Restoration Hardware – you are drunk!

Final arrangement

Final arrangement

I recently bought a console table for an empty spot in the house – it was a wall crying out for something – of course this meant I then needed things to put on it….sigh…

I remember seeing some cool glass domes in Restoration Hardware catalogs with scrolls and keys in them and I thought a few of those would look nice along with some crapola I already had – like a nice wooden horse and silver tray that were in need of homes.

I guess I had never checked the price on these splendiferous glass “cloches” – the one I particularly liked full of vintage keys was $395 – WTF?  If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would never pay 400 bucks for a bunch of old rusty keys in a glass dome! Even the empty ones were $70 – 100 – not happening!

Some of the raw materials

Some of the raw materials

Outraged, but still wanting my fancy “objects d’art” – I decided to take matters into my own hands. I ordered 3 varying sizes of cloches from Amazon – do yourself a  favor and search for glass display domes – they are automatically half the price of a glass “cloche” LOL. The largest most expensive was under $40, the other two were $20 and $14 all on a nice walnut base – just like the Restoration Hardware versions 🙂

I also ordered some old keys online for $15 and then hit JoAnnes and Michaels to pick up a few more old keys, some carved wooden eggs and a pad of that paper scrapbookers use with old letters, sheet music, maps etc printed on them I may have spent all of $30

Map scroll with Ireland and Journey Key

Map scroll with Ireland and Journey Key

Once I had all my ingredients on hand, I started with the easy stuff. The tallest “cloche” I wanted to fill with scrolls – similar to the expensive inspiration but since I was doing it myself, I was able to personalize – I rolled up a map from the scrapbooking pad, leaving  Ireland visible –  tied it up with a piece  of canvas that came with some of the JoAnnes stuff and added a small key with the word “Journey”.  Since I moved from Ireland to the US many years ago I thought this was appropriate. I made another scroll from a piece of sheet music and added a key with the word “Heart” on it  –  I did find my wonderful husband here after all – then I used a few more vintage looking letters and tied them with the ribbon that held some of the keys together  and “Voila”  for $25 bucks I had recreated a pretty cool piece.

Heart scroll

Heart scroll

Even easier was filling the smallest dome with a bunch of carved wooden eggs – I thought that would be kind of fun, since, we amazingly enough, have chickens who lay a bunch of actual eggs –  this was a quirky nod to the life we have today and love. This one may have cost me about $35

The final one was more of a project – I really wanted that damn cloche full of keys!!! The Victorians were on to something – you can put any old crap under glass and it instantly becomes fascinating and fabulous – part of an exotic collection. I needed one of these so bad – I just refused to pay a fortune for it!

Badly focused view of the hooks

Badly focused view of the hooks

I used some dark bronze wire I bought in JoAnnes to make hooks. I have some pliers from a jewelry making hobby I had back in the day that let me easily form the shape I wanted and I just made them in varying heights and arranged the keys in a way that made me happy. I used a piece of styrofoam to get the general layout and then marked the base of the largest dome with a sharpie in the approximate layout of the hooks in the styrofoam.

Putting the teen to work drilling the base

Putting the teen to work drilling the base

My teen, who loves to help out on projects and build things (wonder where he gets that from?) used a fine drill bit to drill holes straight down into the base. Make sure you mark your drill bit with tape so you don’t go the whole way through  – just 3/4 of the way is what you need.

Checking for fit on my styrofoam prototype

Checking for fit on my styrofoam prototype

Once he did that, I started to assemble the hooks into the base. I discovered that the weight of the keys made them swivel so I used a hot glue gun to put a bead of glue on the bottom of each hook before inserting it into the base – this held them securely where I wanted them, then I could hang the keys knowing they wouldn’t shift around and get tangled.

Looks like $400!

Looks like $400!

Finally, I put the glass dome in place and stood back to admire my handiwork. OK I may have spent $70 all told on this one, but it is a far cry from the $395 that Restoration Hardware wanted  – of course they may have been drunk off their asses when they came up with that price point LOL

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The Windy City

Sears Tower Sky deck!

Sears Tower Sky deck!

A few weeks ago, I had to fly to Chicago for client meetings and since our oldest is in college there, we decided that we should all go and make a weekend out of it. Chicago is one of my favorite American cities – the museums, the architecture, the location of some of my favorite moves ever LOL

Ceiling of the Palmer House Hilton Lobby

Ceiling of the Palmer House Hilton Lobby

My youngest and I arrived at the Palmer House Hilton on Tuesday night – what a beautiful hotel? It is the longest continually operating hotel in the nation and the brownie was invented here during the Worlds Fair in 1893. It has been beautifully restored and well worth a visit if only to marvel at the ceiling in the lobby or the stunning art deco Tiffany Peacock Doors– these doors originally came from the House of Peacock – an historic Chicago jewelry store.

Peacock Doors

Peacock Doors

We went for Chicago deep dish at Lou Malnati’s on Thursday night which was a big hit with everyone – lots of cheese! My husband arrived that night and even he couldn’t finish it LOL

View from Sears Tower

View from Sears Tower

Friday morning I had client meetings in the Sears Tower ( I know it is officially called the Willis Tower now – but no-one calls it that) so my guys met me at lunchtime and we went up to the Skydeck. They installed glass boxes on the side of the building on the 103rd floor so you could look down to the street without pressing your nose up against the glass (Thanks to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

103 stories straight down - Skydeck

103 stories straight down – Skydeck

It is a little unnerving – your brain keeps telling you you are hanging in mid air but the views are spectacular and it really is an experience not to be missed. I think it is better than the Hancock Tower, although I have not been there since they added Tilt to the observation deck – so probably worth seeing both 🙂

I had it half eaten before I thought to take a photo LOL

I had it half eaten before I thought to take a photo LOL

We had a fantastic lunch at Berghoffs another Chicago classic restaurant started in the 1870s and the historic location is unchanged from the 50’s  – Chicago is such a great foodie town.

River Tour - Sears Tower

River Tour – Sears Tower

We headed up the Magnificent Mile where everyone goes to shop, took an architectural boat tour on the river before another great meal in Rosebud on Rush – a fantastic Italian restaurant.

Stuffed French Toast at Beef & Brandy's

Stuffed French Toast at Beef & Brandy’s

Sat the sun came out so fueled up by a great breakfast at Beef & Brandy’s diner, we visited the bean again or Cloud Gate if you want the real name…

Chicago Skyline in the Bean

Chicago Skyline in the Bean

This sculpture really is something else –  I am not sure what it is about it that makes it so compelling – the Chicago skyline reflecting in the curved surface? The odd reflections when walking under it? Or just the ability to take crazy selfies… Whatever it is, it is impossible to resist. (If you ever saw Source Code it is featured at the end)

Visiting the Chagall windows at the Art Institute of Chicago

Visiting the Chagall windows at the Art Institute of Chicago

Every time I go to Chicago, I go to the Art Institute – it is an amazing museum filled with many famous works of art – things I studied in books when I was at school – plan to spend at least 4 hours if you really want to see it all.  I was delighted to see the Chagall windows again, since the last time I was there, they were in storage during the museum remodel. I confess I don’t love the new location –  the old one was much better (see Ferris Bueller’s Day Off again) They are sort of tucked away in a dark corner, unlike before where you could sit on a bench and see all three at once while the light flooded through them bathing you in blue…..

We had lunch in Millers Pub  – another Chicago classic right under the L on Wabash. Great food – unpretentious and friendly.

Biograph Theater - where Dillinger was shot

Biograph Theater – where Dillinger was shot

After making the guys sit through so much culture I agreed to go on the Untouchables Bus tour (yet another movie reference) This tour took you around some of the famous gangster crime locations in the city the most memorable being the Biograph Theater where Dillinger was shot (watch Johnny Depp in Public Enemies)

Downtown Chicago

Downtown Chicago

That night we took the L and went to Kingston Mines – a live blues club that will allow minors in with their parents – the music, the food and the atmosphere were great – it was hard to tear ourselves away but we had an early flight the next day…

Sinful dessert

Sinful dessert at the Palmer House

Maybe because I didn’t have the chance to visit Daley plaza this time (location of the final chase scene in the movie where the amazing Picasso public art is) we felt compelled to watch the Blues Brothers when we got home 🙂

Till next time…

 

A little calm amidst the chaos

My moment of Zen

My moment of Zen

It has been a busy couple months  – a couple of my oldest friends have to come to visit with their kids, family have been houseguests and between the theme park visits, dinners and entertaining everyone, I have also been traveling a lot for work… So I am especially happy to have carved out a little time for myself this weekend.

potato mix with chives and cheese

potato mix with chives and cheese

Yesterday, I had a great lesson with my horse, riding around the obstacle course of the back wooded pasture. She was calm and connected and I was more focused than I have been of late. Now the nights are brighter I need to try to ride a couple times a week! I think we need to get out on the trails soon.

little nests of the potato mix

little nests of the potato mix

This morning the house is empty – all the current houseguests are with my guys at Universal – I stayed home to do laundry, run errands and clear my head before the work week starts again on Monday. However since it is Easter I decided to try a new egg recipe

nests after 30 minutes in the oven

nests after 30 minutes in the oven

Baked Eggs in Hashbrown Nests

  • Take a packet of thawed Simply Potatoes hash brown potatoes and add some chives, cheese and seasoning.
  • After tossing that together in a bowl, spray Pam on a muffin pan and make little nests of the potato mixture
  • Put that in the oven at 400 for about 30 minutes, then let cool a little.
  • Crack an egg into each nest and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper or your favorite seasoning.
  • Bake for about 10 -15 minutes (you need to keep an eye on it since everyone’s ovens vary)
  • Sprinkle a little cheese and some shredded prosciutto on top and serve.
eggs baked with a little cheese and prosciutto on top

eggs baked with a little cheese and prosciutto on top

It was pretty good even if I do say so myself LOL

yolks are little too firm - but still tasted good :)

yolks are little too firm – but still tasted good

Unfortunately I was a little distracted and left them in closer to the 15 minute mark which meant the yolks were quite firm when I had actually wanted them to be soft – the 10 minute mark might have been the right time to take them out since they continue to cook in the pan – Oh well, next time….

Laundry is done, belly is full – I think it may be mani pedi time 🙂

Getting creative with the egg recipes

Eggstravaganza - every day....

Eggstravaganza – every day….

Since our chickens are now in full laying mode we get on average of 9 to 12 fresh eggs a day and although I give away many to friends and neighbors I am determined to make the most of the delicious product of our hen’s labor LOL

If you have never eaten truly fresh eggs you don’t know what you are missing – the taste is so much better than what you get in the store. Even if they say cage free or farm fresh that is generally not what you think it is – the chickens’ living conditions are still not much better than the poor battery hens. Pastured is the correct term, apparently, for what we all probably have in our heads when we think of farm fresh.

Our chickens roam around all day eating bugs and weeds and scratching in the yard to their hearts content. They are more like pampered feather pets since my husband like to give them sunflower seeds and sprout lentils for them LOL

Happy hens lay the best eggs – the taste is richer and firmer than any store bought egg and I won’t waste a single one

Fortunately we are an egg loving family but lets face it there are only so many scrambled or fried egg breakfasts you can fit in to a week so here are some of my favorite recipes that use plenty of eggs.

Of course we do all the basics like omelets and hard boiled eggs chopped up in salads etc but I also make a mean fritatta LOL

Fritatta

Fritatta - Yum

Fritatta – Yum

Years ago in Boise Idaho I had an awesome fritatta with spaghetti noodles that I had to reverse engineer. It varies depending on whats in the fridge but here are the basics.

  • Cook up some thick cut diced pancetta or regular bacon in a large cast iron pan
  • Add in your favorite veggies – I usually saute up some mushrooms, onions and spinach
  • Boil a handful of angel hair pasta and toss into the pan
  • Season to taste
  • In a mixing bowl crack at least 6 – 8 eggs
  • Add about a cup of heavy cream (or milk if you really must)
  • Add a couple cups of your favorite shredded cheese and whisk
  • Pour your egg mixture into the pan and mix thoroughly
  • Transfer the whole pan to the oven set to 350 and cook for about 35 – 40 minutes
  • Slice into wedges and serve from the skillet

Breakfast Pizza

Breakfast Pizza - only 4 eggs on this one - I usually do 6 these days

Breakfast Pizza – only 4 eggs on this one – I usually do 6 these days – Thanks Alicia!

This was inspired by a friend on Facebook and turned out to be a family fav. It is quick and so very easy.

  • Spread out pizza dough on a large baking pan sprayed with PAM (I totally cheat and use the Pillsbury store bought stuff in a tube)
  • Brush with olive oil and sprinkle a little garlic and parsley salt on it
  • Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Layer with finely cut red onion, thin slices of pancetta, sauteed mushrooms and uncooked spinach (Don’t go too thick with the toppings or the dough wont cook properly)
  • Crack 4 – 6 eggs on top and sprinkle with some seasoning to taste – I use a Johnny’s seasoning salt, which is unfortunately hard to get here in Florida – I just have a stockpile)
  • Pop in the oven at 400 and keep an eye on it – it should be ready in 15 – 20 minutes however ovens vary and I just jiggle it to make sure the eggs are set but not to hard
  • Slice with a pizza cutter and serve

Quiche

Yum Quiche - before my fancy fluted pans

Yum Quiche – before my fancy fluted pans

I love quiche and have been making it for years – again it is one of those recipes that you can switch up to your heart’s content but this is my favorite version and will yield a couple decent sized quiches depending on your dish sizes. I have a couple of 9 in cake pans but recently switched to some great fluted pans with removable bottoms that way I can pop it right out and the fluted pastry edge looks perfect – easier to cut too. If you make too much or don’t want crust you can just cook it in the baking pan for a crust-less quiche – still delicious and cooks up a little faster – presentation is not quite as nice however…

  • In a large pan cut up and cook about  1lb of your fav bacon till crispy
  • Using a slotted spoon remove the bacon and let drain on some paper towels – DO NOT waste all that bacon grease
  • Toss some minced garlic and one large or two small finely sliced white onions into the pan (you may need to add more butter depending on how much bacon grease you have left)
  • Saute for a good three or four minutes till soft and golden
  • Toss in a container of sliced mushrooms and keep sauteeing – season to taste
  • Toss in a couple handfuls of baby spinach near the end and cook till it softens – set aside
  • After pressing your pastry into your pans (see below for that recipe)
  • Crack 7 or 8 eggs in a large mixing bowl and add one and a half cups of heavy cream
  • Add two cups of your favorite shredded cheese and season to taste – I usually add garlic, parsley, black pepper and Johnny’s seasoning salt
  • Whisk thoroughly and then pour in all your other ingredients
  • Divide the mixture between your two pans and pop in the oven at 400 for approx 35 – 55 minutes – the reason the range is so wide it will depend on how deep your quiche pans are…I basically check in after 30 minutes and you want the top to be getting lightly golden and the center to be just about set – a little jiggle is good – you don’t want the egg mix to be rock hard – but it does need to be firm enough to slice.
  • Let cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving

Homemade Pastry
I learned to make pastry from my grandmother and she didn’t use recipes – it was all by eye – basically twice as much flour as butter, a pinch of salt, dash of vinegar and a couple spoonfuls of water as needed… Chill for an hour and use…. I recognize that most people are not comfortable with recipes that are quite that free form LOL so Pioneer Woman has one that is as close to my grandmothers as I can find, but with actual measurements and directions 🙂 She also turned me on to the fluted quiche pans.

Deviled Eggs

Love the sign - love the eggs

Love the sign – love the eggs – this was a small batch we usually make way more…

We love deviled eggs in this house – as proven by the cool hand lettered sign I got for my husband for Christmas and now hangs proudly in the kitchen. There are million recipes out there and I know everyone has their favorites but I am not a fan of the sweet pickle that many people put in theirs, so I make mine with Parmesan cheese instead and they are usually a big hit

  • Boil a dozen eggs – make sure they are at least a week to ten days old – very fresh eggs do not peel well – the membrane is too tight and you end up peeling little chunks of the white off and they look cratered –  like the surface of the moon – delicious but not so pretty. If you are using store bought eggs this is not a problem you will face – I just have to plan in advance and set some aside to “age” LOL
  • Peel and slice in half – remove yolks and place in a mixing bowl – get yourself a deviled egg plate – makes things so much easier…
  • Add mayo and seasoning to taste – I prefer garlic salt, black pepper and a couple heaping tablespoons of finely grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Use a food processor if you have one – I use a little hand held one that makes sure the mixture has no lumps
  • Place in a piping bag and fill the egg halves (I use a Ziplock bag with the corner cut off  because piping bags are too annoying to clean – this way I toss the bag and only have to clean the tip)
  • Sprinkle with paprika and add garnish of bacon crumbles, chives or caviar, depends on your tastes

Homemade Pasta

Rolling the pasta

Rolling the pasta

I got a Kitchenaid mixer finally about two years ago and treated myself to the pasta set to go with it. It is a little tricky to do, but lots of fun and you definitely feel like a fancy chef when you make your own homemade pasta. Last time I made too much and so have frozen some in Ziplock bags.

Making spahgetti

Making spahgetti

I am told it keeps really well in the freezer but I have yet to boil up any of the frozen batches yet so can’t confirm that. Also there is a special Italian pasta flour very fine called 00 that I plan to try soon – supposed to make the best pasta

Pasta ready to cook or freeze...

Pasta ready to cook or freeze…

  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 2 cups of semolina flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Sift all the dry ingredients together then make a well in the middle
  • Add eggs and olive oil and whisk together
  • My mixer makes it easy to knead the dough but if you do it by hand it takes about 12 minutes and some muscle
  • Wrap in plastic and allow to rest for about 30 minutes
  • Either roll out by hand using lots of flour or use a handy dandy pasta roller to get it to the desired thickness – remember I said lots of flour or it will stick to itself
  • My pasta cutter does fettuccine and spaghetti shapes so I just feed it through the blades and make little floury piles of pasta – some I froze, the rest I cooked
  • Boil your pasta for a few minutes in salted water with a splash of olive oil (to prevent sticking) Toss in your favorite pasta sauce and serve

IMG_8491I like Alfredo sauces so I make my own with heavy whipping cream, Parmesan cheese, chicken, mushrooms, peas and pancetta  – Yum!

Strawberry Cake

worlds best strawberry cake - thanks Wendy!

World’s best strawberry cake – thanks Wendy!

I got this recipe from my blogging friend Wendy – I loved the look of it an filed it away for future use – took me a year to get around to it but now I make it all the time – it is soooo good and I am not actually much of a cake fan – usually too sweet for me. But this is light and fresh and tastes like summer on a plate. Not to mention how impressed everyone is at the sight of it. I made the first time over a year ago for my teenager’s birthday and everyone loved it – plus it uses 8 eggs LOL
Check out Wendy’s recipe and instructions she is so much more detailed than I would ever be and her photos are amazing 🙂 (BTW save the left over egg whites from this recipe to make the meringue below)

Pavlova

Mmmmm - Pavlova

Mmmmm – Pavlova

This was one of my favorite desserts growing up – I love meringue! But you just don’t see it in the US very often. So given my abundance of eggs I thought I would try it. Everyone loved it and I was impresssed  that my first time effort at meringue went so well

Goes fast LOL

Goes fast LOL

Here’s the recipe I used, only I used strawberries, blackberries and raspberries – since that is my fav version. Also I put a a couple tabsp of sugar and a tspn of vanilla in the whipped cream…

French toast
My teen has a sweet tooth so loves french toast – this has been a great way to use up eggs and have the family clean their plates. I have not picture of this – it goes fast…

  • Crack 6 eggs in a bowl
  • Add a dash of vanilla essence
  • Add a cup of heavy cream (or milk if you must)
  • Add a couple tablespoons of cinnamon
  • Add about a quarter cup of maple sugar if you have it (brown sugar if you don’t)  and whisk
  • Dip your bread of choice and toss onto a medium hot skillet
  • Flip and serve with maple syrup and or other favorite fixings

Crepes

Crepes

Crepes

This was a new one for me – I had never made them myself before and they could have been a little thinner to be honest but they were a big hit – I served mine with a ricotta cheese filling, sliced fresh strawberries and a dusting of powdered sugar. They didn’t use that many eggs unfortunately, but I owed my guys a sweet, rather than savory weekend breakfast LOL

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp. orange zest or 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 pint strawberries sliced
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 4 Tbsp granulated sugar, or to taste
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 4 to 6 tsp. unsalted butter
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
  • tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp of cinnamon
  • In a blender, combine the milk, egg, flour, salt, oil and zest and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for a couple hours.
  • In a large bowl, combine the strawberries, lemon juice and 2 Tbsp of the granulated sugar, or to taste. In another bowl, combine the ricotta and the remaining 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Set aside.
  • In a small pan over medium heat, melt 1 tsp. of the butter to coat the pan evenly. Pour in little of the batter and spread with a spatula. Cook until the crepe is golden underneath, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip the crepe over and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover with aluminum foil. Repeat to make 4 to 6 crepes.
  • Cover half of each crepe with the ricotta mixture and fold in half. Place 2 crepes on each plate. Top with the berries and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Serve immediately.

Dutch Apple Pancake

Dutch Apple Pancake - start to deflate as soon as you take it out

Dutch Apple Pancake – starts to deflate as soon as you take it out of the oven

Another experiment – I had never made before and it looked so cool but my guys were honestly not that impressed. It is a good recipe and looks amazing as it expands up over the sides of the skillet – but I think they would have preferred more sugar LOL
here is the recipe I used

Creme Brulee

Creme Brûlée in my fancy water bath dish

Creme Brûlée in my fancy water bath dish – need to caramelize sugar more

This is hands down my favorite dessert of all time – I love it! I had to replace my creme brulee torch this year since the old one was appropriated by my guys a long time ago to light fireworks, create mini flamethrowers, you name it – they got up to it! So I bought a new little set form Amazon that has the water bath and ramekins etc. My men have been informed that they are not to touch it- not even look in it’s general direction or there will be hell to pay – Lets see how long it lasts…
This is the recipe that I like to use – although I just put vanilla essence in not the actual bean – I am lazy…

Key Lime Pie

Teen's first Key Lime Pie - it was delicious

Teen’s first Key Lime Pie – it was delicious

Honestly, both my guys normally like to make this one for us – Yay – Make the men cook pie! We are now growing our own key limes and hopefully there will be enough soon for a pie 🙂 You can also put some meringue on top (as pictured above) if you like – uses a few egg whites too 🙂
Here’s a good recipe

Ceasar salad dressing
One of my favorite salads of all time – I could eat it anytime – Toss some grilled chicken or shrimp on it and you are good to go
Here is a great recipe

I am open to other suggestions if you have them – what are some of your favorite egg heavy recipes?

Front Door Revamp

New spiffy red door

New spiffy red door

When we moved in the front door was painted the same color as the house. Don’t get me wrong – I like the color of the house, but I prefer the front door to pop in a contrasting color, not blend in – so I knew immediately that I would have to paint it. However during the hot Florida summers leaving your door open for several hours just does not happen – not unless you want to air condition the street and have a electric bill the size of the national debt.

Ho Hum Green

Ho Hum Green

Once the weather cooled down, opportunity knocked.  I picked a nice rich red – more of a paprika or spice red rather than a candy apple red – since that works better with the muted greens and beiges of the rest of the house exterior.

Morocco Red from Behr was my final pick. I also made sure to get an exterior gloss with primer built in – the original paint was a matte finish which seems odd to me for doors or trim – but maybe that is just me LOL I had already replaced the old gold lockset with a new oil rubbed bronze one when we first moved in.

sad old scuffed door and nasty gold lockset

sad old scuffed door and nasty gold lockset

I am too lazy to remove doors, take off hardware or use masking tape – I just use an angled brush and if  some gets on the glass then I clean up later with a razor blade – much faster LOL However there is a method to painting doors, especially ones with windows and panels that I always adhere to. Basically you do the mullions around the windows and the interior edges of the panels first, then the panels, then the horizontal in between bits, finally the outside – that way you are going with the grain as much as possible and you get less drips. I know it sounds anal, but it actually works and is what professional painters do.

Fun with paint chips

Fun with paint chips

I gave it two coats which was enough to do the trick and left the doors open all day so it could dry before closing up. I love how the red pops and makes the front door more of a focal point.

Teenager hard at work

Teenager hard at work

Next up were the entryway lights – not sure what the original color was supposed to be, but currently they are a sad faded pink which is not working for me at all. I thought about replacing them but they are huge and heavy – so therefore probably expensive LOL I always think about the scene in Jurassic Park when the kid finds the infrared goggles and the lawyer asks him if they are heavy – the kid says yes and the lawyer says “that means they are expensive, put them away”

Oil rubbed bronze by Rustoleum - Yum!

Oil rubbed bronze by Rustoleum – Yum!

Rather than buy some new expensive, heavy lights I figured I could just spray these guys with some oil rubbed bronze Rustoleum and we would be good to go. Good project for my teen hehehe – at least it gets him out of the house  🙂

Final result - looks so crisp!

Final result – looks so crisp!

Well, we got busy and the holidays descended upon us so the lights got put on hold. However, this weekend it was a cool, dry, sunny day  – perfect for a project like this. We took the lights down and took them apart. My teen sanded them all down and spray painted everything,

Garage light looks a million times better

Garage light looks a million times better

I cleaned off the glass and put them together at the end. It went so well we did the other two smaller exterior lights as well by the garage and back door. He did a great job and the lights look like a million dollars. Just goes to show, amazing transformations can happen with just a little paint 🙂

Back door light sprayed to match

Back door light sprayed to match

Mantel Madness

Final effect - Christmas spirit all over the place :)

Final effect – Christmas spirit all over the place 🙂

Decorating the new house for Christmas has been an adventure – not everything you have fits or works so you have to rethink what you normally do.

We have a fireplace again, which is awesome since the rental house did not, and the watching the yule log on your TV is just not the same LOL.  This one is a little different than ones I have had in the past  – it is pretty shallow so there is really no room to decorate it the way I had before and my original thought of just hanging a garland across the front quickly got tossed out the window when I realized how much heat the front of it got when the fire was lit. I imagine exploding pine garlands and baubles would probably ruin christmas LOL

Pretty and hopefully not a fire hazard LOL

Pretty and hopefully not a fire hazard LOL

So Instead I decided to decorate either side – away from the heat and potential explosions. I had seen some fancy teardrop swags in catalogs but as usual they were extremely pricy so since the last Christmas craft project had turned out so well I decided to try it again.

teardrop swag

teardrop swag

I picked up a couple of cheap swags as a base at Big Lots for only $17 each and pulled off some of the ugly fake feathers (yes you read that right – there was a reason they were only $17) After another glitter filled trip to Michael’s, I went through the same process as I did before and once up they looked like the $200 ones in Frontgate!!

Hmmm - big blank space...

Hmmm – big blank space…

Next thing to need a little christmas spirit was the top of the built in shelves. There is a lot of space up there and it looked a little barren. It needed something – but what? Something that did not cost an arm and a leg or involve oversized nutcrackers staring down at me that I would have nightmares about (I have seen Chucky and Dead Silence – no giant dolls or puppets allowed!)

Big Lots - the raw materials :)

Big Lots – the raw materials 🙂

SInce we were already in Big Lots I picked up some inexpensive outdoor holiday decor. Some LED twigs you are supposed to line your pathways with and a couple little sleigh and reindeer sets. All told, I spent less than $100

Teen Labor

Teen Labor

Once home I once again enlisted husband and teen to help me. We drilled holes in a 2×4 and inserted two sets of LED pinecone branches spaced evenly apart. We assembled and tested on the floor before handing it up to my husband on the ladder to put in place on top of the shelves.

setting up on the ground

setting up on the ground

Next we took the first sleigh and reindeer set and marked the correct positions on another 2×4 before drilling more holes and installing in front of the branches. Now I had a sleigh and 4 reindeer flying across a wintery forest – not bad!

teamwork

teamwork

We did the same thing on the other side except we removed the sleigh so when seen as a whole it was Santa and his 8 reindeer stretched out across the top of the shelves on either side on the fireplace 🙂

I love it – my heart grew two sizes that day! Amazing what you can do with a couple 2×4’s extension cords and some cheap discount decorations – and of course the free labor from my guys 🙂

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Crafty

Final effect - mostly matching wreaths and a couple light up topiaries from Lowes - at least the door is ready for the holidays!

Final effect – mostly matching wreaths and a couple light up topiaries from Lowes – at least the door is ready for the holidays!

I am not really the Martha Stewart type, but after searching online for ages for a couple of front door christmas wreaths I realized I was going to have to take the matter into my own hands….

The base wreath - pretty plain

The base wreath – pretty plain

I had no idea wreaths were so bloody expensive if you want something a bit more stylish that a couple fake pine cones and some red ribbon! You can either order some freshly made, eucalyptus and pine fronds transported lovingly by horse drawn carriage from Maine’s deepest, evergreen forests for an arm and a leg or you can get the fake “designer” kinds that cost eleventy billion dollars. I needed two for my front doors and unless I was willing to sell my kid for medical experiments I couldn’t justify the cost.

My glittery treasure trove before disassembly began

My glittery treasure trove before disassembly began

I checked all my usual low cost places – Target, Home goods – even Lowes and saw nothing that I liked. Finally I just decided It can’t be that hard to make your own.

After pulling them all apart

After pulling them all apart

I found a couple battery operated large green wreaths with nothing more than some clear LED lights at Lowes to use as the base. Then I headed over to Michaels – the mecca of crafty housewives and pot pourri to look for some attractive glittery stuff to glue on

Heres one of the pieces I didn't pull apart - used it as an anchor piece at the bottom

Heres one of the pieces I didn’t pull apart – used it as an anchor piece at the bottom

They have a sea of glittery leaves, berries, fake fruit, flowers – you name it! I hit up the 50% off sale items first and then picked a few other full price things too. I dropped abut $60 on a selection of mostly silver, gold and white leafy stuff because I thought that would look best against my newly painted red doors.

Just insert them in the general direction of the other branches

Just insert them in the general direction of the other branches

When I got home I started pulling them apart. These things are made up up of a lot of smaller pieces on wires that are artfully arranged and then wrapped with paper to create one larger branch like thing. I am trying to imagine that being a job someone has somewhere LOL – you would be constantly covered in glitter!

Gatsby - our new rescue -  helping...

Gatsby – our new rescue – helping…

All you have to do is strip away the paper and you get 5 or 7 smaller pieces for the price of one. I enlisted my teen to help me break it all up then I split my glittery treasure trove  in half so that I didn’t go overboard on one wreath and not have enough for the second.  I laid all the pieces out on the dining room table beside the first wreath and got to work.

The fall apart test - lift it up and shake it to see if everything stays put LOL

The fall apart test – lift it up and shake it to see if everything stays put LOL

It’s really not that difficult – start with some of the larger pieces and jam them in – then you can twist the wires around the wireframe of the base wreath to attach. I had a glue gun but honestly I didn’t use it much  – the twisted wire held just fine. I used a couple larger pieces to anchor the bottom and then a sliver flower to offset the top. Then work around the wreath adding and layering more to your hearts content.

Glittertastic close up

Glittertastic close up

If you are worried about not having a good vision of what you want just keep an inspiration photo handy to refer to. I knew I wanted that winterberry look, instead of holiday baubles so I just kept adding little branches that stuck out around the edges until I was happy with the overall effect.

First one up - not too shabby...

First one up – not too shabby…

Of course after I finished one, I had to do it all over again – so my fingers were a little sore and scraped up from all the wire twisting. It was worth it though, nothing fell off when I hung them on the doors and I think they look pretty good – expensive designer look on the cheap and they are unique – nothing exactly like them anywhere else LOL