Guest bathrooms in need of a little love

Mirrors and Dandelions - really hard to get a good photo in a small space

Mirrors and Dandelions – really hard to get a good photo in a small space

We haven’t done much of anything to the bathrooms in the house yet – there has been so much else to do that we just ignored them for the most part.  Despite the fact that I will need to to a bigger overhaul – replacing counters, sink and faucets at some point I decided that a minor update would do for now and freshen it up for my first real houseguest (other than family) My best friend was coming to visit with her young son and I wanted it to be nice. So armed with the magic of paint, I went to town.

Like most of my projects it started out with a simple thing, that led to more simple things and then some not so simple things LOL

Sludge green walls and fake marble counter - but at leaf the towel ring looks good!

Sludge green walls and fake marble counter – but at least the towel ring looks good!

I started off by spray painting the towel rings and toilet roll holders with that oil rubbed bronze Rustoleum I mentioned before – they were functional but chrome and gold – eeww! In 15 minutes they looked much better and I will probably replace them down the line anyway when get around to ditching that awful fake marble sink and counter combo – blech!.

New prettier paint

New prettier paint

I painted the whole bathroom a nice shade of blue, that I had used elsewhere in the house – eradicating the sludge green from yet one more room – YAY!  It looked much better but wow the walls were kinda bare – I needed art.

I hit TJ Maxx one day and picked up a nice modern dandelion print and a set of three mirrors (of course I bought some other stuff too – but that is another project). I hung the three mirrors on one wall and the print in the toilet area.  Much better, but still not quite there…

The wall behind the door and the wall facing the toilet were blank and boring, but I didn’t want to do more prints and definitely no more mirrors – some views you just don’t need….

Single dandelion facing the toilet

Single dandelion facing the toilet

I found a nice dandelion decal on Amazon that I thought would look good with my print and ordered it in white to contrast with the blue walls. It came in a bunch of separate pieces so you could put it up whatever way you chose – I split it up and put one on the wall facing the toilet and two behind the door in the main bathroom. Then I placed all the individual seeds flying up and across the wall and around the corner. I am really happy with it and the bathroom is now ready for my friend to arrive – of course now I want to switch out the awful light fixtures too LOL

The print that inspired it

The print that inspired it

At the same time my teen was looking to make some extra money so he was tasked with painting his bathroom – he spray painted the toilet roll holder and painted the walls a nice green that we had leftover  (learning a valuable life lesson about how taking your time to do it right prevents tedious clean up and redo at the end LOL)

Then the light fixture looked so dingy and discolored that we decided to replace it – cue trip to Home Depot for a new one only to discover that the old one was not wired in the middle – there must have been a stud in the way??? Who knows but it was not going to work unless we wanted to do more major electrical rework – not in the cards!

Two dandelions behind the door

Two dandelions behind the door

So out came the trusty Rustoleum again and my teen spray painted the fixture while I canabalized the glass shades from another bathroom to replace the dingy chipped ones on his. This domino effect led to us replacing the canabalized light fixture with the one we had orignally bought for the teens bathroom. See what I mean about a simple project becoming more and more complex and the day goes on?

Of course the bathroom that got an unexpected new light fixture is going to have to be painted now too….and so it goes on….

Update – I replaced those tired light fixtures after all just before my guests arrived 🙂

Glam new light fixtures

Glam new light fixtures

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?

Rainy Saturday Projects & Escape from Montreal

Arriving at Montreal airport the morning of my escape

Arriving at Montreal airport the morning of my escape

Earlier I was bemoaning my inability to make a semi regular blog post, when my friend Wendy made me realize I didn’t have to write a book every time LOL

Just about enough fabric...

Just about enough fabric…

So here is the brief version of what I have been up to recently. A recent wet and dreary Saturday prevented me from riding my horse, so instead I took care of a few indoor projects…

Bah - hand sewing to close them all in

Bah – hand sewing to close the cushions up

First up, finally finishing the cushion covers for the kitchen chairs – I bought fabric a year ago and covered one then never got around to the other three LOL I made it harder on myself than I should of with the first one – go figure  – so perhaps that’s why I kept putting it off.

Looks good with the leftover fancy designer fabric seat back cushions I made a while back

Looks good with the leftover fancy designer fabric seat back cushions I made a while back

Since I had the sewing machine out, I covered another couple cushions for the family room that had likewise been waiting a year…. I am nothing if not consistent

Some quick family room cushions

Some quick family room cushions

Inspired by all the fun with fabric – I decided to recover the bench in the bedroom too. It was supposed to be grey but it looked very greenish next to all the more blue grays in the room and it bothered me every time I looked at it.

Time for the staple gun

Time for the staple gun

Recently, I had finally found the perfect, inexpensive rug for the bedroom – the floors in there are badly scuffed up and I toyed with the idea of one rug on either side of the bed since I hate paying an arm and a leg for something that the majority of which would be covered up by the bed LOL.  However it just wouldn’t look right – you have to get a rug big enough to anchor he bed properly – the designer in me couldn’t live with two tiny rugs.  I found a great one on Amazon which is actually an indoor/outdoor rug – so a synthetic flat weave, not a fluffy wool rug  – hence the bargain price. But given that here in sunny Florida you don’t need a warm cozy rug and this was the perfect pattern and the right size (9 x 11.5 – you need it big enough to come out to the edge of the nightstands and about the same distance from the foot of the bed – design rules to live by) – it was a no brainer.

Once it was down, the green bench bothered me even more – something had to be done!

Love the new rug!

Love the new rug!

At some point I will have to summarize the entire bedroom project – but lets face it, it is coming together bit by bit and may be another year before I am done LOL

Bench recovered - no more green velvet

Bench recovered – no more green velvet

Back to the bench – I found a shower curtain at Target that I liked and went to town with my staple gun. Big improvement for less than $20

Umm - hoping the plane will leave on schedule

Still coming down – hoping my plane will leave on schedule or at all…

I have been traveling a lot for work recently –  one week ago in San Francisco, followed by a trip to Montreal last week – I nearly didn’t make it back from that one – what with the winter storms making their way up the east coast. My flights there were rerouted and the after the client meeting I spent hours in the airport – delays pushing my flight out over and over until finally it was cancelled 😦

My view from the plane

My view from the plane

They told me I would be stuck there for three days, missing Valentine’s Day with my family -WTF? – not content with that, I found another flight out the next morning. It was touch and go whether it would take off or not – the storms and snowfall meant getting to the airport was a nail biter and then we sat on the runway for over an hour and had to be de-iced before we finally got in the air….

Welcome home to the Florida sunshine

Gatsby welcoming me home to the Florida sunshine

I  was very happy to be home – coming from the grey icy streets of Montreal to the sunshine of Florida in just three and half hours was like Dorothy opening the door to Oz for the first time – suddenly the world was in glorious technicolor 🙂

Poutine - chips with gravy and cheese curds

Poutine – chips with gravy and cheese curds

I did manage to have some poutine in Montreal and maple crepes, unfortunately the only souvenir I brought back was a wretched cold. When I feel better I will finish the post about all the egg recipes I have been making – the ladies are laying big time – we got a record of 11 just yesterday… We are drowning in fresh eggs LOL

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

Finally floor repairs

Kitchen damage

Kitchen damage

One of the fixes we have been putting off since we moved in is the floor. The hardwood floors are pretty beat up and tired but since it would be such a huge job to replace or refinish we decided to just live with it. Frankly we have a houseful of dogs that will scratch it up anyway, so why sweat the small stuff…  However there is a difference between the lived in character of a few scratches and severe water damage. There were two spots that we knew would have to be fixed.

This was the damage when we first moved in

This was the damage when we first moved in

In the kitchen, right in front of the dishwasher, there were several boards that were badly damaged from a previous leak.  Although the leak had been fixed, the damaged boards were pretty unsightly and in a highly visible area. It bothered me to see it every day, multiple times a day. After 10 months I was sick looking at it!

Chisel and hammer is slow going

Chisel and hammer is slow going

The second spot was the powder room around the toilet. We had guessed that they must have had a leaking wax ring issue in the past, unfortunately we discovered after we moved in that this problem had not been repaired and the issue was ongoing – so gross!

Power tools go much faster LOL

Power tools go much faster LOL

The floorboards are engineered hardwood glued down to the concrete subfloor which means it is a huge pain in the ass to pull up, which is frankly, the main reason we have put it off so long.  However we have guests coming for the holidays, which is forcing us to get it done.

Sunny helping  - obviously if I put a pillow on the floor it must be for him, right?

Sunny helping – obviously if I put a pillow on the floor it must be for him, right?

Fortunately we found extra matching floorboards in the attic, so this weekend we decided to fix the kitchen.

all boards removed

all boards removed

We started off with chisels and pry bars before remembering the scraper attachment for the reciprocating saw – now that’s working smarter, not harder LOL  After popping off the trim, we set to work on the damaged boards. I wish I could tell you it is an easy job with the right tool, but it is not. Lots of elbow grease is required – the further away from the damage you get the tougher the glue is and you have to try not to damage the good boards while you are at it….

Adding glue

Adding glue

I put masking tape along the seams to help protect the boards we wanted to leave in place and Eric went to work ripping up as much as he could. I went in after and did the edge clean up. In order for the new boards to fit cleanly you have to chisel off the tongue of the good boards and clean away any old glue or splinters that make the surface uneven.

Like new!

Like new!

I recommend dry fitting the new boards before trying to stick anything down. You don’t have much time to work with the glue. I cut all the pieces I needed with my chop saw, checked the fit and then removed and stacked in order. That way once I put down the glue I could move quickly. The glue goes down with a notched trowel much like installing tile.

Little masking tape keep it all together and remind us where not to walk while glue dries

Little masking tape keep it all together and remind us where not to walk while glue dries

After pressing each new board in place like a big jig saw puzzle, I placed masking tape perpendicularly across the new boards. In part to keep them from spreading apart and introducing gaps, but also as a reminder for us where not to walk for a couple days.

Eric goes to town on the powder room - yuck!

Eric goes to town on the powder room – yuck!

While I was working on the kitchen floor, Eric took on the really gross job – the powder room floor.  Once the toilet was removed, many blackened boards had to come up – they were smelly and nasty! We actually put a fan on it overnight to make sure the surface had sufficiently dried out before attempting the install of the new boards. In addition using some chlorine bleach to remove any of the mildewy residue helped make sure the problem wouldn’t continue to grow.

All the damaged boards removed

All the damaged boards removed

Once the surface was completely clean we used the same process to install the new boards. A jig saw is necessary, in addition to the chop saw, for cutting around the toilet.

jig saw for around the toilet - doesn't need to be pretty

jig saw for around the toilet – doesn’t need to be pretty

I highly recommend the gel filled knee pads if you are tackling anything like this – they are lifesavers!

Flip flops and kneepads - Stylish!

Flip flops and kneepads – Stylish!

Some of the areas in the powder room meant removing some of the tongue from the tongue and groove boards to fit into the spaces around the existing boards. It is a little tricky but if you have a laser line on your chop saw it makes it much easier – if you don’t have one of your own you can rent tools like this by the day from Home Depot.

Laser helps when slicing off some of the tongue.

Laser helps when slicing off some of the tongue.

removed just enough tongue to fit into the jigsaw shaped opening

removed just enough tongue to fit into the jigsaw shaped opening

Once everything is glued in place just let it dry for a couple days.

Like a glove!

Like a glove!

All we have left is to replace the trim and the toilet – using a brand new wax seal and we will be done!

No more ugly floors – now on to the next thing on the to do list….

Roman Blind Project

Final result - love it!  - My fingers hurt LOL

Final result – love it! – My fingers hurt LOL

Every time you move into a new house you have to consider what to do about the windows – unless you like the idea of living in a goldfish bowl you have to put up some sort of blinds or curtains for privacy –  both for you and your neighbors sake!

In our new house we don’t have neighbors right on top of us any more – one of the benefits of living on acreage but you still need some window treatments. Luckily the previous homeowner went with Roman shades, which I love – timeless style.

Original blinds - cream tone on tone jacquard - not my style

Original blinds – cream tone on tone jacquard – not my style

The dining room blinds can be seen from pretty much everywhere in the main living area. I had always planned to cover them up with a nice printed grey and white fabric to match the rest of the ling room decor but –  lets face it –  it was a daunting project. I knew it would take a lot of effort so I kept putting it off  However once the giant blank wall was banished, the cream blinds started to look dingy and really out of place.

new fabric or $20 curtain panel - Yum!

new fabric or $20 curtain panel – Yum!

I needed 95″ of fabric for each blind – there were 4 of them depending on the width of fabric I bought, I was looking at anywhere between 6 -12 yards. Most of the fabrics I liked where priced between $30 -60 a yard – Yikes!

use a stitch ripper to open up hem allowance top and bottom

use a stitch ripper to open up hem allowance top and bottom

Instead, I started looking at curtain panels and as luck would have it I found the perfect thing at Target for only $20 a panel. They were only 84 inches long and I really would have preferred 95 inches – but since I didn’t want to pay an extra $10 per panel and have to wait and order them online I figured that the hem allowance top and bottom would probably be close enough 🙂

Two panels cut each in half lengthwise was just enough to cover the four blinds. Forty bucks was so much better than closer to $500 at the fabric store!

My big plan was to use iron on fusing tape to make it quick and easy since I was never going to be able to get these blinds and the attached hardware through the sewing machine…. Yeah well best laid plans of mice and men etc

back of blinds - the stings are held on with little clips that you should pop off, then reattach

back of blinds – the stings are held on with little clips that you should pop off, then reattach

I took down the blinds and laid each one flat – if you can pop off the strings so much the better. I laid a line of fusing tape along each crease or pleat and all around the outside edge. After ironing the new fabric, I rolled it out carefully in place  on top of the old blind and fusing tape. I pinned on either end of each pleat to stop things shifting. Then I steam ironed like crazy 🙂

Once clips are popped off blinds will lay completely flat. Adding fusing tape and new fabric

Once clips are popped off blinds will lay completely flat. Adding fusing tape and new fabric

Although the tape did a reasonable job I just didn’t trust the bond to hold around the edges and I didn’t want my new pretty fabric to peel off like banana skins after baking in the Florida sun so reluctantly I hand stitched each outer edge of the blinds – just to provide the extra strength and my own peace of mind. Of course that meant it took forever and swallowed my weekend whole. Oh well – if it’s worth doing, its worth doing right.

One done - looks much better

One done – looks much better

The final touch was using some scrap grey fabric to cover the little valances at the top of each blind. Despite achy crampy fingers after all that hand stitching, I am really pleased with the end result. A whole new look for those tired blinds for only $40

Once I recover from the hand sewing induced carpal tunnel, I will do the same to the blinds in my office 🙂

Dining room art challenge

The formal dining room in the new house was going to be an easy one – I already had furniture I liked and a great rug I bought when I was in India years ago.  I figured a lick of paint and we would be good to go – no problem. Of course like many of the projects around here it has been happening in stages

Before - Old light fixture and paint - I know its blurry - it was 2am on moving day or something LOL

Before – Old light fixture and paint – I know its blurry – it was 2am on moving day or something LOL

The first thing I had to get rid of when we first moved in was the old light fixture – not my style at all – I wanted something more modern and contemporary. The light fixture I fell in love with turned out to be Italian and $26k – never going to happen!

New Dining Room Light

New Dining Room Light

So I scoured the interwebs looking for something in my budget that captured the same feel and finally found it – on sale I might add – yay me! Buying it was the easy part – installing it not so much….

It took four of us to get the thing up –  two of us on ladders – every bubble had to be painstakingly screwed together and hung in place – after all the sweating and cursing – we all stood back and just loved it – so dramatic 🙂

Before shot

Before shot

Maybe a month later I tackled the walls I found a great wallpaper that was tone on tone black that I put up under the chair rail. Hey, its a formal dining room – needs some drama right? Then I painted the walls 3 shades of grey to pick out some of the architectural details in the arches and niche.

After - Niche or alcove - you say potato, I say potato...

After – Niche or alcove – you say potato, I say potato…

A touch more of the awesome wallpaper and a great fractal mirror from Pier 1 to set off my Thai Angel. I love her she is the first thing I bring into every new house I have bought in the past 15 years. I think she brings me luck 🙂

Shiny happy people with my bargain mirror

Shiny happy people with my bargain mirror

I found a great mirrored cabinet online and later an awesome round mirror to hang above it. The mirror arrived broken so the company refunded my money but I was able to have the broken glass replaced at a local store for only $20 – Score!

I love shiny things!

I love shiny things!

I love mercury glass – I have used a ton of it as a repeating element to dress up the built in bookshelves in the living room so I used it again here.

My blank Wall

My blank Wall

It was all coming together except for the big wall…. the big blank wall. Originally I had purchased a great 7ft tall leaning mirror from Z Gallerie that was going to anchor that wall. But I hadn’t taken into account the 14ft ceilings – it looked tiny and lost.  Like the scene in This is Spinal Tap when they design this big Stonehenge prop for their stage show but it was built according to the scale on a napkin sketch and when it arrived it was only up to their knees LOL I was similarly underwhelmed….

Dwarfed mirror looks sad :(

Dwarfed mirror looks sad 😦

So I moved it into the master bedroom where it looks much better  –  but that still  left me the problem of the giant wall. I couldn’t find a mirror big enough that didn’t cost eleventy billion dollars. I thought about buying glass and making my own frame – but how many leaning mirrors does one house need and how the hell would I move a piece of glass that size? That would be just asking for 7 years of bad luck LOL

So 8 months later, I was still staring at that blank wall when I decided it was way past time to figure it out. I toyed with the idea of several mirrors hung in a grid, maybe a giant painting – but to be honest painting in large scale does not come easy to me – I am too detail oriented – it would likely take me a year to finish a painting of that size and that blank wall could not wait that long.

Ruby Beach WA

Ruby Beach WA

Finally, I was browsing through my photos when I came upon a trip we took to Ruby Beach back in Washington. We had taken a drive out with Jon and the dogs –  I had forgotten about all the landscape photos I had taken trying to capture the mist rolling over the bluff. I chose one with a couple tiny fishermen out on a rock and converted it to black & white – everyone knows that a black & white photo is way more artsy LOL

My guys walking the dogs

My guys walking the dogs

I thought it would make a perfect triptych. So, I went online and found Canvas on Demand – they take your photo and print it on canvas in custom sizes. I needed 60 x 90 inches – which means each third of the triptych would be 60 x 30. I choose to have the edges gallery wrapped in black  – which I think is a crisp, contemporary detail and if you like them on Facebook they give you a 30% discount which saved me a ton of money!

Close up on the wall

Close up on the wall

I waited anxiously for a couple weeks to get the final product, hoping I would like it in real life as much as I liked the idea of it. Of course nothing goes smoothly – when it arrived it was split horizontally instead of vertically – Aaaaarrrrrghhhh! I called them right away and they fixed it but I had to wait again for another couple weeks – I hate waiting…

This weekend it arrived – split the right way and it was perfect 🙂 We used a laser level to make sure we got it all lined up right which was a huge time saver.

Empty wall banished

Empty wall banished – (binds are different too but thats another post LOL)

Being able to use your own photo, a memory of a happy day spent with my family and our dogs, a photo from the state we lived in for 18 years, the state my husband and I met and married in, seemed like a fitting thing to hang on the wall in our new home and new state of Florida.

It successfully fills that giant blank wall, is unique and personal to us and I finally get to put one of my gazillion photos to good use 🙂

Chicken Update – Eggs! – or at least one

First Egg!!!!!!

First Egg!!!!!!

Today was the big day after a week or so of thinking about it our Leghorn laid our first egg!

Foghorn - our Leghorn who laid the first egg today!

Foghorn – our Leghorn who laid the first egg today!

For the past week or so my husband has been obsessively checking in on the chickens – we knew it could be any day now. This morning Foghorn the leghorn started sing the egg song  (seriously look it up –  its a thing LOL) and scratching around in the nest boxes so we were very hopeful and sure enough when we went out to check on her – there it was – our first fresh egg from our own hens 🙂

First egg in the nest box  - I am so excited to have been home to see this

First egg in the nest box – I am so excited to have been home to see this

Still warm and actually larger than I expected. The proud mom is doing fine and got some yummy treats for her hard work

Buff Orpington fluffy chicken butt LOL

Buff Orpington fluffy chicken butt LOL

I have been home sick all weekend but I am actually almost glad I caught this wretched cold from my last business trip – since that was the only reason I was at home today to witness this momentous occasion LOL

More pics 🙂

Lily - our Barred Rock

Lily – our Barred Rock

"Not Legorn" - we think she is a Delaware

“Not Legorn” – we think she is a Delaware

One of the two Black Sex Links

One of the two Black Sex Links

Cleo - Our Rhode Island Red and Buff Orpington mix

Cleo – Our Rhode Island Red and Buff Orpington mix