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Saturday, November 10, 2018

CEDAR CHEST REFINISH

This Lane Cedar Chest belonged to my Dad's parents and has been a part of my household as long as I've lived on my own.   I'm estimating it's age to be from the 1920's or 30's at best.  So, she's going on close to 100 years old.

I don't know how long I've been wanting to refinish this piece.  I just knew that over the years it had lost its lustre and I wanted to restore its beauty.

Below is a picture of it before I began the restoration.  It's made of a mahogany wood and has beautiful lines and details, including those gorgeous legs....but not only was the finish dull, there were plenty of scratches, gouges and dings that had happened over the years.
This is the piece after the restoration.  Isn't she a beauty!?  I decided not to go quite as dark with the stain.  I actually think that you can see more of the character of the wood with the lighter color.
This truly was a tag team effort between my husband and I.  Before I began I read a lot of information on restoration, watched videos, you name it.  The last thing I wanted was to damage it along the way.  It took us several weeks to finish (we also had a couple of weather delays due to some unexpected cool weather that moved through), since there are lots of steps along the way, but it was definitely worth the effort.

You can see the scratches on the leg (original) on the left and look how pretty that new leg looks with a fresh coat of stain and finish!  
Let me take you through the steps.....                                                                                                                                                                  The first step was to remove the old finish.  After doing lots of research I opted to use Blue Bear stripping gel.  I liked that I could use it indoors, it was a gel and was a more natural product (made of 100% American grown soy beans).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              This took some time since you actually need to let it sit after applying the gel.  The finish actually turns into a molasses like consistency.  I used rubber gloves, plastic scrapers and about a roll of paper towel.  I had purchased a canvas tarp and placed that under the chest to catch any drips.  I didn't end up with too much on the tarp, but was glad I had taken the extra precautionary step.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Since I didn't want to touch the wood inlay medallion on the front of the chest, I covered that using wax paper and double sided tape.  It worked like a charm.  If you look closely at the chest, you'll see lots of grooves, deep decorative cuts and of course the spindle legs.....these areas took lots of time!  After the finish was removed, I used mineral spirits to get at any leftover residue.  I used a brush to put it on and a rag to remove it.  
Next up....sanding.  Lots of sanding! We used the electric sander first, followed by a lot of hand sanding.  This took a good deal of time too...again, the legs and grooves took the most time.   Little pieces of sandpaper and all sorts of experiemental techniques in order to get at those tough areas.  My cuticles were an absolute mess afterwards!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    After the sanding came the staining.  Followed by the finish.   We used the Varathane brand for both the stain and polyurethane.  I chose American Walnut with a clear satin finish.  
               

And there they are side-by-side the true "before" and "after".  I'm confident this piece is going to stay in the family long after I'm gone.  Hopefully, our efforts will keep it looking good for the next 100 years!                           
                                                       

Monday, November 5, 2018

APPLE CREAM CHEESE BUNDT CAKE

I want to share this yummy bundt cake recipe which is loaded with robust fall flavors, like apples and pecans!  I will tell you it takes a bit of prep time....but you'll be rewarded in the end.
An extra burst of flavor is found in the cream cheese filling and praline frosting.  

INGREDIENTS:

Cream Cheese Filling:
1 (8 oz.) pkg. softened cream cheese
¼ cup softened butter
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Apple Cake Batter:
1 cup finely chopped pecans
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground allspice
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup applesauce 
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups peeled and finely chopped Gala apples (about 1.5 lbs)

Praline Frosting:
¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter
1½ Tbsp. milk
½ tsp. vanilla
½ cup powdered sugar

Step 1 - Prepare filling.  Beat first 3 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended and smooth.  Add egg, flour, and vanilla; beat just until blended.

Step 2 - Prepare batter:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake pecans in a shallow pan 8-10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant; stirring halfway through.  Stir together the flour and next 7 ingredients (through Allspice).  Add eggs and next 3 ingredients stirring until dry ingredients are moistened.  Finally, stir in apples and pecans.

Step 3 - Spoon 2/3 of the batter into a greased and floured 14-cup Bundt pan.  Spoon cream cheese filling over apple mixture leaving a 1 inch border around edges of pan (I found this difficult to accomplish).  Swirl filling through apple mixture using a paring knife.  Spoon remaining apple mixture over cream cheese filling.

Step 4 - Bake at 350 degrees for 1-1.25 hours or until a long wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack and cool completely (about 2 hours)

Step 5 - Prepare frosting.  Bring brown sugar, butter and milk to a boil in a 2 qt. saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly; boil 1 minute, whisking constantly.  Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.  Gradually whisk in powdered sugar until smooth; stir gently 3-5 minutes or until mixture begins to cool and thickens slightly.  Pour immediately over cooled cake.

NOTES:  I opted to roast the pecans the night before to save myself that step.  Also, I already changed the praline frosting ingredients to half of what the original recipe called for....I felt there was way too much since it's extremely sweet

Enjoy!

adapted from:  www.southernliving.com

Friday, October 26, 2018

PLASTERED BRICK WALL

I had the pleasure of helping create a plastered brick wall recently and wanted to share it with you.  I think it turned out pretty darn good for my first attempt!
There were several steps along the way to the end result, including caulk, paint, plaster, sanding, did I mention paint?

The first steps I've already shared when I added a faux brick wall to my studio.  The sheets go up fairly easily and really help you feel like you're making great progress.  This particular wall took three sheets.

The next step is the caulking between the sheets to hide the seams, followed by lots of hand painting of the caulk lines and the bricks themselves to give them a more authentic look.  Again, there are additional details on my first blog post.

To create the plaster for this wall, I used drywall joint compound.  In doing research I've read that some folks use this, some use drywall mud and others use plaster.  Since I had some leftover drywall joint compound from our basement project, I went with that.  You put it on with a drywall knife.

It dries a little yellow, so I used a very broad paintbrush to paint white paint over the top.  I used more of a whitewash technique by dipping my brush in paint and then water.   The final step in the painting process was to whitewash some of the bricks beneath the "plaster" since in reality they would have been worn and weathered underneath the plaster.

Once it was all painted to my liking, I used sandpaper to smooth, and in some cases remove more plaster in places creating jagged edges and blank spaces for more of a worn look.

Monday, October 15, 2018

STICKY PECAN CINNAMON BUNS

As I was putting together my brunch recipe for this past weekend, I knew I needed a couple of "sweet treats".  Despite having a number of really good coffee cake recipes, I really wanted to include something a little different, so I opted for sticky buns.......the "easy" version. 
These were so easy and so yummy.  You absolutely have to give them a try!  It all starts with Pillsbury.....

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup melted butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
2 (17.5 oz) cans of refrigerated cinnamon roll dough (5 per can....I recommend Pillsbury Grands Flaky "cinnabon")

INSTRUCTION:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Melt butter and add brown sugar; mix well.   Spread mixture onto the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish.  Sprinkly pecans over the brown sugar mixture.  Open cinnamon rolls and separate.  Place in the dish on top of pecans and sugar/butter mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.  Flip out onto serving platter.  Drizzle top with white icing (included with the rolls) if desired.  They looked so pretty fresh out of the oven,  I just didn't have time to snap pics while I was getting all the food into position.  So these were taken the following day (there were only 3 leftover).  

NOTES:  I flipped my rolls onto a parchment lined large jelly roll pan, then transferred them to a serving dish.  I also only used one of the white icings, which was just the right amount in my opinion. 

Enjoy!

recipe c/o:  www.southernbite.com

Thursday, September 27, 2018

POMANDER BALLS (wedding decor)

I was thrilled to receive a custom order from a bride requesting pomander balls for wedding decor.   She wanted three "soccer ball" size to hang from the gazebo where she and her groom would be exchanging their vows.

She had found me through my Etsy shop and loved the burlap and lace variety I showed for flower girls.  After several email conversations with her....we nailed down exactly what she was looking for!
She wanted to incorporate her wedding colors of burgundy, orange and white.  The white was mostly achieved through the lace and emboidered tulle, and it was easy to find burgundy and orange silk flowers since all the fall decor was in abundance with the Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays right around the corner.

My pomander balls begin with styrofoam balls, you can find these at your big box craft stores.  What I wasn't prepared for was the cost of the 8" variety!  I usually use either 4" or 6" for my flower girl variety.  The 6" are under $6 and of course, the 4" are less than that.  The 8" are $13.99 each.  Wait. What?  And....unfortunately, styrofoam products do not go on sale.  The good news is I was able to use the 40%  online coupons (although it did take 3 separate trips) to save some money.   Believe me...I checked everywhere trying to lower the cost, and this was the best I could do.

The next step is a lot of cutting....the burlap, lace, and embroidered tulle.  You can see one of my stacks in the picture above.  You'll also get a sense of how the project progresses with the ball in the background.  It's a slow, but methodical process of "hole punching", folding, and gluing the fabrics into the ball. 
You'll see from the close up pictures, the variety of flowers, pearls and fabrics that I used to create the look for these babies.  I also needed to add a sturdy means for hanging them in the gazebo, so I braided some jute and white cording to create a long loop.

I wish I would have kept track of my time, since I really don't know how long it took to finish these.   I can tell you I worked off and on on them for over a week. 

I love the way they turned out....the next order of business is to get them shipped.  I hope my bride loves them as much as I do!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHIP ZUCCHINI BREAD

Several years ago I shared my zucchini bread recipe on the blog.   Since it took me such a long time to master the recipe (especially in high altitude) I shared it along with the many tips/tricks I learned along the way.

Just the other day, my husband brought home a home grown zucchini that a friend gave him, so I decided to make some bread.  But, instead of my usual recipe, I chose to try a chocolate chocolate chip variety.  Holey Moley!
I have to say this bread was so goooood!  Moist, chocolately, but not overly sweet.

I used my original recipe and added ¼ cup of cocoa powder.  That's it!

The zucchini was so large that I was able to make four loaves.  One of the chocolate chocolate chip varieties went right back to the friend who gifted the zucchini to us, the second is being devoured by my husband and me, and the other two loaves are my "original" recipe.  They're already in the freezer ready to be enjoyed at another time.

You have to try this.....I promise you will not be disappointed.
Enjoy!

Monday, September 3, 2018

BOTANICAL TOWER

As I was looking at ideas for our backyard landscaping project, I stumbled across this "botanical tower" idea.   After some sleuthing, I found a company that made these for over $300!  That didn't include the shipping or the lanterns.  Knowing I had a master woodworker in my life (a.k.a. my husband), I promptly added it to my "honey do"/"wish list".
All he had to go on, was a picture....but, since I've done this to him on many occasions in the past, I knew he would be able to figure out the design, construction and materials to deliver something pretty dang close to what I was looking for.....and for a fraction of the cost.  The materials were approximately $40, and I was able to find the lanterns on Amazon for just under $20 each!                                   Our project began in mid-June and involved removing a large portion of the lawn and replacing it with rock.  We added five large boulders and then I slowly started adding in the plants.   Everything I added is drought resistant which is critical here in Colorado.    I'm thinking I may find myself replacing a few next spring since I may need to also focus on rabbit resistant options as well.  We always have some rabbits in our yard, and I see evidence of them chewing on a couple of my brand new plants!

We've lived in Colorado long enough to know it's going to take a few seasons for my vision to take shape, but as these plants start to mature it's going to be beautiful.  I chose several ornamental grasses, along with some flowering plants and ground covers:  purple salvia, sage, Red Baron grass, Karl Foerster grass, yellow day lilies, red yarrow, purple and pink creeping phlox, blue fescue grass and pink ice plants.   


It's going to be fun to look back on these pictures in a few years time to see how these little baby plants have grown.  I specifically chose what I did for the variety in size, shape, height and color.  As for the tower.....we positioned it so it's best vantage point is when sitting on the back patio....and I intend to spend plenty of time appreciating it in the years to come!