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Thursday, August 6, 2020

CHARCUTERIE BOARD

This project was a labor of love for our daughter.  She loves charcuterie, so a few months prior to her birthday I came up with the idea of a homemade charcuterie board.  These are my favorite kinds of gifts, thoughtful....meaning you know the person is going to love it, and treasured....meaning because it was created by you for that person, so you know it's going to hold special meaning for them.

I shared the idea with my husband, and even though I originally planned to have him "supervise" the project, meaning he would guide me through it (I had also done a whole lot of research online), I would be the one to create it.  As it turned out, this truly was a "his, hers and ours" kind of project.  He loves woodworking, so he was all in when I told him my idea. 
We found a local lumber shop for the piece of wood.  It turned out to be about six miles from us.  We were able to wander through their huge selection of wood to pick out the exact piece we wanted.  I picked out this walnut piece.  I loved the grain variation, and knew once it was finished it was going to be even prettier than the raw piece.                                        

Many people remove the bark from a live edge piece of wood.  Personally, I love the extra character it offers, so we kept it on and did research on 1) how to ensure it wouldn't fall off and 2) special treatment/consideration for a food safe project.
With that in mind, my husband added a lacquer to just the bark edges to help secure and finish it and the wood itself was sanded and treated with about six coats of food safe treatments that also allowed the beauty of the wood to shine through.   The first several coats were mineral oil.  Followed by several coats of a Butcher Block Conditioner (made by Howard Products), which has mineral oil, beeswax and carnauba wax in it.  The food will be placed on the wood area, with the bark creating a framework for the food.    I found some little rubber bumpers online to screw to the underside which allows it to sit about 3/4" above the actual countertop or table that you'll be placing the board on for serving. 

I was originally thinking of putting handles on each side of the board making it easy to carry.  But, based upon the beauty of this wood, it felt like it needed something else.  So we opted for antlers.  My husband has many sheds, so we picked out a set that would work well and I had him stain them darker to compliment the walnut.  He then cut them and drilled into each one to allow him to screw them into place.
                                                                                          
I included several other items as part of the gift (I should have taken pictures of them).  They included a variety pack of cheese slicers, little forks/spoons, melamine salad size plates,  and a variety of little bowls.    I also made her a ripstop nylon cover with a drawstring.  She can just slide the board in when it's not in use and it will keep it dust free until she's ready to use it again.

I'm happy to report....she was absolutely thrilled with her gift.   Score one for Mom and Dad!!  I have to admit though, it does add some pressure for next year's birthday!  

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

EMBELLISHED FULL LENGTH MIRROR

I shared a similar mirror project I had created for myself at the end of last year.  I thought I'd also share this recent transformation that I did with my daughter's mirror.   This one took a few more steps along the way ....... keep reading if you'd like to hear about the journey.
A few years ago, a friend of my daughters was going to be donating this mirror ( I believe it was a family member's actually).  He mentioned it to her in case she might be interested.  Well, she jumped on the offer.  Having always wanted a large full length mirror and knowing how much these little suckers can cost, it was a great offer!

The original color was a very dark espresso, with a plain wide wooden border.  She had me paint it a rose gold color several months later.    Fast forward another year or so, and now that I've learned how to create embellishments using the air dry clay technique, she asked if I could embellish her mirror. 

Here's the early stages of the project.  You can see the basic nature of the mirror (in the picture on the right), and what I was doing as I started using the clay moulds and laying out some design ideas.   Unlike my mirror which had some wood moulding strips around the perimeter, this mirror had nothing.  So I opted to purchase another mould that allowed me to add                            faux moulding out of clay.   
Adding that third mould, gives me a really solid assortment of designs to choose from for the next project (I just know they'll be a next project).  The other thing I'm sure you noticed is the transformation in the color.  This mirror is going in her photography studio which has some gold accents, so the rose gold wasn't going to work.  She asked for more of a true gold color.  To give it more of "baroque" feel, I also added some antiquing to it by using some brown and black paints to create an aged look. 

It's a beauty for sure!  And when I think of how it started out, it really is quite the transformation!  I have to say, I'm really pleased with the final outcome.   It looks outstanding in her studio.  Not only is it a beautiful decorator statement piece, but it's completely functional and just what her clients need to give a quick look before the shutter starts clicking!

Sunday, July 26, 2020

LITTLE GIRL'S DRESS

Switching things up a bit to welcome another generation into our family.   I have a Great Niece due to arrive in early October, so I thought it only fitting that I create her first designer dress!
I have had this embroidered shantung fabric for some time now and it seemed this was the perfect opportunity to show it off!  I ordered the venice lace collar online and love how it accented the neckline just as I had visualized it would.

I think the florals and leaves on the collar compliment the florals and leaves on the skirt so perfectly!

In case you're wondering....I did fully line the dress to finish it off with a custom touch.

I chose a simple commercial pattern, which tend to run a bit big.  I'm thinking maybe by the time she's about 9-12 months old she'll be able to wear this.  I always like to gift clothes that the parents can look forward to as the baby starts growing.

All this dress needs, is some lace ankle socks and maybe a cute pair of shoes and she's going to look like a little doll!  Can't wait to see it on her.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

CUSTOM WEDDING GOWN

I've been so excited to share this gown.  My first meeting with Kristen happened in early February.  When she and her Mom met with me, Kristen had tried on a few gowns but really hadn't landed on exactly what she was looking for in a style.   She fell for a certain geometric lace pattern which is becoming more popular, but other than that, she was open to design ideas. 
This is just the kind of wedding gown project I love.....give me some ideas, maybe a few elements that you like and let me take your vision and create it into your one-of-a-kind dream gown!! At our second meeting, which was when I was taking her measurements, her Mom had shared a picture of Kristen in a bridesmaid dress which was very flattering on her figure type; we all three agreed that would be a good starting point.   So, I was off to the races with a basic idea of a "v" neck in the front and a gathered waistline.  We also chatted about the geometric laces that I had found online and she chose the one that she really liked.  As I was working on the pattern, I sent some ideas to Kristen regarding some design modifications that I felt would be flattering on her.  That included a "v" shaped back (versus the horizontal line from the original dress) and a "cumberbund" type of waistline to highlight her waistline.  She loved both ideas, so I continued on with the pattern and the muslin sample.                                                                       
Now, you realize in the midst of this we have a pandemic that has taken hold in Asia.  You guessed it!  The lace is from a shop in China.  Long story short....this lace is not going to get here in time for this June 5th, 2020 wedding.    And if you're wondering, yes this is a bit of a tighter schedule than I usually work with, but I was only working on one other gown and I knew I could pull this off in time.                                                     
When I started becoming concerned about the lace, I took a field trip to my local JoAnn store.  I was hopeful that I could find an alternative that would be just as pretty and wanted to  provide Kristen a "good news/bad news" message.   In other words, the bottom line was Kristen was going to have to be okay with something other than the geometric pattern since they all come out of Asia.  Rather than a message that said "we can't get the geometric lace", it was "we can't get the geometric lace, but I've found some other options that you might like".  I was so pleasantly surprised to have found four different fabric options that I thought would be ideal for her gown.   I sent her the pictures I took at the store, and Kristen was able to go into the store to see and touch the fabrics in person.   The upper left photo is the fabric draped on my dress form and you can see the pattern.  It starts with long embroidered lines with clear sequins at one selvage and develops into this beautiful embroidered motif all the way to the other selvage.  It is absolutely stunning and shimmers like crazy with those sequins scattered all over the entire fabric. 

This is another favorite creative challenge I love....working with a fabric's motif within the gown to fully utilize all aspects of the fabric within the design of the gown.  You'll notice I chose to use the very basic element of the fabric for the bodice and cumberbund.  I further embellished the cumberbund with lace appliques to match the fabric and then used 3D florals for that extra pop!  
I should mention, at the time of the sample fitting, I had shared my final modification to Kristen to change up gathers at the waistline to tucks, including an inverted center front tuck.  I find tucks so much more flattering than gathers, which can create added bulk at the waistline, which no woman likes!

In order to continue our progress with fittings, you've probably already guessed that we both wore face masks after the "stay at home order" was being relaxed.  It added an interesting element to say the least!  Another curve Kristen was thrown along the way was the need to postpone the wedding (since the venue wasn't able to host the event with the pandemic regulations regarding gatherings still in place in June).     They postponed the event until today, and had to whittle down the guest list considerably.    Kristen was a trooper through it all and an absolute peach to work with!  What stories she'll have to share with her children someday!     Best wishes Kristen to you and your groom.  I hope your big day is filled with sunshine, happiness and lots of love from those guests who mean the most to the two of you! 

Saturday, June 13, 2020

FOAM FLOWER WEDDING SASH

In a previous post I shared how much I enjoyed learning how to make foam flowers!  I've made many hairpiece/haircombs for my Etsy shop.  This time I decided to apply that knowledge to a wedding sash. 

I began with a two inch double faced satin (champagne colored) ribbon.  I then added a really unique lace applique that had both champagne and off white threads; cutting and placing it onto the sash. 

To make the flowers, I start with just plain white foam.  While it does come in a variety of colors, they're extremely vibrant, and I like more subtle colors for many of my wedding projects.  In this case I wanted a blush color.

You can use pastels, stamp ink or in this case, I actually chose to use craft paint and a small brush.  I did that after I cut out the flowers, but before I began the process of actually shaping the foam.  
For additional embellishments, I hand sewed on pearls, crystals, and gold beads.  For some sparkle I added clear sequins as well.  I'm really pleased with how it turned out.  All my ribbon sashes are about 3 yards long, which makes for a beautiful bow with extra long tails to drape down the back of the gown. 

A sash is a great way for the bride to add a touch of the wedding color palette, while also adding a lovely accent to her gown.  Not to mention, it really shows off that waistline quite nicely!

Sunday, May 24, 2020

STUDIO PLASTER WALL

My love affair with all things vintage continues in my studio.  I have always been fond of vintage store fronts.  The type with old signage and peeling plaster.  Because of that, I've had a project in mind for my studio for a long time and finally found the centerpiece I needed to begin this project. 
It's a poster from the Empire Sewing Maching Company (est. 1861).  This baby is large!  54x36 to be exact.  My mission was to "age" her.  So the first thing I did was take it outside to my back porch along with a spray bottle of water, a pair of scissors and a rock from my garden. 
I went at it for about 30 minutes transforming her.....
 just getting started

The next step in the process was plastering.  I used DAP Patching Plaster.  There was absolutely no science to it, other than I wanted it to look as if the plaster had been falling off over time.  So, a combination of plaster, white washed brick and the red brick shining through in various spots across the expanse of the wall.                                                                                                               
 As I was putting up the plaster, I realized the print on the poster was still too vibrant.  Nothing that some sanding couldn't take care of!  Yup.  I literally sanded the poster.  It worked great.  Really fading the colors nicely.  Oh, and I also tore it some more since it needed more aging.
inside the dressing room
                 Then it was a matter of plaster, step back, add more, step back, etc., etc., White washing the (faux) brick was done with white paint and various sponge brushes, and regular brushes.  Some paper towel, water, a little bit of everything really. 

The final step was sanding the plaster not only to smooth it, but also to create some additional negative space where needed.

There's a couple more transformations that I'm still working on for this space.  The curio cabinet is being toned down from a pale blue to a grey.  Also, I have a neutral slipcover due in for the love seat.  Fingers crossed, it's going to work well since the floral pattern needs to go and I really don't want the expense of re-upholstering.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

BLUEBERRY COFFEE CAKE

This coffee cake recipe comes together pretty quickly and the blueberry flavor is super satisfying.  It has a crunchy cinnamon streusel topping that adds a nice surprise.

STREUSEL TOPPING:

6 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar
½ cup all prupose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold, cut into ½ inch cubes

CAKE:

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs 
1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
1tsp. packed lemon zest
½ cup milk
2 cups fresh blueberries (frozen may be used, but do not defrost)


Make the streusel topping.  Combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl.  Using your fingers, mix until no lumps of brown sugar remain.  Rub in the butter with your fingers until it reaches a cumbly state.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 375 and set an oven rack in the middle position.  Grease or spray a 9 inch square pan.

In a medium, bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamy, about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beating well after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.

Gradually add the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, beating on low speed to combine.  Add the berries to the batter and fold gently with a spatula until evenly distributed.  Do not over mix.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and spread evenly.  Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the batter.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until golden brown around the edges and a cake tester comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan on a rack for about 20 minutes.

NOTE:  The cake is best eaten the same day since the topping is super crunchy.  The streusel softens the next day.  It still has a wonderful flavor, but the crunch is gone.  Since there's only two of us, I sliced up a bunch of servings and froze them to enjoy another day. 


Enjoy!

recipe c/o:  www.onceuponachef.com