Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Photoshoot with a Rocking Chair

My chair and I had a photo shoot ... (The chair that got a makeover in this post.)

Just because ...

Showing off its legs -- tsk, tsk! No sense of modesty ...

Chillin' in the shade ...

Beckoning with sweet temptation ... No shame either apparently.

Because one book isn't enough ...

Keeping beautiful company ...

Books and a patch of violets? What a lovely way to pass the time. Don't mind if I do.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Homemade Halloween Hat ...

Alright, so maybe it came with the wood already cut, and a cute spider to add, but I painted it, put the paper on, glittered the stuff, hung the spider, and added the bow, etc. AND I glued it all together. That's got to qualify for homemade, right?

I'm loving this cute little hat! And the girls are going to love when the lights go out and they figure out that most of this hat glows in the dark. 'Cause it's cool like that ...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Called the Wedding Off

Just realized that I neglected to post this. Called the wedding off, and it's okay ... Lots of beautiful things in life and plenty of happiness to pass the days ...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rocking Chair Re-do ...

I love rocking chairs -- you know, the all wood, old school style, rocking chairs? So when my mother offered me this:

I was thrilled! It's smallish, which is perfect for my 5'3"-on-a-good-day self. It's real wood with no funky fabric moments. Best part though? It rocks just enough. As I looked at my cute little rocking chair in my corner each day though, I realized that I wanted to change it up a bit. I just wasn't sure how.

Veering completely off the track for that train of thought ...

For some time now, I've wanted to do my house in a french country vintage style with blues and creams as two of the key colors. I just haven't had the time or the money. The other day though, it dawned on my that -- because most of my things are fairly neutral -- it would be quick and easy to change a few things and end up with exactly what I wanted.

The car is finally fixed, so I splurged on a couple of quarts of paint. (Normally, I just watch the clearance paint for the right color, but this time, I had something very specific in mind and I wanted it now.)

I've been in love with the look of milk paint and chalk paint for quite a while. Luckily for me, Pinterest (I love that site!) had a couple of great tutorials for how to use both. After comparing pros and cons, I decided that chalk paint and I are going to become dear friends. I could have cried for sheer joy when I found this link:

Of course I popped right over to Twice Lovely. I think it might be my new favorite blog. I read several posts and finally felt ready to leap right into my own furniture makeover. I knew just the piece to begin with ...

And the train jumps back on the track ...

Knowing that I already had the plaster of paris, I headed to Home Depot and found the perfect colors. As I mentioned, caution flew to the winds as I recklessly purchased a couple quarts of beautifully blue paint. Since I was making chalk paint, I needed to get some Minwax Paste Finishing Wax. (Save yourself some time and look for it by the wood waxes and polishes. Trust me ... ) After 3 coats of chalk paint -- an undercoat of darker blue and two coats of light blue -- and 3 coats of finishing wax (applied after the paint was DRY) and my chair is completely transformed.

Every time I look at it, my heart leaps. I think perhaps I've found the new love of my life ...

(Don't mind the piles of books and papers. They belong to the bookshelf that's also under renovation in a deeper shade of blue ...)

I have to admit that I was terrified to distress this chair. I've never distressed anything inanimate before, and the thing is, I've seen some projects where the distressing has ruined a beautiful piece. I think that distressing furniture is a lot like tweezing your eyebrows -- under-do it and it doesn't add anything to the finished product, over-do it and look perpetually and painfully surprised. Hence the fear ... I decided to give it a shot anyway. The end result? Chair love ...

I'm still planning on making a different pillow for this, but for now, I even like this one with it.

Things I love:

*The distressed finish

*The variability of this color -- when it's really light, it's the color of the sky. When there isn't as much light, it's a peaceful, muted blue

*The texture of the chalk paint and finishing wax -- both in appearance and feel

*The splash of elegant color this adds to the room without overwhelming the space

Things I learned:

*A half-batch of the chalk paint was enough to do a full coat of paint on both the rocking chair and the book case and its shelves with a bit leftover.

*Chalk paint is one of the easiest projects I can think of. NO prep is required. (Okay, fine ... if your piece is dusty, you may want to take care of that, but seriously -- this stuff adheres very well to just about anything I've tried it on, including the spray-painted ceramic vase I painted over.)

*Finishing wax is really easy to use, but a bit time-consuming if your piece has a lot of scroll work or detail.

*I'm more in love with chalk paint in real life than I was when I saw it in pictures.

*I'm really happy with the do-it-yourself version which, by the way, is far less expensive than the real version. (A quart of the real stuff will run around $50. Since I had the plaster of paris -- which runs about $5-$6 at Walmart, the DIY half-batch cost less than $3. Even adding in the plaster of paris, one half-batch would have been about the same cost. You can't tell by looking at it that I used any of my plaster. My little quart of paint ran about $11 and will be enough for 4-5 half-batches at least ... ) I'm not sure I'll ever try the real deal, but I will definitely mix up my own for several more projects.

*Finishing wax is a bit stinky. I did apply it inside, but I kept a window open during the process. 

*A new chair in a pretty color can make you see the world differently. (My L said that looking at our chair is "like looking at the sky. It's so pretty!" Maybe this will temper any seasonal depression that may come. We've got our own piece of sky in the living room ... )

Linking up with:

The Girl Creativemaking monday marvelous linky party
Sumo's Sweet Stuff

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pancake Make-Ahead Mix Follow-up

The girls were dying for pancakes on their first morning back to school. Since I'd made pancake mix recently, it was an easy request to fill. (See this post.) The pancakes didn't turn out half bad considering. (I wish I'd taken pictures, but well ... ) I did use coconut oil instead of vegetable oil, and I added in a little vanilla -- 'cause that's what I do ...

Things I liked:
* Super easy
*Quick to throw together
*Loved the whole wheat flour in it
*Had a great flavor -- especially with the vanilla
*Made a lot of pancakes

Things I'd change:
*Add less liquid -- my batter turned out really runny -- REALLY runny -- which isn't a problem if your skillet is hot enough. It just makes for thin pancakes. I like them a little sturdier. I did use skim milk, but we'll have to play around with it. The plus side of the thin pancakes? They'd fit great in a toaster if you froze them to reheat later. (Even if you'll never have a perfect circle ... )

Random notes:
*If you add wheat flour in, like I did, your pancakes will be a bit darker. My daughter thought they looked burnt at first because they were so brown, but it was just how the wheat affected the color as they cooked.

Would I use this mix again (even if I didn't have a whole jar of it? ;) Ha, ha ... ) I would. It's got a good flavor and was easy to use. I figure that we'll tweak things to try and get the consistency that we prefer at our house, but other than that, it was nice to have around!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

More Make-Ahead for Healthier Meals

Okay, fine ... I'm not just putting together some make-ahead stuff for health reasons (although that is a big factor. I believe that I've mentioned that I'm a firm believer in the fact that if it's homemade, it's almost automatically healthier than the store bought version?) Really, I'm most interested in preserving my own sanity. There. I've said it ... It really is rather self-serving. My classes have already begun. The kids are starting their classes next week, and I'm beginning work the week after. In addition to that, I'll be starting observations for my teaching levels any time now as well. That being said, the fewer trips to the store and the more prep work that's already done in order to put meals on the table, the more likely we are to avoid malnutrition and palate boredom.

Yesterday, I decided it was time to make some mixes to keep on hand. So far I've made a batch of tortilla mix and one of pancake mix. The base recipe is here. She has some darling labels that you can attach to your jar. Some day, I might print them out. I've found though that I'm perfectly content using a black sharpie marker to write what I want right on the container. (Cream of Soup is a good example of my stellar labeling skills. I know, you're jealous, right?)

For the tortilla mix, I did have to up the shortening amount. She had a half cup listed for the whole batch. I made a half batch and used about 1 1/4 cups of shortening to get the right texture. This amount was proportionally more in line with the tortilla recipes that I've made in the past. I haven't actually cooked with it yet, but I'm optimistic.

I decided that I really wanted to have at least some whole wheat flour in my pancakes, so I used three cups of freshly ground whole wheat flour and 5 cups of white flour. If we like it, and it's not too dense or dry, I may up the proportions to half and half. Since I've never tried the recipe before, I didn't want to make any really drastic changes.

In addition to the tortillas and pancakes, I decided that perhaps we needed some brownie mix. (Chocolate, lots of chocolate ... ) I used this recipe.

The only change that I made to the mix was to include four cups of whole wheat flour and five cups of all-purpose flour.  The initial bite was a bit startling -- simply because you can taste the wheat flour. It gives the brownie a hint of graham cracker flavor. After the first bite though, once I realized what that flavor was, it isn't distracting at all. (At the moment, I'm thinking that I'll reduce the whole wheat flour next time, but who knows? Perhaps, we'll be so used to it by then that we'll just leave it in. The other plus side is that the wheat flour makes the brownie feel more filling.)

Trust me when I say that this brownie mix makes a lot. Don't believe me?

Told ya ... (Yes, the bowl really is nearly as big as my 8 year old ... )

The brownies (of course we had to sample the chocolate first!) turned out to be exactly the texture that I was looking for. I subbed in coconut oil for the butter, just because ... They cooked up with a crispy, crackly crust and are chewy (almost gooey) on the inside. For us, this recipe is a definite keeper. I did only cook them for 27 minutes instead of the 30-35 minutes that the recipe called for, but they passed the toothpick test perfectly. This may just be the recipe that gets us through the girls' preteen and teenage years. ;)