Category Archives: How To

Can I Paint A Grill?

My rule about Craigslist finds: If I can clean it, paint it, or put it outside, it’s okay get it from Craigslist. If it’s fabric, alive, or requires the use of a crane, I cannot get it from Craigslist.

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Do a lot of people have cranes? I just have a hatchback.

I don’t haunt the free section of Craigslist, but occasionally I take a peek and look for my next re-purposing project. When I saw the curb alert with my future grill, I immediately jumped in the car and picked it up. Crazy? Yes. Necessary? Yes.

Parked in the suburbs and wheeling a filthy grill into my car, I had no idea if I could actually clean or paint it. I assumed I could, but I felt really creepy standing in front of a stranger’s house while I tried to Google it, so I took it home and hoped for the best.

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The good news is that everything (though dirty) seemed to be intact.

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All of the fixtures worked, the hardware seemed relatively new, and there were no unintentional holes.Still, this was one of those projects that made Z narrow his eyes and wonder if he married a crazy person. “How did you get it in the car?” he asked.

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Very quickly and very awkwardly.

Sanity in question, we began the cleaning process.

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Whether we could make this part work was the deciding factor for continuing, and with lots of soap we deemed that yes, this grill could in fact be sanitary enough to prepare food.

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Though it actually looked really nice once we got all of the dirt off, I still wanted to paint it. We walked into Ace and as it turns out, people actually paint grills all the time. My question was not a new one, and the attendant looked at me like I was asking if fish could swim.

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One can of the black heat-resistant paint covered our whole grill (and we had some leftover).

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With spray paint, it’s better to do a few thin layers than one gloppy, runny layer, so have patience if you attempt this at home.

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You want a nice, even finish so it appears shiny, especially if you have to photograph it for your blog.

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And if your neighbors wonder why you’re taking pictures of your grill, just stare right back at them with a creepy grin on your face. That’ll teach them to leave you alone.

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We love sitting on our patio and firing up the grill, and it’s even better knowing that we didn’t have to spend $80 on a comparable one. Always, always look at what things could be (not just what they are) and be willing to get your hands a little dirty. You can get all kinds of things for (almost) free this way.

Total project cost: $6 for paint
Total time investment: 2 hours

Can you paint a grill? Absolutely. And it will be glorious.

(If you can’t wait for porch weather, it’s beautiful in Vegas right now. Just sayin’.)

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How I (Finally) Learned to Love Running.

Running always seemed stupid to me, and I could never figure out why anyone did it on purpose. “I run if I’m being chased,” I’d joke, and I maintained a healthy weight by counting calories (drinking whiskey instead of beer) and stopping by the occasional yoga class.

And then I received a very unwelcome diagnosis.

After four surgeries and a painful tissue expansion reconstruction, my doctor cleared me for “light jogging,” but not yoga.  And I thought she was fucking nuts. Really? You want me to bounce this shit around? Have you lost your mind? But even though I wanted to do yoga I couldn’t. I had zero upper body strength left after all of the muscle-rearranging. I couldn’t chaturanga if I was being… chased.

But I knew I had to do something. Not being able to exercise taught me how much I was taking my body for granted, and sitting around takes its toll on your body and your mind. Finally one sunny afternoon I put on my embarrassingly-untouched Nikes and started the Couch-to-5k app on my phone.

The first day of the program has you jog for 60 seconds with 90-second walking breaks, and I fought for every single step. That first “run” sucked, I’m not going to lie, but when I started my walk home, I burst into tears (for the millionth time in 2013. God, I was a mess.). I couldn’t believe I did it. After all the shit cancer threw at me, I was doing something I never thought I could do. And maybe I was being chased, by all of the fear, insecurity and body shame I’d been holding onto. Maybe I was running from it, but I didn’t care.  It felt really, really good to take back control of my body.

And yeah, sometimes I was slow. Sometimes it hurt, but every time I got a side stitch I reminded myself to breathe. That this is nothing compared to the first time I put on pants after my mastectomy. That I am capable of a lot more than I think.

I stuck with the program, one step at a time, until I ran my first 5k. I was 26 years old, and 3.1 miles was the farthest I’d ever run in my life. I got Z to join with me and we became one of those annoying couples who run together, and then talk about running (ew, gross), and buy things to wear for running.

It took a life-threatening illness for me to realize that exercise is a gift you give to yourself, not a punishment for overeating. I can’t believe the way I used to treat my body, and I’m so glad I have the chance to change it.

This year I’ve challenged myself to run 500 miles, and I’d love for you to join me. Outrun whatever it is that’s been holding you back.

If you’re one of those people who thinks you could never do it, please believe, if I can do it, you can. You absolutely can. You don’t have to go fast. You just have to go.

Ready to get started? Here’s what to do.

1. Download the Couch to 5k app
2. Grab a buddy (someone who will hold you accountable and vice versa)
3. Be prepared for a few awesome days, and a few shitty days. Even a bad workout is a workout, so be good to yourself.
4.. Get a good playlist. Check out the Cassie Cares facebook page for an hour-long Spotify playlist of my favorite workout songs.

One step at a time, you got this.

Take Care,

Cassie

Give Old Shoes a Second Chance (For $1)

Two things I like:

1. Wearing stylish clothing and accessories.
2. Being mindful about how much I’m consuming.

Tough to do in a world where we just throw everything away and fashion changes seasonally. Still, I always try to repurpose clothes before I donate them because I feel it’s important to love what you have, instead of always looking for more.

If you get your hands dirty (or covered in glue) you can make make your wardrobe last at least an extra season or two, and it’s cheap to boot.

I took three pairs of shoes that were perfectly fine (other than the fact that I’m tired of them) and gave them a little pick-me-up.

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Pretty cool, huh? Keep reading if you’d like to see how I did it.

First, here’s a picture of what you’ll need.

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Studs (these were half-off clearance price at H&M. I paid $1 for two packs) , whatever gems you’d like to use in adorning your shoes (my sequins are extras from a party dress, and gems are from a pair of broken shoes), and super glue (easier to work with than hot glue). I kept needle-and-thread and scissors handy, though I didn’t use them.

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Arrange your studs to see what you like on the shoe, and then press firmly and evenly to get the studs to go through the shoe. Make sure you consider your toes!

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See those spikes? Make sure they’re folded against the top of the shoe so you don’t fill your shoe with blood (Romy and Michelle, anyone?). I broke a few nails during this step. Please use caution while folding the spiky end of the studs!

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For the nude shoes I used sequins and gems, then mixed with a couple of leftover studs. Patent leather is really tough to poke through, so it was a lot easier to embellish these using mainly glued-on gems and sequins.

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That’s it!

Total cost:

$1 for studs at H&M
(I had the gems,glue and sequins handy, and you can definitely find these on the cheap)
30 minutes
2 broken nails

I hope you get a chance to try it yourself! If you’re trying it and have questions about the process, please ask in the comments.

Take Care,

Cassie

Party’s Over, Now Clean Up Your Life.

No one ever makes a new year’s resolution to get more organized, but everyone should. Now that the holidays are over and you’ve (hopefully) put your tree away, it’s time to assess the damage. Having a streamlined, organized home can help you arrive on time (no more ‘Where are my keys/shoes?!’ moments), get more done, and perhaps even sleep a little better (less clutter, less stress).

You might say I have OCD. I say I take pride in a functional home. Tomato, potato.

The thing is, I don’t spend hours every day cleaning my house. I just set myself up so that the place stays nice, and that, my friends, is the ticket to a streamlined home.

Not all of us can afford professional organizers, and if you’re like me, you’re never going to pay for a California Closet. At least, not until Sallie Mae has her way with us for a few more years.

So I’ve compiled a couple of cheap (or free) ways to tidy up the place and make your life a tad more efficient, even in small spaces. No more digging through the junk drawer that has become your life, or wondering where the hell the scissors are. Here are a few of my favorite methods.

1. Rethink Your Recyclables.

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I cut the top off of this spinach box to contain the contents of the junk drawer, separating them from important documents. You can also use these to store scarves, etc. when you’re not using them in the summer.

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We always end up with an abundance of beer boxes. They’re perfect for under-sink storage. We store Moxie’s dog brushes, treats, and medicine this way, and it’s easy to grab when we go on road trips with the pup.

2. Look at What Things DO, Not Just What They Are.

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I actually found the above tie rack in a closet from three apartments ago, and then I stole it. Those previous tenants had no idea that it would be one of my most useful possessions, or that it would actually be used to store jewelry. See that star holding the earrings? That’s an old box lid that I repurposed.  Below, I use a belt holder to hang dresses and camisoles. Easy peasy.

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3. Display Your Storage In a Creative Way.

We moved in and realized our kitchen had two drawers. Two. Sometimes your utensils just have to be part of the design. This vase was a thrift store find, and we use it to keep cooking utensils handy.

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4. Look Up, and Store “Like” Things Together.

Again, I was so excited that we found a place that I forgot to notice that the kitchen couldn’t accommodate our stuff. I am She Who Gets Rid of Things, so the fact that our stuff didn’t fit means this kitchen is, in a word, miniscule. Luckily it had a gap between the ceiling and the cupboards, so we filled it with displayed storage. I love having fresh flowers, so I wasn’t willing to part with our vases. By putting clear glass and chrome-painted items together, this method looks intentional, which is what you’re going for with displayed storage.  (The spray painted antlers and branches are just for looks. We have no use for those.)

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5. Think of How You Use the Space, and Go From There.

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I’m not sure how much my in-laws will appreciate a picture of their outdoor/utility closet on the internet, sorry guys. But it does serve to demonstrate all of the aforementioned methods. By thinking about how the space was used, adding recyclables (a cut-open shoe box), and maximizing the vertical storage with like-items, they’re now able to use the space to dress/undress for skiing and they can store things they don’t need all the time (vacuums, winter gear).

Alright, muchachos, go forth and clean up your spaces. I’ll be here if you need support (or empty beer boxes. Seriously we have a ton).

 

Take Care,

Cassie

Super Simple Ways to Make Your Guests Feel Welcome

Remember when having guests meant that everyone drunkenly stumbled into your house and passed out wherever there was an open surface? And remember that time that Jen woke up on a yoga mat with a baguette in her arms? What about the rather unfortunate chapstick mishap? Or the time Jer woke up with bright yellow curry-pants?

Though the days of mystery bruises, drunken curry and baguettes aren’t totally behind us (I hope), it’s time for us to consider that our overnight guests might want more than leftover booze and whatever glass is clean enough to drink out of.

You don’t have to move apartments so you can have a guest room, and you don’t have to get all Martha on your place. No need to get crazy. Below is a list of a few simple touches that can make your friends feel right at home.

1. If you do nothing else, give your guest the gift of clean linens. Your friends love you, but they don’t want to share your drool-covered pillow case. Have an extra set of linens in your closet, and keep a linen spray (like this one that you can make yourself) on hand to freshen up clean sheets that have been in the closet a while.

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2. Offer a clean towel, a fresh razor, a personal loofah, and a bit of toothpaste. I keep a stockpile of inexpensive bath poufs and disposable razors on hand so my guests don’t have to feel weird about using ours. Same with the towel. And people always forget toothpaste.

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3. While we’re on the topic, wipe down your shower. Showers can get mildewy, and that’s fucking gross. It might not bother you, but it’s really as simple as spraying a little bleach or vinegar solution and wiping with a paper towel. Your guests will appreciate it.

4. Tidy up within reason. Our guest room also functions as Z’s office, storage and music room, and we’re not going to pretend like it doesn’t. Again, your friends know you, and they’re going to wonder where all your shit is if you hide it. We’re not going to iron a wrinkly duvet or hide our mismatched rugs, but we will offer a cozy, comfortable place to sleep among Z’s treasures (we use one of those queen-size aerobeds that looks like a real bed when you dress it up. Cheap and comfortable).

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5. Ask what your guest wants for breakfast. Your travel-weary friend will appreciate a little normalcy after a long time on the road. Grabbing a little oatmeal isn’t going to break the bank, and it’s an easy way to show that you care.

And that’s it. Seriously. Notice how I didn’t say “make a four-course meal, bake cookies, and hire a cleaning service.” It’s really just a few small, inexpensive touches that go a long way toward earning you the title of “Fabulous Host.”

Take Care,

Cassie

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Should You Get A Dog?

Recently a friend asked what kind of dog Moxie is (he’s a bichon poo). She’s thinking of  adopting one for herself. I truly hope she finds her baby, and I think she’s going to be a great dog-mom.

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Later I was perusing the “free” section of craigslist (love me some curb alerts) and noticed that people constantly give up their dogs for non-reasons. “Moving” and “had a baby” are two of the most popular (does California not allow dogs? Are you worried that you’ll feed your baby to your pet?).

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This got me thinking. Who should be a dog owner? How do you decide if you’re going to be a committed dog parent and avoid being that Craigslist asshole?

I’ve compiled a list of qualifiers to help you decide if being a dog-parent is for you.

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1. Does your apartment allow pets? (Confession, when I got Moxie, I hid him from my landlord for six months before I moved. I don’t recommend this.)

2. Can you work remotely, bring your dog to work, or go home at lunch to let him out?

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It’s pretty cruel to adopt an animal and then leave it alone for 40 hours a week. Do you really think you can leave all day, let him out when you get home, and then expect him to sleep when you do? Or listen to you?

Are you a patient person? Look, housetraining a dog takes a lot of consistency and effort. This animal has no idea why it can’t pee on your couch. You have to teach it. And it will suck for a while. You will have to clean up pee, poop, and other liquids. Can you do this as many times as it takes?

 Can you get your ass out of bed/off the couch?

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Dogs don’t understand “too early” or “hungover.” They rely on you to feed them and let them out. Are you willing to stand outside in the snow praising your pup excitedly when he poops? Can you take him cool places so he can experience the world?

Are your friends cool with the breed? Some people don’t like big dogs (or little dogs). Some people don’t want dogs in their houses. This can really put a damper on your social life if you’re forced to stay home all the time, especially if your friends don’t want to come visit. If that doesn’t bother you, by all means, get a mastiff. I recommend pups in the 20-40lb range (anything larger: I consider doggie obedience classes mandatory).

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Can you afford the incidentals (in both time and money)?

Mox needs food. He needs shots. He needs groomed.

One time he played with a ball so much that he hurt his hind legs. We had to pay for x-rays. Bite marks once cost us a small fortune in vet bills. We once had to bail him out of the pound when a neighbor kid let him out of the yard.

And we’ve been really lucky so far. Dogs are expensive. Do you have money set aside?

Would a change in your circumstances change your mind?

If you think that having a baby means you can’t take care of a dog, please reconsider getting a pet. I know, no one on Craigslist thought “I’m probably going to give this animal to a stranger in two months,” but I encourage you to really think about this beforehand, and be honest with yourself.

Can you handle the cuteness, and the inevitability that you’re going to become obsessed?

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Because you will be. You might not fill up a blog post with pictures of him, but you’ll have to resist the urge to talk about your baby. And you know what? It’s for a good reason. My little man sat with me through cancer treatment and made me smile when he’d wag his tail after sniffing my face. He ran up the aisle to help walk me down on my wedding day. He makes me laugh every single day, and I can’t imagine our little family without him.

SO, now that you’ve thought about this choice from multiple angles, and you’re sure that you’re really ready, go get your fur-baby. We need more responsible and loving pet owners.

(Am I forgetting anything? What else should people think about before getting a pup?)

Take Care,

Cassie

How to Coupon (for normal people)

I have a pretty expensive moving-all-over-the-country habit. To maintain this lifestyle I’ve had to buckle down and wise up about money, which takes a little finesse.

About a year ago I watched TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” and thought, “I can absolutely do that.”

Then I absolutely did it. I got like, twenty boxes of cereal for $0.17. We had so much cereal that we started feeding it to neighborhood squirrels just to get rid of it.

The trouble with extreme couponing is that there aren’t many things that I want in quantities of five million. Having a “stockpile” of cereal or razors I’ll never use seems insane to me.  I don’t have room in my freezer for fifty frozen meals, and I don’t have hours of free time to search for bargains.

If you’re looking for a way to get a stockpile and never pay for food, this post isn’t for you. If you want to learn a few ways to save money so you can support your party habit, read on.

Before you begin, first things first: Mix things up. You won’t have the exact same grocery list from week to week, and that’s the way your life is now. You’re buying what’s on sale.

Ok, ready?

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Step 1: Sign up for your grocer’s online couponing and rewards, and get their mobile app. Or, start shopping somewhere that has this feature.

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You will get so much free stuff this way, and many stores offer discounts on gas.

Step 2: Pretend you’re practicing for The Price is Right. Grab your store’s ad (or read it online).  Give it a glance so you can figure out what’s on sale this week. Make a few notes of how much things cost, and what items you actually want to buy (during this part I also plan my dinner menu for the week).

Step 3: Get manufacturer’s coupons. Smart Source, Red Plum, and Coupons.com are some of the big coupon companies. You can get them in the Sunday paper or online. I do a mixture of both and only clip coupons for things that I might actually want to own. Just make sure you keep your coupons until they expire. Pizza rolls might go on sale in a few weeks, and you’ll be glad you kept what you clipped a few weeks ago.

Step 4: Now, combine the two. Match up your coupons with your store’s ad. You can do it in your head, but I sit down and do this literally. It’s easier for me to plan this way.

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In this example, Glade candles are on sale for $2.98. I have a coupon for $1.50 off of two. Good news, I want two of them.  Boom. 25% savings. If you’re savvy, you can get a lot of stuff for free this way.

Coupondivas.com is a really great resource for this, and they do the “matching up” for you.)

Step 5: Remember the online couponing I made you sign up for? Log in and add things to your list. Safeway sometimes does deals like free produce, double fuel points, or $5 off of $20. Each store has its own method and bonuses, and you need to jump on that shit. (Note: learn the store’s coupon policy. Some places are dicks about “coupon stacking,” using a manufacturer and store coupon together.)

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Step 6: Get good at it. I don’t spend hours on this every week. I sit down and do a quick matchup and menu before I go shopping. If I want to buy something (clothes, furniture,etc), I do a quick Google search for offers.  Retailmenot and Greg That Dude even have posts of sweet deals (sometimes free gift cards!) from department stores and restaurants.

Not every deal is a homerun, but some of them are.

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On this one, we used a 15% off coupon to buy up a few clearance items at JCP, so we got a lot of things for our new kitchen at 90% off. AND IT WAS AWESOME.

TL; DR: Buy what’s on sale, and sweeten the deal by using a manufacturer’s coupon.  Sign up for store offers and rewards, and google coupons before you make big purchases.  Half an hour or less a week can save you thousands of dollars a year.

Good luck, and get out there and save some money!