

What have you recycled with your kids lately? I would love to see!

Thanks for reading happy recycling with kids,


* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves.



This year I finally bought a gargoyle for my yard. Do you have one in your yard art too? Do you know what they mean? While flea market shopping years ago my (Tara) sister in law told me her mom has gargoyles all around her home to ward off evil. Which of course the history buff in me and my love for architectural history I had to research more.

The term comes from the French word gargouille which in English means throat. Representing the gargling sound in the throat. (Which if gargoyles where real I would assume they made a gargling sound)

Gargoyles are fascinating with a very interesting history behind them. The story of the gargoyle started from St. Romanus, he was said to have saved his country from a grotesque monster named Goji that some called Gargouille. They burned the creature everything but its head and they staked it up on top of the newly built church to scare away evil spirits.

You can see gargoyles in architecture like Notre Dame De Paris, with grotesques and many other mythological creatures. Gargoyles where used as down spouts to push the water away from buildings. Gargoyles have even been seen in ancient Egypt.

My sister in law told me when she was growing up her mom loved gargoyles.  They came in various types from cute and silly, to dark and powerful.  Every year when she lived with her mom, they would shop to add to her collection.  She never asked why she loved them, and it wasn’t until she got a home of her own did she find her own personal meaning of these figures. Now she has a gargoyle collection of her own with her mom giving her, her first one. She said the search is the best part, going to thrift stores, flea markets and garage sales. Finding that perfect gargoyle to add to her collection!   

So now what do you think about gargoyles think you might get one?

Thanks for going down this bit of history with me, hope you enjoyed.

Happy Junking,

Tara and Becca

5 Things You Can Do To Get a Flawless Finish

Top coating and protecting your work is the final and MOST important step when tackling a refinishing project. This post will primarily apply to hand brushing techniques (although we can also speak to spray application as well if you have questions).  We will mainly focus on waterborne finishes, such as poly-acrylics and pre-catalyzed solutions.  NOTE:  If you want to learn more about different finish options, visit this post about them! We also have an entry on wax and why we don’t use it.

Over the years we have learned a LOT through trial and error.  Getting an even, smooth finish is not always so easy; especially when refinishing and are unsure of the full history on the piece.  You can run into cracking, peeling, and blushing in addition to undesirable textures like orange peel or fish eyes.  Here are some pointers on how to choose and apply the correct finish for your project.

1. Select the correct product:  First and foremost, it is important to use a good quality topcoat. This decision can make more of a difference than you might imagine. Switching topcoats to a higher quality product may solve many of your finishing problems, and will most likely improve the overall look of your hard work!

2. Use Extender:  Brush application can be challenging in certain climate conditions if finishes start to dry too quickly.  Extender can drastically increase the open time of the product, allowing you more flexibility with manipulating the product to fit your project’s demands.

3. Choose an appropriate applicator:  Rule of thumb is, the larger the surface, the larger the applicator.  If you are doing a table top use a larger or wider applicator like a sponge or pad. Tara has used this one and loved it. If you are doing a narrower frame or edge or a surface with crevices, use a narrower sponge or bristle brush.  Tip:  Make sure your applicator doesn’t hold too much air.  This can cause air bubbles to rest on your finish creating divots in your final surface texture.

4. Avoid brush strokes:  Brush strokes are something we see quite a bit of.  Some people prefer this look, with the perspective that it gives the more authentic “old world” look, which is fine!  However, many modern finishers opt for the smoother look. To achieve this, most companies suggest 2-3 coats of finish. To reduce those brush strokes, scuff in between coats with 220 grit (or higher). Steel wool and mirlon scuff pads can also work wonders.

5. Consider going the professional route:  If you are painting furniture and selling it for income, have you considered spray application?  If not, why not? There are many options for spray guns including airless, air assist, and HVLP (high volume, low pressure). Look into your options, assess your budget, and decide what would work best for you. Tara usually uses a Greco HVLP with an Apollo 7500 series. She also uses a CA Technologies TJR gravity gun with the PPS adapter and bladder system.


What are some other things that you have done to get a smooth flawless finish? We would love to hear from you!


Happy Finishing,

Tara & Becca, The UpCycle Girls

  • Photos curtsy of Kaleidoscope Interiors, Services SE Wisconsin for interior painting and kitchen cabinet painting.

Lead Paint – Cautions

Every junker has done it: bought something coated in lead paint. Sometimes you just cannot pass up that wonderful junk! Lord knows the things I have worked on and never tested. Recently, just for precautionary reasons, I had my doctor test me for lead and my levels are all normal… whew! After 17 years of refinishing that was great news. Anyhow, with the ever-increasing DIY trend, I wanted to share some of the precautionary measures that I have mentioned before.

Utilizing Lead paint testers are a great starting point before you decide what you are going to do with a piece of furniture. Many DIY hobbyists opt to sand old finish off rather than stripping. DO NOT – I repeat DO NOT – sand off potential lead paint. The sanding process produces airborne dust particles which you then breathe in. Some signs of lead poisoning are nausea, depression, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and muscle pain, just to name a few. Needless to say, lead is VERY bad for you.

Lead paint actually wasn’t banned until 1978, which really was not that long ago! 24% of homes built between 1960 and 1977 have lead paint while 87% of homes built before 1940 have lead paint. The EPA has more information here should you be concerned about lead paint in your home.

I wanted to share this information with you because we truly do come across this very issue in our daily work. A client recently dropped off a child’s play hutch; after talking with her and seeing it, I asked how old she thought it was, and when it was built (by the look of it, I thought there was a good chance it was coated in lead paint).

This was a great opportunity to share and learn! I normally would have just power sanded the flaking off paint, and filled the holes and cracks. However, that simpler prep option was off the table in this case. I purchased these lead testers; if it turns pink or red, lead is present.

I tested in several spots through out the piece just to be sure. Then with a new tester; I control tested something I knew didn’t contain lead because I had painted it myself.

Just like that: Pink. Yup, we’ve got lead!

These are super easy to use. Just squeeze points A and B, and then shake! Apply to concerning finish like lipstick (on your piece of furniture, not your face 😉)!

This is going to change what I do to this piece and it’s going to take a lot more work to get this safe for kids to use!

What have you purchased in the past that raised your concerns about lead paint? Are you going to test it?

Thank you for reading this weeks blog and learning one more way to DIY the right and SAFE way!

Tara and Becca


* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves.

The Rustic Orchid

If you haven’t yet heard, The UpCycle Girls has decided to team up with The Rustic Orchid in Mukwonago to teach furniture painting classes! We were so drawn to Amanda’s studio originally, at an old building with a fun and inspiring atmosphere. And then after meeting Amanda, we knew that it would be a great fit. Amanda loves history, the environment and being creative! As the mother of four beautiful littles, she uses eco-friendly products in her studio in order to be mindful of child safety. She also loves to upcycle (🙌🏼), and looking around her studio you can see the proof of that! We want you to get to know Amanda too, so we asked her some questions about the studio. Here is the exclusive interview…

UG: When did you open The Rustic Orchid, and why?
A: I opened The Rustic Orchid in July 2017. I have owned my own business for eight years making custom wall decals and selling online from my home office. While it has been great getting to use my art and design degree to provide products for customers, I was missing the community that comes with being creative with others. I saw a need for a place in our community to gather others together to make memories and foster friendships all while being creative.

UG: What kind of classes do you offer?
A: Our DIY studio currently provides classes in sign making, pillow painting, and vintage window and found item upcycling. We also have begun having guest artists come in to teach classes in their areas of expertise, such as paper rose shadow boxes, jewelry making, and are so excited to bring in The UpCycle Girls for furniture refinishing classes!

UG: When are you open, and how can we find out more about classes?
A: Our studio is open based on appointment or during our workshop times. You can view our upcoming classes by visiting our website ( or by following our Facebook page ( Facebook is the best way to stay updated on workshop dates and times.

UG: What is your favorite sign you made?

A: My favorite sign I have made is this pallet sign. I decided to go against the grain, so to speak, and make this a colorful background rather than the typical black and white farmhouse style sign. It turned out beautiful with many dimensions of color and stain.

UG: What is your favorite piece of “junk”?
A: My favorite piece is an old dresser my mother in law gave me. We were newly married and needed some furniture for our new home, so I began finding free items or taking items family members gave me and refinishing them. This dresser was the first upcycle project I did and I was very happy with how it turned out. Eight years and three homes later, it’s still one of my favorites.

Give Amanda a shout out, and watch both of our Facebook pages for more announcements on upcoming classes!

Junk on,

Tara & Becca

Raising an Old Soul

This weekend we celebrated my sons 6th birthday. Whoa where did the time go I cannot believe he is six and going to be in 1st grade next year. When he was two my grandfather past away, he had alzheimer’s which is a horrible disease he had been gone for years before he passed away. I named my sons middle name after him, and every time I think of my son I think of my grandfather.

My grandpa grew up in Mukwonago his family ran Heaven City restaurant. Later they moved to Milwaukee and ran Turner Halls restaurant where my grandpa would act drunk on stage just to get laughs out of people (he was 7 or 8). He meet my grandma at Turner Hall and they have been together ever since. Their story is for another time but its a true love story.

So much of my son reminds me of my grandfather. Their concern for your comfort levels (odd I know but its a thing with them) Their goofiness I envision the stories I hear of my grandpa being just like the way my son is now. My grandpa was also an engineer which is defiantly the path Colton seems to be headed. Things are always being taken apart and odd things are always being built. They save everything, my grandma and I are still finding odd things my grandfather saved. Well Colton will scold me for throwing something out because there might be a use for it somewhere at sometime.

One of the reasons I decided to write about this is because my son just loves all things old. At 6 he has such an appreciation for the stories behind antique and vintage items. He is fascinated with typewriters and old furniture. For his birthday he received a piggy bank but its not just any piggy bank. It was a post office box, with a code to get into it. Of course he mastered the combination already because it is his favorite gift. (even better than the bike) Last year he wanted a desk in his room so bad! We let him pick and he really wanted an old sewing machine cabinet which is now his desk and he couldn’t be happier about it. Colton will even wear anything old, I got him a Gene Autry cowboy shirt I thought he could wear for dress up, he wears it all the time! With junk being one of my passions it is so rewarding to have a deeper connection with my son.

The Pineapple Motif

I smile when I see a pineapple motif or anything symbolizing the beautiful fruit when I enter someones home. It is a welcoming symbol which must mean that the person who placed it in front of their home enjoys the company of others, or they just like pineapples. Have you ever heard stories about pineapples and how they became such a common symbol in home decor? You know that we are HISTORY LOVERS and we are going to share that with you today.

The pineapple was introduced to Spain by Christopher Columbus in 1493 he found it in leeward island of Guadeloupe. The fruit was rare and they had a hard time shipping it. By the time it would make it here on boats it was rotted only super fast ships where able to send over the pineapple.  So in Europe they invented hothouses which was made to grow pineapples. Catherine the Great was said to have eaten a pineapples from her own hothouses. They where know as a symbol of wealth too, the pineapple would be out on display and used at parties until they rotted. They would also be rented out for the higher class for a party to display and then later sold to someone else to then eat.

However this fruit wasn’t just for the higher class! In New England sea captains where able to get their hands on these fruits from their travels when they would return home they would place a pineapple on their fence post out side of their homes to let them know they are home and safe. That would also let them know to come to the tavern and have a drink and here about their stories from the sea.

The popularity grew and grew that the pineapple started to be a symbol at Inns, carved in furniture, architecture, and even advertisement.  Today it is on dinnerware, fence posts, door knockers, pillow, paintings and so much more. So the next time you see a pineapple think of hospitality and welcoming. Do you have any pineapple decor in your home? Have you heard any of these stories before? We would love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading and happy history junking

Tara and Becca


Picture Frame UpCycles

Thrift stores, garage sales, heck even your basement, picture frames are everywhere! You can make so many different things with photo frames. In fact, it’s a good starter project for learning DIY painting. They are typically pretty inexpensive, if you don’t like it you can just give it back to a resale shop without guilt! I just scored 10 picture frames for 10 cents a piece; so awesome!

Here are some basic supplies that you could use:

I love to make these little flower holder photo frames. Each one I make is uniquely different and finding each piece is also fun!

Chalk board signs are some of our favorites, too! Frames can make perfect displays for short messages or even business cards!

And why not a cork board message board! The possibilities are endless!

We did a photo transfer on wood and put it inside these frames. You can see these in person at The Mineral Point Hotel.

Here we added a small vase for holding flowers or greenery, interchangeable with the seasons.

So, these are just a few ideas I have. But there are so many more ideas I cannot wait to do and share with you. We do want to know what you have done, please share with us!

Thanks for reading this weeks blog and happy junking,

Tara and Becca

* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves.

Buying Used Furniture to Paint

Recently I (Tara) found an awesome dresser from a thrift store for a STEAL. But after bringing it home, I got to thinking and realized the draw of the beauty and the bargain distracted me from following some of my own rules. This dresser was old and was layered in multiple coats of old paint (One of which I am fairly certain contained lead!). If you are new to furniture painting or want to start a new DIY project, we have some tips on looking for the perfect piece to paint.

The Check List

  1. Inspect the Structure Check the condition of the joints and material. You don’t want to be worrying about making a ton of repairs, especially if you are inexperienced. Wiggle it, push on it a bit. Gently push and pull on the legs or joints. If there is a lot of give you might want to consider passing this one up unless you are prepared to disassemble, clean joints, re-assemble, glue, and clamp.
  2. Check the Drawers If you are buying a piece with drawers, pull them out to check the condition of the assembly, including the slides.
  3. Is it painted? If the piece has old paint on it and you are not equipped to strip that paint off, this too might be better to pass up. You don’t want to sand old paint off if you don’t know what it is; you could put yourself and family at risk of lead poisoning. To test for lead quickly you can use this.
  4. Is it veneered? If the piece is wrapped in veneer and the veneer is chipping or pealing off, are you ok with that look or will you try to patch the missing veneer? Do you know how to do that? Do you want to do that? If you are up for the veneer challenge you can get a variety of veneers here.
  5. Measure it! A lot of listings I see do not include measurements. Measurements are always the first thing I ask for. If I am looking for a larger piece I tape out the floor of the area where I want to put it. I will also take the tape measure right to the area to see how high it is and if it will flow with the other piece(s) in the space.
  6. Consider Style More ornate pieces tend to look better distressed and glazed than a minimalist piece would. Is the style dated? Standard oak pieces can look super dated, but something as simple as removing the doors might provide a drastic update. See out blog here on what we did with some standard oak side tables.


This desk was in great condition when I got it, but after I finished working on it I noticed that it had become quite wobbly! Thankfully I was able to secure the back panel and that’s all it needed!


This one is perfect – I even have the glass top! No gluing or repairs were necessary, and finish is in good enough shape. A good cleaning and scuff will do great as a simple prep before painting.


This cabinet is structurally sound, but it is bare with no shelf and unattractive brackets. It will need some cabinetry detailing to make it useful again. (Maybe a wine rack?)


This chest is completely functional. All the parts are there and the top moves great. However, the finish on top is very old and is soft (Could be from exposure to products with oils). Even if I sand before painting the wrinkles will probably show up. Plus, whatever oils are on there will be soft under the paint which means it will break down; So this top will absolutely need to be stripped before I can do anything to it.

We have made our fair share of “Oh man, what was I thinking???” mistakes when buying furniture. We wanted to pass on our knowledge on furniture junking with you so you can learn from our mistakes and feel confident about selecting that perfect conversation piece for your home.

Becca and I have one more valuable list for you! Here is a list junking tag-alongs. We literally dug through our purses to share with you what we take with us everyday when looking for junk… ok, in all honesty it’s just everyday, because you never know when that “side-of-the-road gold” will show up! 😂

  1. Tape Mesure we use something super simple. Tara keeps heres on her key chain like this one.
  2. Eye Scope / Magnifying glass
  3. List of measurements for pieces you are looking for or spaces you want to fill (always in our recycled notebook!)
  4. Moving blankets (even if you are planning on painting the piece, make sure it is protected)
  5. Phone/camera to take pictures in case you don’t plan on purchasing right away
  6. Cash! Keep a small amount of cash in your wallet in case you find that perfect piece at a place that doesn’t accept other forms of payment. Some places will even let you leave a deposit to hold the piece until you can come back for the rest!



* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves.

How to Achieve a Flat Finish

One of the biggest trends in this era of DIY and shabby chic are silky-smooth flat finishes.  The most common way to achieve those flat/matte sheens is wax.  See our previous post for a deeper look into why we are opposed to this solution for most projects.  Basically we know it’s gorgeous (we agree), but the cons far outweigh the pros.

  1. Wax is not a long-term, durable finish.
  2. Wax required annual maintenance and reapplication.
  3. Refinishing a surface that has been finished with wax in nearly impossible without a tedious full strip

…But the UpCycle Girls are solution seekers!  We are here today to be the bearers of good news – You CAN achieve a long-lasting finish with a beautiful matte sheen.

Recently, we were working on a table and agreed the top would be stunning with a suede-like sheen. To achieve that look, we would need to utilize a flat finish. However just a flat finish on this table would not hold up to everyday use; Remember table tops are high traffic, and flat finishes are more absorbent and susceptible to marking than a glossier sheen. We always strive to ensure whatever we create will survive for a long time!  Our solution was to first apply a couple of base layers of pre-catalyzed water base finish in satin, and then General Finishes Flat Out Flat.  This finish is one of our absolute favorites out there.  This stuff is not only FLAT FLAT FLAT, but it is velvety smooth to the touch – much like wax!  Sometimes you can hardly tell there is even a finish on the project at all.  If you are looking for a that perfect matte sheen FOF is the man for the job!

Here are a few pros and cons for your various sheen options, to help you decide if “flat” truly is the way you want to go…

Flat – Attractive, but not durable.  More absorbant, and easily scuffed and scratched.  Dust can be seen at every direction when using a darker color. Cleaning or rubbing can result in unintentional buffing, which will heighten the sheen and may appear to be imperfections in the finish.  While the above mentioned Flat Out Flat is stunning, and a fantastic option for your matte projects, the formula includes a matting agent which makes it less durable than higher sheen clear coats.

Eggshell – Slightly more durable than flat.  Very soft appearance.  Common on living area walls.

Satin – Most common furniture finish.  Not too glossy, but still a bit of glare for that true finished look.  Not idea if you want the look of “no finish,” like chalk type paint.  Higher sheen makes it more durable and easier to clean than flat or eggshell.

Gloss – Very durable finish, but will easily show imperfections like scratches.

We hope you found these tips and tricks helpful, and encourage you to see options for battling your own DIY woes.  We want to hear about them, too!  Pass them on!

Junk on,

Tara and Becca


* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves.

What does “Low VOCs” Mean?

Today’s topic: VOCs! You often see “Low VOCs”, or “No VOCs” on paint and finish labels, which you know must mean something good, but what does it actually mean?


Volitile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are the solvents that evaporate into the air while the product is drying. Some of the solvents that evaporate can have an odor to them and will effect the quality of the air in your home.

Some paint companies will claim to have no VOCs, which may be true for the base of the paint. However if you add pigments to the paint the pigments are what  contain the VOCs. There are still companies out there that claim to use NO VOC pigments.

Sources of VOCs

What products around our homes have VOCs?

  • Paints
  • Spray paint cans
  • Strippers
  • House hold cleaners and disinfectants
  • Air fresheners
  • Pest Repellents
  • Automotive fuels
  • Hobby Supplies
  • Dry-Cleaned Clothes
  • Pesticides
  • Glues and adhesives
  • Markers
  • Printers inks

Health Risks 

Short Term Exposure Symptoms:

  • Eye, nose throat irritation
  • Headache and or nausea
  • Skin reaction
  • Dyspnea
  • Emesis
  • Epistaxis
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

How To Lower Your Risk Of Exposure:

  • Keep paint cans closed tight and use lower VOC products in your home.
  • If you can, wait until you can open windows and doors to circulate air flow in the home when you are using high VOC products.
  • Wear a mask, read more on our safety when DIYing here and our mask recommendations.
  • Dispose and clean up rags, and brushes properly according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Don’t mix products! If you don’t know what is in the product don’t start a chemistry lab.
  • Make sure your kids and fur babies can’t get into your products!

Other things you can do:

  • Don’t buy more paint than you need, you would be surprised as to how far a pint of paint will go!
  • Contact your local waste company before disposing of any paint. Hint: Some other DIYer or Upcycler might be interested in a good quality paint so you can give it away too!  Better yet, host a paint swap!
  • Share this information!!!

Some additional stats for nerds like us! 

The federal government regulations are 250 grams per liter for flat finishes and 380 per liter for higher gloss finishes. However many companies have chosen to lower their numbers.

In 2007 the EPA estimated that about 65-69 gallons of paint was discarded!  That statistic is alarming; We need to be more conscious of our paint uses! Do you have any ideas on what we can do with left over paint?  Watch for a future post with our thoughts!

Worried about the air quality in your home and want to know how bad it is? There are products that will be able to tell you. Foobot will track the air quality along with humidity and temperature. You can also test your VOC levels with this bad boy.




We have decided to do a series of blogs this summer to really dive in deep on a few topics that we feel need to be explained in more detail.  We are going to try to cover everything from industry standards from the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacture Association to Green Guard Certification.

* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves.

Tune in next week we will show you how to get a durable flat finish.

A Special Mother’s Day

#fostercare #fostermom #adoption #gotchaday #firstmothersday


We are going to break away this week and get personal.  Tara and I (Becca) both have “wear your heart on your sleeve” kind of personalities.  What you see is what you get, and what you get is always our best.  So we decided to treat our blog the same way, and open up about something very big happening in our private lives.  This past year behind all the scenes of The Upcycle Girls, I have been going through an extraordinary adventure.  Tara, being not only a co-worker, but also a close friend and confidant, has witnessed the many phases of this process.  So we decided together that we would like to share with our readers in order connect with you on a new level.

I will keep this as brief as I can, although I could talk for hours about everything I know and have experienced.  If you have questions about foster parenting, adoption, or my story, please ask!  However, please be mindful of my desire to protect my kids’ privacy as they are still too young to make decisions themselves about sharing their stories.

My husband and I had decided to become foster parents toward the end of the summer, 2016, after much discussion and a ton of prayer.  We truly felt it was where we were being led, and still feel that way.  We began the certification process in a southeastern county of Wisconsin, and during our training were repeatedly told not to get our hopes up for adoption.  The purpose of foster care, after all, is reunification.  That is always the first goal, as it should be.  Healing a family and the individuals in it must be maintained as a primary goal for foster care in order for it to be carried out properly.  This was a fact that I struggled with at first, but came to understand and strongly agree with.  (This is one of those things I could talk your ear off about…)  Thus, we emotionally and mentally prepared for our first placement as we started down this new path.


Fast forward to the second week of January, 2017.  I will always remember every detail of this moment.  I was standing tall on a ladder, putting a coat of white paint on a built-in cabinet for an on-site project we had in progress.  My phone rang, and I recognized it immediately as the county.  I answered, and sure enough it was our licencor.  She asked me if we were still interested in adoption, to which I simply replied “yes,” with hardly a breath.  I was informed that there were two children, ages 2 & 3, who needed a foster placement with potential to adopt.  In basic terms: Due to the current status of the case, the county only wanted to place the children with foster parents who were open to ultimately adopting them in order to maintain as much consistency for the kids as possible.  Awestruck (remember, we thought it was unlikely that we’d be able to adopt any kids…), I said I needed to talk to my husband and would need to call them back.  Matt and I talked and knew we had to at least meet the kids.  We did, felt an instant connection, and agreed to accept our first (and only) placement.  Shortly after, we learned that their birth mother was pregnant.  So quite quickly we went from zero, to a third on the way!

The next year was kind of a blur as the kids, Matt and I, developed new relationships and navigated life’s phases as a new unit.  As you may guess, learning how to parent two toddlers overnight: NOT EASY.  Our lifestyle changed REAL quick.  That kind of shock puts a strain on everything and everyone involved.  And then when our baby girl came in July, things took their biggest shift.  While it got crazier and busier, and Matt and I were all of a sudden sleep deprived in addition to everything else, we felt settled; complete. Life was now a very loud, very messy continuous loop of crayons, diapers, stickers, tissues, cheerios, and PJ Masks (anyone else with me on that last one?).  Chaotic, stressful, and perfect.


Earlier this year, parental rights for the kids’ birth parents were officially terminated, and we began the process of adoption.  This month, that adoption became final and our family is finally legally in one piece.  We are very open with our kids about their adoption.  We talk about it, read about it, and celebrate it together every day!  Our hope is that as each of them gets older, they feel comfortable and confident telling their friends and peers about their story.

Honestly, I didn’t know if I would ever be a mom.  I knew I wanted to be a mom.  I knew I could be a mom.  I just didn’t know how or when it would happen.  Now, I know that this was always the path I was meant to take to reach that destination.  These kids were always going to be mine.

adult, affection, baby

Learning to parent each of my three kids separately has been a challenge, each in its own special way.  I am grateful for that, as it will always help us learn and grow together.  My four-year-old “M” has a crazy spirit.  She is one of the most interesting people I know.  She pushes me to my limits, but the same characteristics that push my buttons are what I know will take her far.  She is adventurous, passionate, and so clever.  Three-year-old “R” is a spitfire.  He is impulsive, affectionate, and hilarious.  There is never a dull moment with him, and I am excited to see how his personality both changes and stays the same as he gets older.  Baby “L” is simply a doll.  She is sweet and beautiful.  She is feisty, cheery, and curious.  To have been able to watch her develop from birth has been a gift, and to witness her strength through such a tough beginning to her tiny little life has been humbling.  I can’t imagine my life without these three little trouble-makers.  They make me laugh, cry, and dream.  They make me work harder.  I hope for their best future.  I wish for their pain to vanish.  I look forward to many years of teaching them about “side-of-the-road gold.”  And I will never stop loving them as if they had come from me.

“Not flesh of my flesh, nor bone of my bone, but still miraculously my own.  Never forget for a single minute, you didn’t grow under my heart, but in it.”  #AdoptionCreed


At this point, I do feel the need to note a couple of things:

  1.  Our story is NOT typical.  If you have plans to become a foster parent, work hard on maintaining a realistic and prioritized mindset to focus on the true purpose of foster parenting.  But also be open with your case leads about your hope to adopt.
  2. The fact that we were given three kids so quickly is a testament in my eyes to the great need for foster parents.  If you are interested in fostering a child who needs a home, is a GREAT place to start.  You should also call your local county Health and Human Services for options and direction on what you can do.  If you want to help through other means, send food, clothes, and toys to foster families you know or through your county HHS office – They can also tell you if there is a need for anything specific.  You can also donate to The Coalition, which is a locally based organization who is very involved in the support of foster and adoptive families:  And finally, feel free to ask me questions, or talk to me about your feelings on this post!  I would love to hear your own stories, and connect with you in a new way.


Happy Mothers Day to ALL mamas today:  Biological moms, foster moms, adoptive moms, fur mommies, hopeful moms-to-be, and moms who have experienced loss.  Tara and I are thinking of all of you today.  We are grateful for you, and we admire you.


Junk on,

Becca & Tara


Tune in next week we are going to give you the low down on VOCs.

Picking Neutral Wall Colors

Picking out wall colors can feel just completely overwhelming. Your safest bet for versatility in future redecorating is always neutrals, but there are so many shades of neutrals; Where do you even start? Lucky for you, the UpCycle Girls are here to help! Becca has a background in tbe field of design and has some pointers to help guide you!

What you will need:
Paint book or color swatches
Accent pieces (either picked out or online) that are staples to the space

Tips for narrowing down your options:

Stand in the middle of your space, in natural light if possible. Flip through your options, and pull 5-10 swatches that catch your eye. Hold the colors you like up against a wall. Follow these rules to get the best idea of what the color will look like:

  • Use a white background to help you see the true color. You can use a plain sheet of copy paper if your walls aren’t white.
  • Hold the colors against each wall that will be painted, as the light hits each plain differently.
  • Check the same colors both during the day in natural light, and at night in artificial light. The difference may surprise you!
  • Be mindful of undertones, as they can work to your advantage but also tend to be distracting. The key is knowing what undertones are. When you hold swatches within a book next to each other, it is easier to see these. For example, a simple gray may look more blue or green when held up to another gray. This can help you coordinate with other accent colors within the space. However, be sure to also follow the white background rule above and focus on that, isolating the color(s) you choose when making your final decision. Remember, while a gray tone may look blue next to another gray, it probably won’t look so blue when it stands alone.

You can start eliminating the color chips you don’t like from here. Once you have narrowed it down to less then five, ask your paint store about getting samples.

Paint squares on the wall large enough to get a good idea of the color in the room.  Make sure you walk away and come back to look at the colors through out the day!

More tips…

-Most paint stores carry multiple different paint books. Ask to see a paint book and if you can take it home. You can even buy a book on Amazon!

– Most paint stores can also match colors from other companies. Make sure you use a brand and sheen that you have researched and feel confident about, and then choose the color separately.

-If you have your own paint swatch book, use a rubber band or paper clips to section off the neutrals for easy grabbing each time you need a frame if reference!

You are not alone in feeling confused when choosing a neutral that is perfect for your room. There are endless options, and at some point they tend to all look the same. But if you follow the rules above, you can quickly make a decision and move forward confidently!

And of course, you are welcome to give us a call if you need further assistance. 😉

Junk on,

Tara & Becca


Tune in next week we will be explaining VOCs.

ReStyled Buffet



We were honored when we were approached by a repeat customer to refinish this stunning buffet.  The intricate details adorning the mirror and face frames were begging to be enhanced, and the original hardware was lovely but dull with age.  Becca couldn’t wait to get her hands on this piece!

Our customer originally bought the piece with the intent to refinish it herself.  She got as far as disassembly and stripping before the project got pushed to the back-burner amidst her long list of other to-do’s (We get it, sister! #momlife).  It sat in her pole barn for a bit and then she decided to give the UpCycle Girls a call!

Since the project had already been stripped, we started with some repair, general toning and conditioning.  Check out the miter repair Tara did – Flawless!

The top surface of the chest needed some extra cleaning and conditioning from years of wear, exposure, and overall damage.  But once the wood tone had been evened out, she was ready to go!  We chose Golden Oak water-based Wood Stain by General Finishes for the faces of doors and drawers, work surface, and the adornment on the mirror frame, as well as the original wooden drawer handles.

Once the new stain had set in, we prepared for painting to achieve the two-toned look the customer was aiming for.  First we used General Finishes Stain Blocker to prevent any bleed-through from wood tannins and remnants of old finish.  Next we applied a couple layers of Linen Milk Paint for a soft, clean palette.

The finishing touch was the newly cleaned and sealed set of brass handles on the long drawer.  In the middle of a hectic main floor home remodel, the customer was so excited to see this piece beautifully refinished come back into her home.  And we couldn’t have been more thrilled to do the job for her.  We hope her family enjoys it for years to come!


What pending projects do you have buried in your garage or barn?  What do you plan to do with them?  How can we help?  Ask us about our very affordable design consultations!  Please also send us your before and after shots – we love seeing your “side-of-the-road gold” turn shiny and new again!


Junk on,

Tara and Becca


Next week we will be talking about picking neutral paint colors for your home.



* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves.


Next week we will be giving you insight on picking neutral wall colors.

Sandpaper 101

PSA:  Not all sandpaper is created equal. Today we are going to dive into the different types of sandpaper and abrasives, focusing on what to look for and when to use each kind!

Sandpaper/Abrasive Grits

When talking about sandpaper, woodworkers will mention a number – This refers to the level of grit.  More specifically, the grit indicates the number of particles that are in a square inch of the sandpaper.  The higher the number, the finer the grit.  So 60 grit sandpaper will be much rougher than 220 grit.  The highest we use are our sponge discs that are 5,000, but even higher levels are available.

The level of grit on the sandpaper you choose and how you choose to sand will make a difference on how a finish will take to the wood.  Experienced woodworkers will start with a lower grit and work their way up as part of a multi-step process to properly prep the piece.  For example, one could start with a 80-100 grit, go to 120-150.  If you were to finish it off with too low of a grit and then apply your stain, the wood could absorb more than expected making it harder to manipulate the finish to the desired level of intensity. On the flip side if you sand with too fine of a grit you will close the wood up too tight that it won’t absorb enough of the stain and could become blotchy. The type of wood you are staining will change the grit of sandpaper you use.  Keep in mind that a well used 120 grit sandpaper may act more like a 220 grit.

Prep Sanding

After stripping, it is essential to prep sand before applying your new finish!  Depending on your piece of furniture orbital sanding may make your task easier.  We recommend using 120 grit, and follow up by hand with 220. (also keep in mind the type of wood you are refinishing may change the grit of sandpaper you use)  If you are looking to purchase your first electric sander, Ryobi is Tara’s “go-to” brand for many reasons.  They must develop their products keeping women in mind, because they tend to be lighter weight and fit nicely in our smaller hands!  Ryobi is also more affordable and durable.

Finish Sanding

Finish sanding is also an essential part of your finish work. Scuffing between coats of paint to ensures two things:  First, the latter coat will adhere much better; Second, it is an opportunity to lessen or eliminate the appearance of minor blemishes, peaks or brushstrokes from your former coat so that you are keeping your layers as smooth as possible.  You will also want to do this between topcoat layers for the same reasons, even if you’re spraying as this will even out any off-spray. (Learn more about top coats here)  Aiming to achieve a finish as smooth as possible is just as important to the feel of the end result as the look.  For finish sanding, pads are best; Use fine grit for between paint coats and super-fine for between finish coats. We also love to use Mirka scuff pads or sanding discs between coats, which are long-lasting and a better alternative to using steel wool on a water-based finish.

Types of Sheet Sandpaper/Abrasive  (most commonly used for woodworking) 

  • Garnet – This red-hued gem used to make sheet sandpaper. This type of sandpaper is used for scuff and finish sanding. Garnet comes in a variety of grits depending on the manufacturer.  The abrasive on this sandpaper is easily fractured, continuously forming new cutting edges.  This is our personal favorite.  We buy the Norton brand, which is very durable – One piece can last me through most of our projects and then some.  Even after decent use of a square of 100 grit, it can perform as a second act like a 180 grit or as a heavy duty cleanup tool for things like putty (… because hey, we’re The UpCycle Girls after all!).  Norton is a little bit pricier than other sandpapers, but the durability makes it worth every penny.
  • Aluminum Oxide – Aluminum oxide is a very common abrasive for wood, and very easy to find.  But it doesn’t fracture off like garnet sandpaper, and tends to wear down a bit quicker with use.
  • Silicon Carbide Silicon Carbide is sharper and harder than some types of aluminum oxide. The particles on silicon carbide resemble broken glass. Because it is not a very tough and durable material it is not typically used for raw wood sanding but instead used for finish sanding. Some manufactured types have waterproof backing for wet or oil sanding.

UG Tip!  Folding Sandpaper 

If you are new to our blog, you might not know that Tara’s dad Pete has been refinishing furniture for a LOOONG time!  As Tara tells it:  “One thing he still tells me is ‘Make sure you fold the sandpaper right!’  This is a special little secret of ours, that we have decided to share with you.  Believe it or not, you can get 8 usable sanding surfaces out of a single sheet of sandpaper!

Simply fold the sheet into quarters to create seams, and rip into four equal pieces.  Take each piece and fold them all in half till you have a total of eight pieces.  Trifold each piece with the grit facing out.  This results in an ergonomic piece of sandpaper that will easily fit in your hand with good grip.  Additionally, folding the sandpaper this way prevents it from slipping around on itself.  And bonus:  Each folded edge has sandpaper wrapped around for getting into crevices!

That’s it for today.  Thanks for stopping by!  We want to know:  What type of sandpaper do you use? Did you learn anything new from this post?

Happy Sanding,

Tara and Becca

Tune in next week and see what we do to a buffet!

* This blog contains affiliate links. Affiliate link purchases do not effect your shopping experience or price. However they will kick back small amounts back to me for sharing this information on my blog. We only recommend products that we believe in and use ourselves.