DIY Lightening & Balayage - What I Use

I've been coloring/bleaching my own hair for over ten years now.  I was born a blondie and stayed that way until about middle school, when my hair slowly started darkening. 

My mom liked big hair.  It required a whole lot of Paul Mitchell mousse and hairspray and lots of backcombing and I've never fully recovered from the trauma...neither have my lungs.  😱

In high school, I started going to a salon on my parents dime for highlights and then paid for my hair to get cut and colored at a salon for a couple of years during college...until I couldn't afford it anymore.  You might know those financially tight college days.  They're fun, right?  Nothing like working an entire summer and then budgeting for several months over a school year with just that cash to teach you about adulthood, right?  ;)  I paid a friend a few bucks to highlight my hair during that time after my bank account told me I couldn't do salons anymore and also colored it darker for that au naturale look for a few years in there.  

After college, before Anthony and I were married and I was living rent-free with a good job, I went back to the salon but then we got married and started paying two sets of student loans plus a mortgage and it turned out I preferred spending money on decorating and fixing up our first little house vs. those increasing salon prices.  But, I still liked coloring my hair.  What a conundrum...  #inserttheeyeroll

So, I started out using blonde box dyes to lighten my hair, not knowing much about the whole process and just hoping each time that I'd get pretty close to what the picture showed on the box front...spoiler alert, I never quite hit the jackpot.  I could get my hair maybe three levels lighter with one box application but I always skipped the toning step after because I had no clue what toning was.  And, as it turns out, toning is so important.  Lightening my hair takes out the pigment but leaves me pretty brassy.  It's the toning that gets rid of the brass.  It's a whole scientific process that I had no clue about until Sylvia brought it to my attention within the past couple of years.  Here's her video explaining it all.

As it stands today, we don't have extra money laying around for me to go to a salon, we just don't.  It would cost me $150 every 8-10 weeks to maintain what I've got going on on my head.  Would I go to a salon if we were swimming in a large budget pool every month?  Absolutely.  It's not the easiest thing to color my own hair and the idea of relaxing in a big vinyl chair while someone else did it is quite appealing.  Of course, I could just stop coloring it altogether and let my natural color grow out but it's just too much fun.  ;) 

Over the past few years, I've learned A LOT about highlighting/bleaching your own hair thanks to the gem that is YouTube and a thousand question texts to my pro-stylist cousin Kendra (thank you Kendra!) and I've nailed down a good system and products that really work for me.  And the best part?  It only costs me $10 to color my hair each time I do...which is about every two-three months.  So, if you've found yourself in the same budget boat as we are - that tiny rowboat - and you have a hankering to or already are lightening or coloring your own hair but looking for some new products, this post is for you.  ;)

Eventually, I hope to get the whole process on video - as awkward as I'll probably be - but until then, these are some good resources:
= Brad Mondo just posted this video recently and it's packed with good info and is a must-watch.  Plus, he's funny.  I appreciate him sharing the wealth as a professional hair stylist.  One commenter under his video wrote, "He knows he can't stop us so he's decided to help us.  What a legend."  Agree, agree, AGREE!  
= If you're a first-timer, Jillian's tutorial is what you need.  She uses the teasing method and it's probably the most fool-proof way to get the balayage look.  She's really great at explaining and showing what she does and also talking about the mistakes she's made for you to learn from.  The one thing she's missing that could make her whole process a little easier?  A balayage board.  :)  
= I started doing my own babylights after watching Sylvia's video.  
= I have had a wild idea to go platinum maybe once or a thousand times but Anthony vetoes me every time.  BUT, if he didn't mind so much, I'd pull up Jill's tutorial and blog post and go to town.  No painting or teasing balayage either but it would be fun to go super light for a little while.

These are the things you'd find if you stepped into my bathroom makeshift salon while I'm touching up my blonde do: 

Kitchen & Living Room Progress

While we've been trying to focus all of our free-time and efforts outside, we have spent a few moments here and there trying to chip away at the kitchen.  It doesn't look like much since I last wrote about it, but we've actually made some good progress in here.

This is where we left off on the last progress report:

If you remember, we took out that wall and had a structural beam put into the ceiling (something we hired out) and then we put up new drywall and started mudding the joints.  After hours spent mudding ourselves, we realized that we just weren't that good at the whole process and it was taking us way longer than it would take a professional, so we decided to pay someone to finish that up.  Plus, we had an area between one of the beams in the den that was hastily repaired (we think there was water damage from the a/c unit in the attic that had to be fixed some time ago) and then covered with popcorn ceiling texture, which hid it's horrendous defects.  We had our guy mud the new joints and also do a skim coat over that repaired area.  It took him about five hours within the span of two days...something that definitely would have taken us hours over the span of weeks.  It was well worth spending the cash.

Anyway, enough talk about drywall mud, here's what the kitchen looks like today:

How We Organize Kids Clothes with Four Kids in One Room

Our kids are all still sharing one room.  We made that decision almost two years ago now and even when we moved again, they got moved into the same room again.  They LOVE it.  Last week I mentioned to Anthony that maybe we should consider moving Sebastian and Gianna into their own room since the girls have been wanting to stay up later ("since we're older") and we're almost getting closer to the point where they could stand to have their own space with some privacy.  But you guys, they really love it so much that we both came to the conclusion that it's not quite time yet.  

So, in the same room they stay.  But, as you can imagine, it's not the easiest as far as logistics go.  Their room isn't tiny but it's definitely not huge either (I think the measurements are around 12' x 13').  The two sets of bunk beds fit fine plus the long dresser that holds most of the clothes but that's about all that fits.  And really, that's all we need to fit in this room.  Next door there's a dedicated play room (that will eventually become Sebastian and Gianna's room and even farther into the future, just Sebastian's room) and all of their toys are corralled there, so there's no need for a toy space in their bedroom.

With four kids though, comes a good amount of clothing, as you can imagine.  I have really purged and learned to intentionally buy clothes they really need in the past few years so their stash isn't as big as the twins' once was - they had a whole lot in their first years.   We're not minimalists (yet?), more capsule-wardrobe fans, so I can truly say they don't have an over abundance and it feels really good.  And, it's the only way this whole set-up would work without having to overflow into another room.  :)

The Dark Side

We tried something new on for size.  It regards the front of the house.  We've got plans for it and if you missed them, you can read all about them in this post I wrote last year.  But, as the planning has gotten more serious and we're closer to actually putting those plans into motion, we've been trying to really nail down details and maybe changed a few things up.

Before I go into details...  

Here's a (blurry realtor) photo to jog your memory on what the house looked like when we bought it.

I wrote a one-year-in exterior update here but in a nutshell, we took down the shutters, replaced the glass in the windows, painted the front door, replaced the overgrown jasmine along the sidewalk with pretty white flowers, laid bricks along the sidewalk, and transplanted a few more plants from the backyard in front of the left side of the porch.  

Getting there.

A few months back though, I was reading an article about the new black house trend and I got really excited.  I love that look.  Love it so much I really thought maybe we should change our plans and go black or charcoal instead of white on the exterior trim.  And so, I made it happen...

Patio Plans

We have been spending a ton of time outside on our back patio.  The weather down here has been really mild - 80's during the day but without the humidity that hangs out most of the year, it's been oh-so enjoyable.  So, naturally, I've been doing a lot of dreaming about the direction I want to go on our patio.  (Shhh...don't tell Anthony.  He always thinks I should focus on one thing at a time...ha!)  It's not the biggest space but we got lucky in that all of our (secondhand) outdoor furniture fits really great and creates a cozy atmosphere that just needs a little nudge in the right direction to amp up that coziness and make it a bonified, outdoor living room.  

table and chair set //  The brand is Tropitone and is still made - we were given this set from friends who had it handed down to them.  So, it's probably 15+ years old and still looks great.  Needless to say, if you want to invest in an outdoor set that will last, grab something from this company.  Here's their collection on Patio Living.  
umbrella* //  If you don't mind waiting, check clearance at the end of summer!  That's how I found this one!
sofa //  similar from eBay  I've found that bamboo furniture like this is often found on secondhand sites, at least around here.  I got both of these for $45 total! 
loveseat //  similar*

It's always really helpful for me to use Photoshop to create a mock-up so I can visualize my ideas.  I'm not even close to a pro when it comes to Photoshop (I use an older edition so I'm definitely not a pro...haha!) but I'm good enough to create a good glimpse, even if I need to squint to make the after even more realistic.  ;)

Here's what I came up with for our patio: