DIY PROJECTS

DIY Counter Height Desk System
Don't let power tools intimidate you.  Once you start to use them, they get really addicting really fast.  My first build was a few years ago: a simple cupcake stand for my sister-in-law's bridal shower.  I've been hooked ever since.  Y'all, I had no idea what I was doing when I first started. But the sisters at Shanty 2 Chic, Ana White and a ton of other Pinterest contributors all had tutorials that taught me about the wide range of tools out there and different building methods, and here I am four years later with over half of the furniture in our house coming from my makeshift garage workshop. Rule #1: Don't let power tools intimidate you. Rule #2: Be safe.  Always wear protective gear and be aware of your surroundings during a build. That said, here is the tutorial for building the L-shape desk system I made for our home office. This has a lot of steps, but is a really simple concept and easy to build. The entire desk is built out of 2x4s making it super sturdy and inexpensive!!! The system is made of two desks that move independently of one another.  As both pieces are built exactly the same way (except one desk is 12" shorter length-wise than the other), this tutorial is for the longer desk piece in this system.  To make the second desk piece, subtract 12" from all lengthwise measurements.  Your width and height pieces will remain the same. The dimensions of this desk are 60" l x 20" w x 38 1/2" h. This is a modification of this desk I found on Ana-White's blog. Be sure to check out her site. She's an incredible inspiration!

DIY Counter Height Desk System

What you'll need:

2x4s 2 1/2" pocket hole screws Kreg Jig Miter saw Drill Clamps (right angle and C) Orbital sander Paint/Stain of your choice   Start by building the sides of your frame.  I cut two pieces of 2x4s at 37" each (these will be the legs) and one piece at 13" (this will connect the legs). DIY Counter Height Desk Using your Kreg Jig (or mini in my case), drill four pocket holes into the 13" piece of 2x4.  Clamp this piece in place between the two 37" 2x4s and connect with 2 1/2" pocket hole screws. DIY Counter Height Desk Each side will resemble an upside down U.  Next, cut another 13" piece of 2x4 for each of your side frames and connect them via pocket hole screws.  I placed this piece 12" below the top of the frame.  Once connected, you will have one piece resembling an A (see below).  Repeat this step to form the other side of your frame. DIY Counter Height Desk Here is where your right angle clamp comes in.  You can do this without one, but you will definitely need an extra set of hands.  Measure and cut two 57" pieces of 2x4.  These two pieces will complete the apron of the desk.  Drill two pocket holes in either side then, using your right angle clamp, connect the front and back aprons to the side pieces from the previous step. DIY Counter Height Desk Finally, cut a third 57" piece and connect it to the back side of the frame using 2 1/2" pocket hole screws.  Again, I chose to place mine 12"  below the top of the frame.  The key is to ensure these secondary supports line up with their counterparts on each side.  Once you've connected this piece, your frame is finished! DIY Counter Height Desk Now on to the fun part: the planked top! I used my miter saw to cut 6 2x4s down to 62" lengths which gave me a 1" overhang on either side of the desk. Once they're all cut, drill four pocket holes evenly spaced on the back side of each 2x4 and lay them out topside down, side by side. DIY Counter Height Desk You can use a straight edge clamp to hold all six pieces together or, rather than buy one, you can use C-clamps and connect two at a time.  Either way, connect them with 2 1/2" pocket hole screws pocket hole screws and repeat until all six of your boards are connected as one piece. DIY Counter Height Desk The final step is to connect the top to your frame.  Using your kreg jig, drill one pocket hole on either side of the front and back of your frame (that's four total).  Line the top of the frame with wood glue. Lay your planked top flat, bottom side up, turn your frame upside down and center it over your top. Put 2 1/2" screws through those four pocket holes you drilled in the frame to connect the frame to the top, and your desk is built! Fill in your pocket holes with wood filler and then sand down the entire thing to give it a smooth finish.  If you are staining your desk, this will help the wood to take the stain more evenly.  Finish your desk with the paint or stain of your choice.  I chose Rustoleum bright white enamel for the frame (super easy to wipe down) and mixed Minwax Weathered Oak and Classic Gray to stain the top. DIY Counter Height Desk Now sit back and enjoy your creation! DIY Counter Height Desk DIY Counter Height Desk DIY Counter Height Desk DIY Counter Height Desk I hope you enjoyed this tutorial.  We'd love to know how yours turned out! Jess Signature  
Healthy Pancakes Recipe: Kid Friendly!
My toddler started out eating everything, just like her 8 month old baby brother does now. Somewhere along the line she started getting more and more picky and preferring sweets and junk. Once in a while those things are ok, but especially for the first meal of the day, it would be nice to give our kids a healthy, unprocessed, sugar free start to their day. Enter these delicious, wholesome pancakes! The original recipe came from one I found on Pinterest (of course!) and you will find it here. I've altered the recipe slightly to fit my preference and my pantry. I never keep applesauce in the house so that has been replaced by nut butter. These yummy pancakes are sweet enough to eat without syrup, but can be eaten with it as well. I hope your pickiest eaters will enjoy these as much as mine do! image2 Eggs 1 (ripe) banana 1/2 c oats 1/4 c nut butter 1 tsp vanilla 1/2 tsp cinnamon Blend oats in food processor/blender until ground. Add banana in pieces, blend again. Transfer to bowl and add remaining ingredients. Be sure to mix well until everything is combined. If it seems too thick, you can add a little milk. Pour onto a hot griddle or frying pan, greased with butter. Once I've poured it onto the pan, I use my spoon to spread the batter around a little in a circular motion so that it doesn't pile up in the middle. The batter tends to be slightly thicker than the average pancake batter so this step is necessary if you want flatter pancakes. Once the edges begin to get firm, it's ready to flip! My favorite part of this recipe is that I can serve it to my family with peace of mind that I am nourishing their bodies and fueling them for the busy day ahead. I can't really say the same for the white flour & sugar version. Let me know if you try them! Good luck! Amanda Signature
DIY Custom Tote Bags
Who couldn't use an extra tote bag? We are pretty much always in need of extra totes for groceries, diapers, travel bags, et cetera. When we started Salt & Life Blog, we knew we wanted to offer totes for a couple of reasons including giveaways and, of course, so we'd have something handy to represent S&L as well as carry all of our notebooks, iPads, and other miscellany for our strategy meetings. But we tend to do things the hard way, and white or natural totes just weren't in our vision. We were thinking more along the lines of mint and coral, and since we couldn't find them for a reasonable price anywhere, in true Salt & Life fashion, we decided to make them ourselves! After hand-drawing the first few totes, we decided screen printing the design was much more time and cost-effective for us, so all of the totes listed in our shop are screen printed and hand-dyed. It's kind of the best of both worlds! And just in case you aren't into the color thing, we do have some available in natural. If you're ambitious, though, and want to try to make your own, read on! Signature S&L Tote Bag - Coral

DIY Custom Tote Bag

You will need: A tote bag Fabric dye Tongs A bucket or galvanized tub Water Fabric marker Materials To start, be sure you read the instructions on the back of your dye bottle.  For our coral totes, we used a mixture of sunshine orange and petal pink dye with a drop of tan. For our mint totes, we used teal dye with a drop of tan. After reading the instructions, prepare your buckets of hot water as necessary. If you are only dyeing one tote, you'll only need enough water to fully immerse the bag. We were dyeing about 15 bags at once in two different colors, so we pulled out a couple of galvanized tubs, lined them with plastic sheeting and filled them with hot water. JES_9191 Side note: My countertops ended up dyed mint thanks to some holes in the bottom of the galvanized tubs that we weren't aware of... Thankfully, Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser came to the rescue, but after this huge flub, we would strongly suggest not dyeing your tote in the kitchen! Pour your dye into the hot water per the instructions on the box/bottle (you can use liquid or powder - we used both, and love the way it turned out). Get out your tongs and stir until all of the dye has mixed with the water. It was apparent after we dipped the first tote that our dye was much too concentrated, but rather than mix the solution again, we decreased our dipping time. Instead of the suggested 10-30 minutes, we dipped each bag for 30 seconds, flipping once and submerging for another 30 seconds. That's a drastic time difference, but we wanted a significantly paler color than the recommended 10 minutes produced. The easiest way to dip your tote is to lay it flat on top of the water and push it down with your tongs. Once it's submerged completely, move it back and forth in the water to ensure the dye covers the fabric evenly. Lift the tote out using your tongs and lay it flat again, this time upside down in the water. Swirl it back and forth with your tongs for 30 seconds again, then remove and lay flat on plastic sheeting or a garbage bag. It's not glamorous, but that's what we had on hand, and it worked! JES_9199 JES_9198 Once your bag is dyed, allow it to lay flat for 10 minutes or so. Before washing and drying our totes for printing, we put them in the sink and ran hot water then cold water over them, ringing them out in between temperature changes. If you don't have a stainless steel sink or have a lighter colored sink, we would strongly suggest that you do this outside with a hose as the dye will leave a stain. After wringing out as much water as you can, place your tote in the washer on normal cycle, then dry per the care instructions on your tote. JES_9202 Next comes the hand stenciled design! This is honestly the easiest part. Find the design you want, and enlarge it to the proper size in word or Photoshop, whatever is your program of choice. Now, just print it out and cut it out. It helps to use an X-acto knife if you have one, but scissors could work as well. Just make sure that you allow for bits that may be "floating", such as the middle of an "O" or "A". Leave part of the line attached to that middle portion and you can fill it in after you've traced the rest. Hope that makes sense! You may understand better once you start to do it yourself. JES_9205 Measure out where you want your design, hold your paper steady and grab that fabric marker! Easy peasy. We love tracing for that illusion that we are amazing artists (although Jess has an amazingly steady hand on her own - Amanda not so much)! Don't worry about perfection, a little blurring around the edges gives it a vintage sort of look. JES_9211Fill in your outline, and you're done! You have your very own, inexpensive personalized tote. These make great gifts for teachers, friends and new mommies (filled with wipes, diapers, pacifiers, and other baby supplies). The possibilities are as limitless as your imagination! Signature S&L Tote Bag - Coral & Mint Signature S&L Tote Bag in Coral We love how these turned out, and had a lot of fun playing around with designs for our graphic. We'd love to see yours! Post photos of your finished product to our Facebook page, tag us on Instagram or comment below to let us know how your DIY tote turned out, and be sure to stop by the shop to pick up one of our signature S&L totes for yourself!    
Simple & Easy: Cold Brew Coffee
youve_got_mail_17I'll never forget the first time I realized that caffeine, in the form of coffee, was in fact addictive. It was Tom Hanks in You've Got Mail telling his business partner they would sell "legal addictive stimulants" in their massive book store. Now, I was 14 years old, so cut me some slack for not realizing it before that. (Ha!) All that to say...I'm pretty sure I am in fact addicted to coffee. The problem is I don't just want folgers brewed coffee. I want iced coffee. And not just any iced coffee. I want an iced cold brew with vanilla and cream, just like I order at Starbucks and any other coffee shop. And that becomes quite expensive, even at the $2-3 price tag. The other problem I have is that homemade NEVER tastes the same and it takes so much more work. I wanna pull up to the drive thru window in my bleary-eyed state and have the cold, delicious, creamy coffee placed into my hands ready to sip. So my goal here was to find a recipe, simple, easy, and just as good if not better than the kind I can buy ready made. After a little bit of trial and error, here is the recipe and process I have found to be the best:JES_9655 1/2 cup of coarsely ground coffee 2 cups of filtered water (double or triple that recipe as you like) Combine in a pitcher or French press (I recommend a French press. You can purchase the one I used at Ikea for 8.99).  Stir, so that all of the coffee grounds get wet.JES_9671 Let sit for 24 hours minimum, at room temperature. Press down the filter on your French press to filter our the coffee grounds. This is the simplest way to do it. If you find yourself with out a French press, you can use a sieve with muslin/cheese cloth or paper towels to catch the grounds. Place the brewed coffee in the fridge until cold. Now you're ready to go! But this is the tricky part. In order to prepare it the way you like best, you may have to do some additional trial and error. I'll tell you what worked best for me: Fill your cup all the way up with ice. Pour coffee over ice (coffee is fairly concentrated and depending on the coffee you used, you may need a tad bit of filtered water added to dilute it. This is up to you!). Add a splash of half and half. Add 1-2 tablespoons of vanilla syrup. Stir, add a straw if you like, and done!!!edit The hardest part about this is the 24 hour waiting period. But once it's done, there is no waiting! And the trick now will be to brew more while I still have some in the fridge! Proper preparation prevents...waiting for coffee. I think that's how that phrase goes. Amanda Signature