Posts tagged DIY
Clearing the Backyard Pt. 2 with Help from the Pros

After our strenuous attempt at clearing the backyard ourselves, Alex decided to gather quotes from gardeners and hire a team to uproot the rest. They arrived on Sunday morning around 9AM and stayed past 6PM cutting down trees, uprooting stumps, raking dry brush, and tearing down the sheds. Both Chef and Shabu were very concerned.

We’re so impressed by all the natural light pouring into the master bathroom and master bedroom, all because we tore down two overgrown trees. It is a little sad to see some of the greenery disappear, but upon closer inspection, all of it is overgrown, unruly, and sometimes even rotting. We’re excited to replace it with new, healthy plants, veggies, and trees.

The five men worked for 8+ hours and will be back next Sunday to finish the job.

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Clearing the Backyard

The backyard has been a beast of a project looming over us. This weekend, we finally got our hands dirty.

As a reminder, this is what we were dealing with: decades and decades of neglect and overgrown trees. It may look green in these photos, but the entire perimeter is full of piles of dead leaves and dust that have packed down upon themselves to become mulch.

Luckily, Alex and I are both big fans of farm-themed video games like Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon so we were eager to clear the brush and get some veggies planted.

Since Alex got his chainsaw, he’s been cutting down small trees and shrubs, including this one that has been obstructing the view from our living room window.

Then Alex removed the unsightly plastic from the pergola that has been bothering me every day. Now that it’s gone, light is pouring into the bedroom. I can’t wait to remove even more plastic, paint it white, and hang string lights from the top. Not the greatest before/after photo, but the best I could do with dirty hands.

We used pickaxes, shovels, shears, rakes, and brooms to dig into the chaotic mass of roots and literally rip everything out. Many even began to take root in the mulch-y leaf piles. We were half expecting to unearth a dead animal or a gigantic anthill in the process, but luckily it was all just plants. After two days and three trips to Home Depot, we finally saw our progress pay off. Honestly, Alex did all the heavy lifting and I’m so thankful he’s just as excited as me to tackle this project. I could barely open a 25-lb. bag of soil, let alone carry it.

We bought leaf bags from Home Depot and filled up at least 7 bags with all the dead crap. Then we leveled the soil, cut out the bottoms of our old kitchen cabinet drawers (leftover from demolitions), laid down weed fabric, and used the drawers as raised vegetable garden beds.

We planted a kale medley, an Asian veggie medley, rosemary, and jalapeño peppers in the veggie beds, and moved my tomato container next to it. We also got ambitious and bought a lemon tree and avocado tree… which meant we also got a better hose and small drip irrigation system.

We also ordered an extra yard bin from the city to help clear the clutter faster, and our neighbor offered us his two yard bins. That means every week, we’ll been filling 4 yard bins to the brim for garbage day. We’re so tired and and still setting everything up, but we’re excited to start making use of the backyard after all the neglect it has suffered!

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Clearing and Cleaning

We spent another weekend cleaning and organizing, but it feels like we’ve barely made a dent.

After Alex cut down the front trees last weekend, he put the chainsaw to good use again and finally cut down the overgrown bush in our backyard. It’s been bothering us ever since we saw the house for the first time.

We also cleaned the guest room and rearranged the position of Alex’s desk. Now that he’s working from home, we invested in a standing desk and standing mat. The guest room has served as our storage closet ever since we got back from Bali, so we finally cleared my wedding dress off the bed and put our luggage in the garage.

The other desk has been relocated to the foyer to serve as our charging station/“drop station” for keys and sunglasses, and display for our fancy ceramics from Gaya Ceramic in Ubud, Bali.

I also found time to make two loaves of bread. You can read about them more here.

And FINALLY, we put some of the cabinet doors back on. It’s taken us a while because some still need paint, others have missing screws, and there are been other priorities. Now that they’re back on the cabinets, our ongoing kitchen project is 80% complete since we started it last November. Can you tell that the dogs like to watch us as we putter around the house with our errands?

Before & After: Our $150 Interior Entryway Makeover

It was once a breakfast nook, then it become a shoe pile area, and now it’s an organized entryway!


After scouring Pinterest for tons of inspiration photos, we finally had time last weekend to make 2 trips to Home Goods and 1 trip to Target to set the ambiance.

Source 1 / Source 2 / Source 3 / Source 4 unknown

At first, we toyed with the idea of making it a reading nook with small couch and lamp. But with the minimal direct sunlight and distractions from the stop sign outside, we were 99% sure that it wouldn’t make sense for us. After all, that’s what the living room is for. So instead, I focused on finding a nice entry bench where we could sit to put on our shoes and collect mail from the slot in a cute wire basket.

I knew I wanted a bench with clean lines with either a wood or white finish. I found a few options from Amazon, but we couldn’t pass up this bench for $100 from Home Goods.

I also knew I didn’t want a shoe rack, and I loved the look of large baskets to keep our shoes completely hidden. These were $20 each from the kids section at Target.

I styled the bench with a newly potted Swiss cheese plant from our friend Kristy (it’s THRIVING) and a West Elm throw pillow that had been on the couch. We’re also using the bench to store our purses and backpacks until we install coat hooks.

6 DIY Halloween Costume Ideas

Happy October! This is the first year we’ll have trick-or-treaters at our house so we’ve started to get into the festive Halloween spirit. I also recently found these old pictures on my hard drive so let’s take a trip down memory lane!

We’re both big fans of DIY costumes so here are a few quick and easy ideas, just in time for Halloween and perfect for couples.

#1. Monsters Inc.

One of our first dates was at Disneyland for Alex’s birthday in January. I wanted to impress him so I made pretty adorable Sully and Boo hoodies for us. This was about 4 years ago so the details are fuzzy, but here’s a step-by-step.

Supplies for Sully Hoodie

Step by Step | Time Needed: 2 hours

  1. Using mason jars and bowls of various sizes, trace circles in the purple velvet and cut.

  2. Glue to front and back of hoodie. (Bonus points: I put three circles together on the back left to make a Hidden Mickey)

  3. Draw horns on cardboard and cut.

  4. Use the cardboard as a template and trace on gray felt with a 1” seam allowance. Cut and repeat with opposite sides. You should have 4 total pieces.

  5. With opposite sides facing in, sew together but leave about 3 inches open and turn inside out. Before you close the seam, insert the cardboard and cotton balls/stuffing. This will give the horns shape and help them stand up when the hood is worn.

  6. Sew horns onto hoodie. Rawr!

Supplies for Boo Hoodie

Step by Step | Time Needed: 2 hours

  1. Use a mason jar as a template for the eyeball pupil. Trace onto black felt and cut. (2 pieces)

  2. Now find a mason jar that’s about 1-2 in. wider. Trace onto white felt and cut (2 pieces). Repeat on black felt and cut (2 pieces).

  3. Glue the pupils onto the white circles.

  4. With the right sides facing in, sew the white circle to the black circle. Leave about 2 in. to turn inside out and fill with cotton balls/stuffing.

  5. To make the eyeball “bases,” cut approx. 4”x6” pieces from the black felt. Fold and sew into little tubes and attach to the main eyeballs. They should kind of look like lollipops. Eyeball lollipops. Does this even make sense lol.

  6. Sew the entire eyeball situation to the hood. They’ll be a little top-heavy, but that’s ok. It’ll look super cute and floppy.

  7. To make the teeth, draw a rounded rectangle onto the cardboard. Use this as a template and trace onto white felt with a 1/2” seam allowance. Repeat so you have 8 total pieces.

  8. With the right sides facing in, sew the perimeter and turn into out. You’ll end up with 4 teeth total. Sew onto the front of the hood.

  9. To make the “hair,” cut about 10” long strands of gray yarn. Gather about 20 strands and tie together in the middle. Now sew this bundle around the eyeball lollipop base.

  10. Repeat as needed to achieve a mop-like effect. Lol. I think I did it 5 times.

  11. Be cute and make Boo proud!

#2. Star Wars

A few months later, we dressed up as Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper for Yuri’s Night at the California Science Center. This was a super easy costume, and we got so many compliments.

Supplies for Darth Vader

Supplies for Stormtrooper

  • Stormtrooper Helmet

  • Black and white top (I found my crop top on sale at Charlotte Russe for $10)

  • White tutu (I made mine from tulle and an elastic headband, but this tutu would also work great. I also wore this knee-length tutu for our wedding reception).

#3. Unicorn

Same tutu, different costume. I planned this costume the night before Halloween in a frenzy to wear something cute to the office costume party the next day.

Unicorn Supplies

#4. Penguin

This was a spontaneous buy from the CVS in Vegas. It’s a very safe office costume for those moments when you’re not sure how committed your coworkers are going to be on Halloween. Amazon doesn’t have the vest, but they do have this cozy robe.

#5. Tinkerbell

Also a relatively safe go-to that involves yet another tutu.


Tinkerbell Supplies

#6. Grandma

I wore this “costume” for my friend Sharon’s murder mystery holiday party. All you need is glasses, baggy clothes, a walking cane, and a cranky attitude.

Happy Halloween!


HomeDaphne ChanDIYComment
Before & After: Our $200 Exterior Entryway Makeover

After many morning runs around the neighborhood and seeing our neighbors’ landscaping, we knew we needed to step up our game. And with Halloween and the holidays right around the corner, we wanted our home to be a little more presentable. We’ve been talking about it since we moved in May, but now that things have slowed down a bit after the wedding, we finally brought the vision to life.

This was what the entryway looked like when we bought it, during renovations, and post move-in. Not cute.

Our budget was $150. I wanted to keep it modern and low maintenance: a container garden with lush, low-light plants in black pots and white gravel (in anticipation that we’ll be eventually painting the exterior of the house gray).

Pinterest gave me a couple ideas [source 1, source 2 unknown]

Our first haul from Home Depot cost $160. This included 9 bags of white marble chips, 7 low-light plants, 1 large bag of potting soil, and 5 containers.

Plants purchased included a snake plant, ivy, and croton petra, to name a few.

We started by shoveling the layers of dust and debris into the garbage can. And let me tell you, it was dusty. We had to wear goggles and face masks. In the process, we unearthed nails, glass, and seashells — remnants of the previous owners’ attempt at landscaping.

Then we leveled the dirt with a rake and Alex power washed the dusty sides of the house and walkways. After it dried, he placed a layer of cardboard over the dirt to keep the dust a little more controlled. And then he poured all nine bags of gravel over it. It only covered half of the entryway area so it was time for another Home Depot run! This second trip cost about $60 (9 more bags of gravel, another bag of potting soil, and 4 more plant containers). So in total, we spent just a little over $200 and 3 hours.


About a third of the plants were ones we already owned and propagated, like the succulents and Queen of the Night leaves that my dad gave me in July. We still need more gravel for a tiny bit of the walkway and the curb area, but we’re so happy with the improvement!

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DIY Stamped Canvas Bags

We’ve started packing a suitcase for all the wedding items we need to bring over to Bali: placecards, favors, accessories, etc. We’re also making welcome bags for our guests to fill with small personal items like individually packaged Tylonel, Pepto-Bismol, and makeup remover wipes.

Some people go crazy elaborate with their welcome bags, but we wanted to keep it simple and affordable. Luckily, we had these small canvas bags from Alibaba stashed away from a previous project. Alex used our stamp kit and ink to customize our names on the welcome bags and voila!

DIY Stamped Canvas Bags

Time needed: 30 mins. for 50 bags



  1. Choose your letters and tape them together in a row. You might need to get creative here for words or phrases that have repeating letters. For example, we stamped “ALEX & D” first, then went back and taped together “APHNE.”
  2. Practice on a piece of paper to make sure they’re aligned properly (some letters may not hit the ink even if you’re think they’re straight).
  3. Once you’re happy, stamp away on the canvas bags!
  4. Let dry and feel proud.
More Moving, More Painting, More Housewarming

Two weeks ago, we were in Bangkok and Bali... followed by a week of jet lag.

A few things on our packing list that we'll need for our wedding in September:

This week, we’re organizing and cleaning the house at full force because we have family coming over for Alex’s brother’s wedding this weekend!

After spending Saturday morning renting a U-haul to move the last of Alex’s things out of his mom’s house, we unloaded it in our garage and then mustered up the energy to paint the guest bedroom.

Then at night, Leslie and Matt came over with Rhys for a steak dinner. Since we were also dogsitting Charlie, we had a new record of 4 dogs in the house!


On Sunday, my coworkers/friends Rachel and Léna came over for lunch: homemade kalbi, kimchi fried rice, dumplings and noodles, and cheese corn.

Then we got our ears pierced! Because it will be too hot and humid to wear a necklace comfortably in Bali, I plan to wear earrings to balance out the look. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for the past 6 months, and it was the perfect time to finally get it done!

Tonight, we need to hand-wash the sofa covers and blanket (we don’t have a washer/dryer and it’s full of dog fur), put the mattress and sheets in place in the guest bedroom, and start priming the guest closets. I don’t think we’ll have time to apply a coat of paint on top of it, but we’re happy as long as the icky stains are covered up.

Painting the Living Room

We made a ton of progress this weekend. If you'll recall, I made a pretty aggressive painting schedule to keep us on track.

Our Saturday morning started with an appointment with ADT to set up security sensors around the house. It took way longer than expected (a little over 5 hours), so we got a late start with painting. Luckily, we had taped off all the corners and floors during the week at night, so once the ADT dude left, we set up the painter's plastic and got to work with the remaining daylight we had.

Alex, his mom, and Kristy helped with the living room and dining area. Months ago, we chose a Valspar paint and primer from Lowe's in Silver Dust. We're keeping the baseboards in Ultra Pure White to match the kitchen. Since the paint is quite thick and we have a lot of other things to still take care of, we're only applying a single coat and re-applying any small touch-ups after it dries (unlike the kitchen where we did two coats on the walls and two coats on the cabinets because we wanted it to withstand more wear and tear).

Meanwhile, I was in the bedroom working on the wardrobe closets. The sooner we can get them cleaned and painted, the faster we can unpack our clothes and start getting organized. The wardrobes are in the same condition as the kitchen cabinets: worn, stained, and dirty. So just like the cabinets, we removed the doors and hinges so I could apply a coat of primer. We also had to remove the nails and staples from the bottom of the wardrobes because they used to have carpet inside. Then I painted a layer of Ultra Pure White.

Tonight, I'll work on the upper cabinets and add a layer of clear coat to the wooden closet bar so we don't get any splinters when we hang our clothes. We're also going to start taping off the hallway so we can get that painted this week.

How to DIY a Compost Bin

One of the first things we did when we moved in was create a DIY compost bin! I know it sounds strange, but there are so many dead leaves cluttering the backyard that I wanted to repurpose them for something useful, especially since we plan to make raised vegetable beds in the backyard. Also, compost bins are a great way to keep stuff out of landfills.

The City of LA sells compost bins for $20 at their mulch workshops in Griffith Park. Costco also sells them in the range of $100+. Since we neither have the time nor money, we decided to DIY our own for $14. Ultimately, there are 3 basic elements for compost to thrive: moisture, oxygen, and warm temperature.

We started off by buying a big, 32 gallon trash bin from Lowe’s. I gave it a big hug, then Alex drilled holes along the bottom, sides, and top. The more holes it has, the better the materials will aerate and decompose.

Ideally, the compost bin should be filled with 50% brown materials (leaves, dirt, sawdust), and 50% green material (grass clippings, veggie scraps, tea bags, coffee grinds).

So we shoveled heaps of dead, dry, dusty leaves for our first layer. We have TONS of this. We barely made a dent in the backyard. I smooshed the leaves down with the shovel to make room for more and help shred them. After the bin was filled halfway, I brought the hose over and added water until it was moist, turning the leaves with the shovel as I went.

The next layer were grass clippings. Again, we have tons so I put the gardening gloves on and proceeded to rip out the dying grass by the fistfuls. I know I looked crazy, and I couldn’t help but think of all the little communities I was uprooting (a la A Bug’s Life) who will now enjoy their new home in our rich compost bin. I topped it off with soil, then added a little water and kept filling until the layer was ¼ deep.

The final ¼ of the bin was for veggie scraps. I had saved the pulp from our juicer along with eggshells and veggie stems from our dinner. Then I closed the lid, and now we wait for it to heat up and decompose. In a few weeks, I’ll use a shovel to turn the compost. The lid to our garbage can also locks, so some people prefer to put it on the ground and roll it around.

I know there will be lots of bugs and icky things, but I’m ok with it because it will all be to help the materials break down into rich compost!

How to Add a Clear Coat Finish to a Front Door

Last month, we bought our front door from Urban Doors. After placing our order, it would take an estimated 3-4 weeks to custom make. Last weekend, our contractor was able to pick it up so we spent this weekend (my birthday weekend!) applying a clear coat finish to it — a $400 cost that we were able to pull off for $47.

Yep, Urban Doors was going to charge $400 for the clear coat! Since our door doesn't receive any sunlight and won't require weatherproofing, we knew it would be easy and felt comfortable doing it ourselves. That said, we did some research but approached it with a "figure-it-out" mindset, for the most part.

While feeling a little overwhelmed by all our options at Home Depot, we did a quick search on Minwax's website to figure out which clear coat would fit our project best. We narrowed it down to their products designed for exterior doors which pointed us to the Water Based Helmsman® Spar Urethane (Clear Satin). We bought 1 gallon and got to work using a high quality synthetic brush.

I lightly sanded the surface with a sheet of super thin sandpaper, just to make sure the surface was smooth and even. I decided not to use the sanding block because it put too much friction on the surface. After sanding, I wiped down the surface with a damp cloth and poured the clear coat in a paint tray. I applied a thin coat, making sure to cover all the crevices and not agitate too many bubbles (thick coats take longer to dry and are more likely to be uneven and attract dust). It felt a lot like applying a nail polish topcoat!

I could instantly see a great improvement. With the clear coat, the wood became much richer and glossier. I'm glad we didn't stain the door beforehand because the clear coat brought out a much deeper color than I expected. Applying the clear coat took about 45 mins., and we waited 2 hours for it to dry. Then, we flipped the door over and I repeated the process. We left it overnight to dry, then came back the next day to sand it down and apply another coat to each side. I even had enough time to apply a final 3rd coat to one side. Ultimately, I'll do the same to the other side, most likely after it's installed this week.

The final product after 3 coats.

All in all, the project took about one weekend to complete (keep in mind that we still aren't living in the house, and we let the door dry overnight). We're so happy with the results! It's smooth, glossy, and really brings out the beautiful wood grain. Plus it saved us hundreds of dollars!

Petscaping Plans for the Dog Walkway

Once we move in, we’ll be turning one of the walkways on the side of the house into a dog run for Chef and Shabu. The house isn’t fully fenced off yet either so we’ll keep them on leashes for now.

Here’s what we’re working with.

But after we level out the walkway with soil/sand, we’ll place concrete slabs or deck tiles and fill in the gaps with gravel/river rocks. There’s also a concrete wall that I’d like to paint black. And we already made sure to install a motion sensor light to make it a nice designated spot for them to do their business. We haven’t brought them to the house yet because it’s still littered with glass and nails. We can’t wait to see their reaction once we move in!