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Friday, November 23, 2018

MUSHROOM SPINACH BAKED EGGS

I love to try breakfast casserole recipes.  This one that I'm sharing I just tried today and I have to say, I thought it was pretty darn good! 
The prep wasn't too terribly difficult, and the baking time was just about 25 minutes.  So from start to finish I would say it was just about an hour.

This would be great for when you have houseguests, or maybe a special brunch! 

INGREDIENTS:

olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
½ lb. white musrooms, sliced
6 cups baby spinach (about 6 oz.)
6 slices potato bread, lightly toasted
6 large eggs
½ cup whole milk
3/4 cup shredded gruyere cheese

DIRECTIONS:

Heat approximately 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden; approx. 8 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and cook, undisturbed, until they begin to brown, about 2 minutes.   Add ½ tsp. salt, and pepper to taste; continue cooking, stirring occasionally until soft....about 4 minutes.  Stir in the spinach and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool.

Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.  Arrange the bread in the dish in a single layer with the edges slightly overlapping.  Spoon the mushroom/spinach mixture on top.  

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Crack an egg onto each piece of bread; season with salt and pepper.  Pour the milk evenly over the top and sprinkle with the cheese.  Bake until the egg whites are set, approximately 25-30 minutes.   My eggs ended up a bit overcooked....or let's say, I was wanting my eggs to break open when I sliced into them....I'm going to have to experiment with the time to find just the right cooking time to achieve what I'm looking for - 28 minutes was too long.

Note:  The recipe mentioned you can make this ahead and refrigerate overnight.....add the eggs just before you pop it in the oven. 

Enjoy!

recipe c/o:  www.foodnetwork.com


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!

Friday, August 31, 2018

BACON MUSHROOM SPINACH FRITTATA

I enjoy egg dishes..... a lot..... with that in mind, I thought it time to try a new frittata recipe.  So I went with a bacon, mushroom, spinach version.  It turned out really good, and the great thing about a frittata is you get plenty of breakfasts in one recipe!  I cut up the leftovers into individual pie pieces and freeze them in plastic bags for another day.  Just remove from the baggie and re-heat in the microwave.
Frittatas use a combination of stovetop and oven cooking, so you just need to be sure you have an ovenproof skillet. 

INGREDIENTS:

5 eggs
4 slices bacon, diced
½ cup milk
½ tsp. basil
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. thyme
8 oz. cremini (or if you have another favorite) mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 cups spinach
1 roma tomato, diced
salt and pepper to taste
 stovetop cooking finished and ready to place in the oven


DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.   In a bowl, mix together eggs, milk, basil, oregano, thyme.  Season with salt and pepper.

Cook the bacon until brown and crispy (I actually cooked an entire pound and reserved three full strips for the top).  Drain on a paper towel lined plate.  Reserve 1 Tbsp. of fat.  Add garlic and mushrooms and cook until tender and browned.  Add a bit of salt and pepper to season.  

Next add the spinach and tomato.  Cook until the spinach is wilted.   Stir egg mixture and bacon into the skillet until well combined.  Let cook undisturbed until the edges are set.  Top with reserved bacon and place in the hot oven.  Cook for approximately 13-16 minutes. 

Enjoy!

recipe c/o:  www.damndelicious.net

Thursday, August 23, 2018

HEATH TOFFEE BIT SCONES

I know I've shared several scone recipes over the years, but here's yet another one.  These are "mini" scones which I really like.  I feel like I can get by with just a couple versus a big 'ole scone so it helps me with portion control.  Because, after all once you put a scone on your plate, you have to finish it right?  I mean, who cares if it's the size of your face!
I'm also happy to report that I really toned down the sweetness from the original recipe, and I'll show you how below.....

INGREDIENTS:

2 3/4 cups flour 
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. baking powder
½ cup cold butter (cut into pats)
** 1 cup to 2 cups mini chocolate chips
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 - 2/3 cups half & half or milk (I used whole milk)

Glaze
powdered sugar
milk, enough to make a thin glaze

DIRECTIONS:

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients.  Work in the butter just until the mixture is unevenly crumbly; it's okay to have some larger chunks of butter remain unincorporated.  Stir in the chips.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and ½ cup milk.  Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until moistened and the dough holds together.  Don't be afraid to get your hands in there.  Add additional milk if it seems dry.  

Scrape the dough onto a well-floured work surface.  Pat/roll into an 8 x 8 square.  Cut the square into 2" squares; you'll have a total of 16 squares.  Now cut each square in half diagonally to make 32 small triangles.  You can either use a knife or pizza cutter. 

Transfer the scones to a parchment lined baking sheet.  They can be set fairly close together.  For best texture and highest rise, place the pan of scones in the freezer for 30 minutes, uncovered.  Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.  

Bake the scones for *12-15 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove and drizzle with glaze after they've cooled.  

Notes:
** I chose to use the Heath Toffee bits to give them a nice toffee flavor.  Also I only used ½ cup so they weren't sicky sweet.  Frankly, I can't imagine using the amount of chocolate chips or toffee bits they recommend. 

* I actually made two batches.  The first batch I let go for 19 minutes and they were way overcooked (bottoms were very dark and they were dry).....so for the second batch I cooked them about 12 minutes and they turned out much better

I love how plump these little dudes are.  Enjoy!

recipe adapted from:  www.kingarthurflour.com

Thursday, August 2, 2018

BRIDAL JUMPSUIT WITH DETACHABLE TRAIN


I've been so anxious to share this project with you.  This was my second bridal "original" this year and as a designer...it was a dream come true!  Chloe really knows herself,  so when it came to her bridal "gown", she actually wanted to be true to her style.  She told me that she just doesn't wear dresses and didn't think that her wedding day should have to be any different.  With that in mind, she came to me with some ideas back in February for a bridal jumpsuit.
In getting to know a little bit more about her, I learned that she loves pearls (in fact, her engagement ring is a pearl), the color pink and rose gold....all elements that could be used in her "one-of-a-kind gown". 
 
Chloe had seen some bridal gowns with splashes of color and was considering incorporating some color into her own....knowing that, as I was sourcing the fabrics, I introduced her to 3D fabric.   Based upon the contemporary  look of the gown, I knew this would add some nteresting dimension.  An added bonus was finding just what I was looking for in a light pink.  I shared my vision to use it in the folds of the train.    Did I mention the train is detachable?  Yep!  There is a center back zipper and she can step right in and out of it! 

I also found a 3D applique that I thought would tie in well on the bodice; it has little bitty pearls as well which Chloe loved.  I took some of the small florals from the pink fabric and incorporated them into the design on both the front and back of the bodice.

If you notice the sleeves, I made them bell shaped from a net fabric with hundred of tiny pearls in an art deco pattern.   I found the fabric locally and shared it with Chloe, hoping she'd fall in love with it as much as I did....and I was right!

Getting the draping just right for the train took some time.   I knew we were looking for some extra body so that there would be fullness, so I ended up adding a complete layer of interfacing to the entire train, along with a 3" horsehair braid edging at the hemline.

I made Chloe a matching hair comb with white and pink florals.  She wasn't quite sure how she was going to wear her hair, but wanted a little something for the big day. 

Obviously, these photos were taken in my studio....but I'm looking forward to getting some from the actual wedding day.  Chloe and Connor were married at the base of the Flatirons in Chattauqua Park in the presence of about 60 of their closest friends and family.   A contemporary wedding, for this contemporary bride! 

Chloe, thank you for letting me be a part of your special day, you were a peach to work.  Cheers to a lifetime of happiness to the new Mr. and Mrs. Laws!             

Friday, July 27, 2018

PALLET SHELF

While I can't take credit for the design (I found something like it on Pinterest), I'll take credit for the "find" and how absolutely adorable it looks in my daughter's powder room.
This as you can see, is made with an old pallet.  My husband gets the credit for the muscle.  He's the one that deconstructed the pallet, cut the boards to the length I wanted and cut the shelves.  There's something about when power tools are involved that he just prefers to do it himself.  Go figure.
I on the other hand, get the credit for the painting and the chotchkies  decorator items.

Once the pallet was dismantled and reassembled.  I lightly sanded it to remove some of the splintered edges, but I wanted to maintain as much of the distressed look as I could.   I even strategically placed the wider board on the outside since it still had actual bark on the edge which looks really cool.

Once that was done I painted the boards with white paint.  I added some water to create more of a white wash.  Then added light touches of blue and green (since those are her accent colors).  Her bathroom was just recently painted a light sage green, so it looks really pretty against it.

The best thing about this project?  The entire unit was constructed at no cost.  The pallet was retrieved from a building site.  The shelves were constructed with old boards we had in the garage, and the paint we already had as well!

I found the majority of the knick-knacks at Hobby Lobby on sale and/or clearance.  So with a little bit of labor (but, mostly love) and minimal cost, this pallet shelf makes for a sweet accent piece!