Love letters, flowers and jewelry would make a lot of women swoon, but Nick Bylsma wanted to do something extraordinary for his wife, Melissa, on their second wedding anniversary.
So when she went away with her family one weekend last year, he told her that he'd be spending the time working. And that wasn't exactly a fib: She left on a Friday morning, and when she returned the following Sunday evening, he had remodeled the entire kitchen.
"How many women do you know who want something like that?" said Nick Bylsma, 28, of Topeka, Kan., an actor who plans to move to Los Angeles this year to pursue his dream full-time. "She never really liked the kitchen."
He described the original kitchen as "dingy and uninviting," with "Pepto Bismol-pink" tiles on the walls, cabinets covered on the outside with ugly tack paper and makeshift countertops that didn't have enough space.
"I didn't want to use it because I really didn't like that room," said Melissa Bylsma, 23, of the couple's old kitchen.
Over the course of the three days that his wife was gone, Bylsma peeled off the pink tiles, stripped the cabinets of their paper, ripped up the linoleum floor and took out the old countertops.
Bylsma said that he worked 37 hours straight with no sleep pulling up the linoleum on the floor and sanding and staining the wood underneath; cutting the trim for the floor and crown molding; painting the walls a light green and the cabinets an off-white; installing new countertops that offered twice the amount of space as the originals; and installing a dishwasher that had just sat there unattached. After he grabbed a couple of short naps, his mother and sister came over to help finish the decorating and install new light fixtures.
When she returned home, Nick told his wife that there was something he wanted her to see.
"I told her, 'I did something, and I don't know if you're going to like it.' I pretended like something was wrong," he said.
Bylsma made his wife close her eyes as he led her into their new, fabulous kitchen -- and then had her open them.
"I wish I had a camera to take pictures of her," Bylsma said. "She cried tears of joy -- she was so surprised."
"I was completely shocked," Melissa Bylsma said. "I don't think I could even speak. It was such a drastic change from what we had."
In place of the ratty linoleum floor was gleaming hardwood. The walls had shed their old '80s look. The appliances looked like new -- and actually worked. The whole place was so much brighter.
"I love looking at [the kitchen] now," Melissa Bylsma said. "I love cleaning it, making everything look nice.... I certainly didn't think he was crazy enough to do it all in one weekend."
The new kitchen has even turned out to be a gift for Bylsma himself.
"I'm not a cook, but even I spend more time there," he said.