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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

BACKSPLASH TILING PROJECT


We've slowly but surely been working on updating the kitchen.  We've been in our house for 17 years and it's time.  Last year we did the counter tops after the original builder basics were so worn that I couldn't even keep them clean and the formica was beginning to pull away. 

Last week my new dishwasher was delivered.  Woo Hoo!!!  Stainless steel.  I had to stand there and make sure it was running during the inaugural wash.  It was so quiet.  Ours got to the point that we had to turn it on just before the last person went to bed, because it was so loud.   The day after Thanksgiving the new DOUBLE oven was delivered.  Can I get a halleluiah??!!!, and with the glass cook top, no more burner bibs and crusties to clean up.    I have to say, though we were very fortunate.  Both the dishwasher and the oven were the originals, so we got plenty of use out of them.   But, now my kitchen is looking like a 21st century kitchen.  I love it!    The big project was the back splash tile.  I had tiled the walls of the kitchen last year with a mosaic tile, leaving the original green back splash in tact.  But, I really wanted it to go.  It was out dated; I don't even remember when exactly I put up the green backsplash.  This was going to be a biggie though; removing the tile and replacing it.      
BEFORE
AFTER
As you can imagine, my husband was not too thrilled with the prospect of this project.    After doing some research on the internet, it appeared there wasn't going to be anything easy about it.....but, many people have successfully worked through something very similar.  So, away we went.   Step one was to remove the old tile.  Per the advice from the associate at Home Depot, if my husband had a dremel tool he could use that to remove the grout and then pry the tile free.  Well, I must have done an awesome job putting up that backsplash, because that didn't work quite like he described.  Bottom line, after consulting with his brother who is in the construction business, he literally remove the entire drywall, tile and all.   That meant he needed to build new framework and replace the drywall before I could get started on the replacement tile.  I think his words to me at that point were, " promise me, no more tile projects."  So far, I've used the cook top, but I haven't used the ovens yet.  Christmas cookie season is fast approaching.  Two ovens should make a huge difference! 

Friday, November 23, 2012

STUFFED TURKEY BREAST

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!  With only four of us for dinner this year, and a portion of those four not too fond of turkey; the kind of turkey you eat for weeks and put in the freezer only to find the plastic bag and its contents all freezer burned and nasty about April of the following year?  I know, you know that kind of turkey!
I tried something new this year and found it pretty tasty so I thought I would share with you.   Now, I apologize for the pictures since they are not in sharp focus, okay they're blurry.   I'll blame it on the tryptophan, no maybe it was the wine, or maybe it was the fact that I took the pictures without my glasses?  Well, anyway, the recipe was yummy!

Start with a turkey breast.  I found a Hormel package already seasoned (not exactly what I was looking for, but it turned out okay).  In the package it had two breasts.  I butterflied the pieces and pounded them flat with a kitchen mallet.

The next thing I did was blend some low fat cream cheese and honey mustard sauce together.  I painted that all over the breast.  Then I layered on the following ingredients:
  • fresh spinach leaves
  • stuffing (I made a stovetop version)
  • dried cranberries
We devoured the first one
Firmly pat down the mixture and be sure to leave about 1/2 inch all around the perimeter so it doesn't squeeze out when you roll it (lengthwise).  You absolutely need a second pair of hands to help; while you hold the breast, they can tie up the breast in several places with twine.  

I baked it at 325 degrees for just about an hour, or until the internal temp was 170 degrees.  It makes for a lovely presentation (Martha would be proud) on a platter of lettuce and pecans and sliced it looks beautiful.  Good enough to eat.

We also had sweet potato casserole, turkey gravy, asparagus, freshly baked bread, applesauce and grilled venison.    Can't wait for leftovers! 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

RUSTIC ELEGANCE WEDDING CAKE

I've been so excited to share this with you, but I wanted to wait until we received some of the professional pictures back.  This is the last of the DIY projects from the wedding.  My daughter and I knew we wanted the wedding cake to reflect the autumn in Colorado theme, so she started collecting some pictures on her phone and on Pinterest of the cakes that she liked.  We met with Jeanette from King Soopers with our ideas sharing the pictures of frosting with mountains, trees and clouds sculpted into the frosting.  As we continued talking, Jeanette showed more and more interest, jumping right into the conversation, getting a feel for the vision we had right from the get go!  Did I tell you this was right after the scrumptious taste testing of four of their flavor combinations.  Yuuummmmmyy!!
When I described the idea of the birch tree pillars she started smiling from ear-to-ear and became more and more interested in the cake; she talked about gum paste.  What the heck is gum paste?

Anyway, if you've been following my blog, you know about the birch tree base for the cake to sit on that my husband and I made earlier in the year.  The frosting, greenery and pine cones, would pull the entire theme together and the pillars would be the Pi├Ęce de r├ęsistance.  Jeanette is a store manager, so she said that she doesn't do the baking/decorating any longer, but she would definitely oversee the process.

After our visit, I promptly went home and started watching some You Tube videos of gum paste cake creations (flowers, leaves, etc.) that you could make.  Hot Damn!  They made it look so easy.  So, I high tailed it up to my local Hobby Lobby and purchased a package of Wilton cake pillars, a tub of gum paste, a little rolling pin, some lollipop sticks (they would make some awesome branches right?) and brown cake dye.

That began my fearless afternoon adventure.  It was fun.  I have a number of Aspen trees (birch family) in my backyard that I could turn to for live inspiration.  Heck, I was good to go!  The first step was to sweet talk my husband into drilling two-three holes into each pillar.
Once that was done, I began whittling the lollipop sticks (you heard me, whittling).  I wanted them to be different circumferences and have layers peeled back to simulate the bark peeling on a tree limb.  I used an exacto knife to get the proper effect. 

As I trimmed it, the stick obviously became more pliable, so I was also able to bend it a bit better.  After the whittling, I hot glued them into the drilled holes.
From there, I rolled out the gum paste.  It has the consistency of cookie dough, but is a bit more pliable.  I then sculpted it around the pillars and sticks, working it like you would clay.   

For the smaller branches, I used some white floral wire.  Then came the brown cake dye, I actually painted it and smudged it to get the look of the dark patches you see on birch trees.

I dropped by King Soopers to show Jeanette the following weekend, and she was impressed.  My daughter and I knew she had to be the one to help us with our cake creation; she knew exactly what we wanted.  Ssssooo, I shamelessly begged her to be our baker and she agreed.  She was actually really excited, being a creative soul herself.  

So, our funny wedding story (everyone has one right?), well, it's funny now...not at the time.  When we arrived the venue was without power and had been for about two hours.  What??!!!!!  So, there was poor Jeanette hand carrying the cake down the pitch black staircase (no elevator, no light) layer by layer and putting the cake together by candlelight.  Bless her heart! 

Fortunately, about 30 minutes before the guests started arriving, the power came back on.  Whew! Thank you Jeanette, for bringing our vision to life.  It was exactly how we hoped it would look......and the cake itself?  Delicious.  Chocolate cake, butter cream frosting (the kind that makes your teeth hurt) and raspberry mousse filling.  So moist and fresh, it was delectable!
The beautiful cake topper is handcrafted by artist, Gina Freehill and has a verse running down the length of the bride's gown which reads: This day I will marry my friend, the one I laugh with, live for, dream with, love.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

BULLETIN BOARD STRIPS

I am so excited to have my own office again!  I haven't had a door at work since 2006; since that time I've had the standard workspace cubicle with partial walls and absolutely no privacy.   That made it particularly tough dealing with sensitive issues as I have been.     So, I've been working on making this space my very own little-by-little.

There are several spreadsheets/reports that I reference over and over again that I wanted close at hand, but I've never been a fan of bulletin boards.  I think they end up looking really sloppy in no time and they take up so much wall space.   So I had this idea about a magnet strip or a cork strip to do the trick.  Here I thought I was being totally inventive, but after looking on the internet it turns out someone beat me to the idea.....there are all sorts of bulletin board and magnetic strips out there.   I'll be dipped though if I'm going to pay over $50 (that doesn't include the shipping and handling), for a 48" strip.  Really?

So, here's my very own DIY Bulletin Board strips; a total of 54".......for just under $8.  Ya baby!
So, I took a run over to Lowe's and found myself a 6 ft. faux wood molding strip and a package of 4 squares of cork.  I had my husband cut me two 27" strips of the moulding and I went to town completing the rest of the project.   The whole thing took me less than an hour. I cut the cork into strips with an exacto knife, hot glued them to the moulding and then I decided to add a couple of clothespins at each end, just for fun.  Then, since I had a couple of scraps of cork leftover from the single square that I used.  I cut them into squares and used them as decoration between the two strips.  So there you have it!
 Now I have those items that I reference on a regular basis nearby, but I will still have plenty of room for pictures or shelves or both.