New Birds

A bird decided to make a nest in our fern hanging next to our door. The eggs finally hatched.

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Update 6/19/2014

The birds have left the nest.  When I went to water the fern, they flew away and I almost had a heart-attack.  I did find another nest in the backyard when mowing the lawn and they are about ready to move-on as well.

Hotdish

Minnesota girls looove hotdish.  When I was little My favorite was “Katie’s Hotdish”.  A hotdish, named in honor of my strong affinity… A concoction of elbow mac, cream of mushroom soup, hamburger, and canned corn.  Yum.  I have not had it in years.  I had dissimilar feelings towards “Red Hotdish”- elbow mac, condenced tomatoe soup and hambuger.  I would cry when my parents started making this entree. 

Nowadays, my husband is not open to the idea of hotdish.  I guess I can’t blame the guy, I can certainly attest to the love-hate nature of hotdish.  Despite my husband’s disinterest, I loooove to make the following hotdish- a modification of the recipe found on the back of the Stove Top stuffing box.

1 cup chopped chicken (I use the froze chicken breast pieces from Schwann’s)
1 cups frozen vegetables (I use brocolii)
1/2 a can cream of mushroom soup
1/3 cup light sour cream
1 box Stove Top stuffing mix
1/2  cup mild shredded chedder cheese
Directions:

1.Make stuffing according to the instructions on the box.
2.Combine remaining ingredients and place in an 8X8 baking dish.
3. Top with prepared stuffing
4. Sprinkle with Cheese
Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes

DIY Gift: Vanilla Extract

How to make vanilla extract at home DIY project
Like many people, every Christmas I’m on the hunt for fun handmade gift ideas.  I scour the Internet (and my memory) for any ideas that are unique, easy, cute and fairly inexpensive.  This year, I came to the conclusion that I would be making vanilla extract. Like many of you, around the holidays, I’m on the hunt for fun handmade gift ideas. I scour the Internet (and my memory) for any ideas that are unique, easy, cute and fairly inexpensive.  This year, I came to the conclusion that I would be making vanilla extract.
For this project, I bought 20 4-oz Clear Boston Round Bottles from Specialty Bottles and a 1/2 lb pack of Vanilla Beans from Saffron.com.  1/2 lb is roughly 45 beans. I also got a handle of vodka. 
1. First, you’ll need to cut the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and then crosswise and divide them among the bottles. I used 3 beans for each bottle.
2. Then, pull out your funnel and pour roughly 1/2 cup of vodka into each container.
3. Next, put on the cap and wait!!! Easy-peasy, right?

The steeping effect sets in quickly. The vodka goes from clear to a pretty amber color. Ideally, the vanilla should steep for at least a month, till the vanilla is a dark brown. The longer it steeps the stronger the vanilla flavor.

For labels,  I did a google image search for vintage vanilla labels.  I found one right away that I liked and photoshopped a  list of ingredients along with a Christmas note from Joe and I over the physician’s information (apparently, doctors distributed vanilla back in the day?)  Regarding word choice, I was utilizing these gifts for business colleagues and older family folk, so I listed the ingredients as “Good Tidings, Ethyl Alcohol, and Vanillas Beans”.  I also added a few bows with ribbon and raffia.    

  That’s it!!! Happy gifting!

Librarian’s Worst Nightmare: A Book Wreath Tutorial

Book wreath tutorial how to make

It’s been a while since I posted a tutorial!  Today, I’m going to share the process for creating a book wreath.  Warning- no decent books were harmed in the making of this blog post. Nor were any library books destroyed.  “Summer People” was a Target purchase a few years back.  I can’t imagine re-reading this book or bestowing such a dragging story on any friends or family.  I always liked the cover though- this book finds redemption in it’s physical appearance, ergo, it’s perfect for the following endeavor.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 Styrofoam wreath (mine is 10 in)
1 book you’re willing to destroy
1 package of stick pins
1 hot glue gun and hot glue
Paint (gray, brown, or silver)
1 Paintbrush
Now, for the process:
1. Paint the edges of the book using gray, brown or silver paint.  This will help the pages to look aged.

2. Carefully rip all the pages out of the book.
3.  Fold each page accordion, fan style.  I made 5 creases in each page, folding the short way.

Here’s my little helper, making a little weasel bed in a pile of the finished pages.
4. Glue and pin one layer of fanned pages onto the back of the wreath like this:

5. Turn the wreath over.  Glue and pin the next layer around the outer side of the wreath.  Apply the glue on a small tab like this:

6. Attach the pages to the wreath using glue and pins with the tabs pointing up towards the ceiling.  After this layer is complete, the wreath should look like this:
7.  On the next layer, continue applying glue on the tabs, however, this time attach the pages with the tabs pointing down.
8.  Continue making layers with the tabs pointing up.  The final layer should be attached to the inside of the inner ring.
You’re done! Great decor for any literary enthusiast!
While I fanned the pages for my wreath, here a few other options:
Rolling:
Making strips and ringlets:
Or a combination of rolling and fanning:
This book wreath will be hung up in our guest room on an antique window that we found under our basement stairs.  I’m really in love with antiques lately!

More Cheap Tricks: Homemaker’s Edition

We bought a house a few months ago and it has been SO much fun doing projects and making it our own!  One of the first things I knew I wanted to do was install a tin ceiling in the guest bedroom.  My favorite coffee shop back home in Minnesota had a purple tin ceiling that really made the joint.  Our house kind of reminds me of that place- antique/ artsy/ shabby chic.    So a tin ceiling was a must.  They are so pricey though… who can spend over a grand on a ceiling when there are cats to feed.  I decided on a faux technique I found on the internet.  Initially, when I ran this by Joe, he looked at me like this…

and said- that’s a project.  You have fun with that.  Lucky for me, I’ve been known to seize fabulous opportunities when they slap me in the face. Early in the ayem one fine snow day- the fine fella got on board with my plan:)  Never underestimate the power of a captive audience- emphasis on captive- hehe:)  Here’s what we did:

1. Selected a ceiling to tin.  Removed light fixture:

2..Purchased Allen and Roth Paintable Wallpaper, Pattern:  Ceiling Tile
3. Covered the floor in with plastic drop cloths and soaked the prepasted wallpaper using this thingy:

3.For the next four or so hours we stood on these contraptions with our arms above our heads sticking and smoothing the wallpaper sheets:
We started out using really big sheets.  But- these proved to be more trouble than they were worth.  We begin cutting smaller squares and putting them up faster.  Here we are in progress:
5.  Finally- we finished! 

6. Over the next few days- half of the paper fell down- oh dear! We bought a bottle of boarder paste, which is technically used for hanging wallpaper boarders as well as a few tubes of seam repair.  This stuff did the trick.  Nobody ever said wallpapering a ceiling would be easy- not even me. 
7. Next, I ordered some paint off of Ebay.  I used Roman’s Paintable Wallpaper Coating in Silver.  They used to sell this stuff at Lowe’s, but I believe the product itself has been discontinued.  Hence the reason I ordered it off of Ebay.  USPS- pay no attention to this blog post… is it legal to mail paint?  My guess would be not-so-much, but I’m not totally sure. I applied the paint using a medium texture roller.  I ran out of paint and had to order a second can off of Ebay.  Nobody ever said this project would be a quick one either! 
So- here we are- the final product:

Overall- this was a heckuva project!  I might do one more glaze over the top to bring out the detail… we’ll see!  For now- I’m happy enough to leave it alone! 

Better After!

Since we just bought a house we are working on collecting some furniture.  Joe and I have spent the last 8-9 years living in furnished apartments and dorm rooms so all we have we really have is a  plethora of book shelves, a mattress, and a box spring.  We have a ways to go.  This is why, I decided to peruse, Rollanet!  It turns out our fellow Rollaonians have boycotted Craig’s List… in favor of Rolla Net:.  I wish I would have realized this about a year ago… I have spent a fair amount of time searching Craig’s List in vain for anything on sale within a hundred miles of Rolla. Go figure- I was recently clued in on Rolla’s preferred on-line classifieds server, so on we go… I purchased the following bedroom set… there are 5 pieces total.  Apparently I didn’t get a before picture of all the pieces…

Nice and sturdy- but just a little too 1985 for my taste!  Using the process described here:  Here’s what I did to amend this…
Step One:  Remove the hardware:
Step 2:  Apply 2 coats of primer.  I used Kilz Odorless Spray Primer.  This dries in about one hour.
Step 3:  Apply 3 coats of paint.  I used Valspar Interior Exterior Gloss in Antique White.  This dries in about 20 minutes.

Step 3:  Using a paint brush, apply a thin coat of Valspar Interior Faux Finish.  This finish needs to be tinted when you buy it.   I had it tinted “New Black” at Lowe’s.  The finish is painted on with a paint brush and then wiped off with a damp cloth.   This finish makes all the etching in this set pop out. 

Step 4:  I spray painted the hardware an oil rubbed bronze. Here’s how it all panned out… I don’t have an after picture of mirror that goes on top of the long dresser.  It’s done… it’s just currently crammed away in the townhouse! 

Whew!  I’m pretty happy with it!  However, I don’t think I will ever feel the need to spray paint anything ever again…  If you’re interested in trying this method I recommend a trip to this blog for more instructions and inspiration:  All Things Thrifty by Brooke

STELLA!

Joe brought home a surprise the other night….
I almost started to cry- I was so happy to get a girl in the house:)  Her name is Stella and she weighs about 1 pound at 5 weeks of age.  She was a campus stray that got separated from her Mom and brothers. 
Her and Carl are getting along pretty well so far.  Initially there was some cranky hissing, but now he has taken on the role of Daddy- watching Stella play and sometimes carrying her in his mouth by the scruff of her neck just like a Momma cat!  Nice to see Carl can be domestic!  He looks like such an old kitty compared to Stella!
In other exciting news- here’s our new fence!  Up just in time for the proverbial wild neighbor people to
re-inhabit their house for the school year.  Good deal I guess!

Let Them Eat Cake

The following recipe has been flying around my family’s e-mail accounts this week…

 It’s a chocolate cake you make in a coffee cup!  It only takes about 5 minutes in the microwave…
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
A small splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug (MicroSafe)
Add dry ingredients to mug, and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.. Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla extract, and mix again.
Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 4 minutes at 1000 watts. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don’t be alarmed! Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired.
EAT! This is definitely enough cake for two! 
Now we are all only 5 minutes away from chocolate cake at any time of the day or night!

DIY Chalkboard

Super fun, super easy DIY project I put together for our new kitchen!  Here’s what you do…

1.Find a picture frame or a mirror… doesn’t have to be anything too pricey.  I found mine at Goodwill for about $7.
2.Buy some chalkboard paint.  I found mine at Wal-Mart although the lady in the paint department told me they are going to stop carrying it.  They should have it at Lowe’s or Home Depot although our Lowe’s was sold out the day I went to buy some.
3. Remove the glass portion of the frame and apply 2 coats of chalkboard paint.
4. Let dry 24 hours.  Season your new chalkboard using the wide side of some white school chalk.
5. Chalk away!  These are great for posting dinner party menus or welcome messages!    

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