Thursday, June 11, 2015

Kitchen Project - Part Two

Part two begins with some demo!   If you missed Part One, go check it out!
Our first order of business was to tear down the wall separating the kitchen and the living room.

And here is the view without the wall there!

Next, we began chipping away at the tiles that ran up the wall. They are your typical four inch tiles that everybody went crazy for in the 70's and covered their houses with, except these magical things were plastic, and they were glued onto the plaster by somebody who had to be a masochist. "A bottle per tile? Sure!" Somebody did not want those tiles to come off. Ever. So hubby and I spent days chipping away at them. Finally, they were off.

I had to make that photo black and white because it's from my cell phone and it has the dreaded red/purple tinted syndrome that apparently plagues all HTC One's eventually. But you can get the jist. We also ended up having to remove the upper cabinets on this wall, because we bought a new giant fridge and it wouldn't fit.

And then with trying to separate glued tile from plaster and lathe, we managed to destroy parts of the wall and had to have a professional come in to smooth it over.  In the area pictured above we actually had to replace with dry wall 9notice the holes?), but luckily the pro guy is also a mud n taper, so he got it all done in one shot.

That's the same wall. New uppers are in, taped to protect them. I hate them. They're too perfect and not crooked for my taste.

We finally took a break from the hard work and went to look at fun stuff. I just love home improvement stores! I could walk around them all day. We started with tile, and once we found what we wanted we then grabbed what seemed like a gazillion countertop samples to find one we liked. Here are the winners!

We also bought a new stainless sink (yay!) and new faucet.
Josh made quick work of putting the counter, sink and faucet in.

It's an inch higher than the last one, which makes a huge difference for us tall people!

The glass backsplash went up next and got grouted.

I have also always dreamed of having under cabinet lighting. My hubby made my dream come true!

It's a night time cell phone shot, sorry, but it was the only way to really give you a hint of the coziness it brings to the space.

The next few things on the agenda are to find some new flooring, get the peninsula installed, find some paint, pick out new hardware...  We're getting there, but we have a lot of work left to do!  Stay tuned.

In case you missed it, check out 'Kitchen Project - Part One' 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Kitchen Project - Part One

I have been putting off writing this post for so long now!  Not because I don't want to write it, but because it's been such a blur of demo and decisions and kinks and successes that I haven't really been confident in just where to begin.  So instead of putting it off any longer and forgetting details, I am just going to pound it out!

Hubby and I have lived in our home for almost nine years now.  We moved in in August of 2006.  I remember that specifically because we had only moved the basic necessities over (clothes, TV, food) and I took a digger off of a pissy mare's back and broke my hand, so I wasn't able to help move the heavy stuff.  Oops.  Over the years, we have talked about what our goals were as far as updates and that, and every year we have worked to improve our 125 year old home. 

This year, we decided to tackle the kitchen!  I have been dreaming of this one for a long time now.
When we moved in, the kitchen was a terrible shade of dank mint green.  Our first project when moving in initially was painting everything.  And I mean everything. 

So to begin, let me give you a tour of our kitchen as it looked at the start of this project (and has looked for 8 years now).

Yup. Red. And you know what? I freaking still LOVE the red! So much so that I am about 90% sure we are going to keep the red. Those colors were chosen based on the wallpaper border that we tacked up. Say what you want about my red, but I have loved it and I have never second guessed my decision! Here is a look at the south wall without all of the daily clutter.

This wall is definitely the 'hub' of the kitchen. The space itself is very large, but what you see is about all there was for cabinet and counter space! There are two uppers above the refrigerator as well. Counter space is at a premium around here. 

To the left, we have the east wall.  This houses our fridge, stove and the bathroom door.

I began typing something along the lines of 'please disregard the mess' just now with an explanation of why it's messy, but then I said screw it because you know what?  I think it's refreshing when I read other blogs and discover that they don't live in a home d├ęcor magazine.

Swinging back over to the right, we have the west wall. 

This wall had room for nothing.  It was only in the last six months or so that my lovely Craigslist table made it's way in just so we had another surface to throw stuff on.  We don't eat there, we just store junk there.  **smiles**  Really I just needed the surface area to put a lot of the counter stuff on so we could get started.  The door leads to a landing that to the right goes down into the basement, or to the left is another door to the outside patio and backyard.

And finally, the north wall.  This wall separates the kitchen from the living room. 

That 'window' there was actually a window in the original house, and the doorway actually lead outside. I never had a huge issue with the wall, as the window opening made it feel like it was a part of the house. But what chapped my rear was the fact that the other side is a long room and the space right on the other side of the wall was probably meant to be a dining room, but only if you had a tiny table. We actually fit a family sized dining table and chairs there for a couple of years in the beginning, but since we never ate there we got rid of it. Then without the table, it was a big empty space that couldn't really be utilized for anything. So I filled it with junk.

But back to the project at hand.
Here is the floor. And Sylvester the cat.

Those are square linoleum tiles that were stuck down onto the floor, and none too carefully either. It looks like it's in decent shape in the photos, but in actuality the edges of the kitchen are chipping and peeling up, and nine years of dogs coming and going has made the white impossible to get white again.

You'll also notice around the three sides of the wall, there is tile about five feet up the wall (painted tan). That has been an eyesore to me since the beginning. Additionally, the base of the north and west walls have boiler heating lines, which also aided in limiting what we could put there.

Here is a closer look at our sink.

Those dark streaks are actually marks from pots and pans coming into contact while we wash dishes. It doesn't really come off. Frustrating.

And our countertop.

It's made of this weird plastic laminate and the color has faded down to white in some large spots near the sink. It ran up the backsplash to the bottom of the upper cabinets. The edges of the counters even had aluminum borders! In several attempts at Google searches to find a kitchen redo that began with metal lined plastic counter tops, I found one that was similar. ONE!

One last thing I wanted to add here as I wrap up part one is a mention of the cabinets themselves. Those cabinets, both top and bottom, are full on custom built-ins. As in, they built them on the wall, jimmy rigged some shelving and added sheets of wood and hinges to create doors. Same with all those drawers. They are hand built drawers and they do not slide on rails. They just slide in a hole that was carved there for them, wood on wood.

Now, when I first began dreaming of my kitchen redo years and years ago, the first thing I imagined was taking ole Rhino (my sledge hammer) and going all Hulk on that entire wall of hand built nonsense. So nobody was more surprised than I was when that day finally arrived and I suddenly decided that nobody was going to touch my crooked, chipped, badly painted cabinets! Why did I fight tooth and nail to keep them? I have several reasons, but mostly it boils down to the fact that cabinets in this day and age look cheap to me. Well, at least your big box store options anyways. I hated everything we looked at. The designs in the doors were stupid (very mature of me, no?) So, those babies are staying put!

Stay tuned! We're about to knock some stuff down!

Kitchen Project - Part Two

Peace & Love,

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Guest Room Detail

As we work on our guest/spare bedroom, I've been scouring Pinterest and the blogosphere for some fun ideas on things to make it more homey. 

For the past several years (um, eight years) this room has really been a storage/catchall room with a bed buried somewhere within.  It's time to turn it into a real room and get rid of some of our junk!

Today I just wanted to share with you a quick, fun, super cute idea that has been floating around Pinterest lately!  And did I mention it was cheap?

Most folks have Wi-Fi these days and it's common for home owners to share their passwords with friends or family staying with them.  At least I think it is.  We do it.  Currently, our password is written on an old envelope in my husband's lovely chicken scratch and stored somewhere in the office/dog room.  Convenient, right?  No.

Begin by finding a frame from your stash or visiting the dollar store to pick up a cheap one.  I chose this lovely gold frame with the beige and gold matting.  It cost me one dollar.

There are actually two separate mats in this frame. I took it apart and sprayed the frame with white primer, then laid out the two mats and sprayed one a pretty aqua color, and the other gray. I neglected to take photos of that process because... well, because I'm lazy. And I had to make a cheesecake. Which I ate.

While that dried, I jumped on the computer and pulled ideas from several Pinterest projects. Some clip art and some fancy words in Excel and it was ready to print! I used my label maker with clear tape to print the password and placed it where I wanted it, then put it in the frame and voila!

Now guests won't have to watch me wrestle my office into submission while I hunt down the old envelope. I am hanging this guy on the wall in the guest bedroom and they won't even have to ask me for it!

Does Pinterest rock or what? This project could be free if you already have some frames on hand, or you can pick one up at the dollar store and make it any color your heart desires!

Keep Calm & Party On!  Linky Parties!
Someday Crafts Whatever Goes Wednesdays
That DIY Pary at DIY ShowOff!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Easy Homemade Applesauce for Canning

Last week, my father in law's apple tree lost a very large section of the tree due to the weight of the apples growing there.  I saw that it was down as I left for work the next morning.  As soon as I got to work, I sent my husband a message to not let his dad remove the branch until I could collect the apples!

That evening, we collected two huge bins full of small green apples!

Given the amount of apples, the easiest way to preserve them seemed to be to make applesauce. So, that's what we did! Here's how we did it.

Wash the apples.  Easy peasy.

We did so by filling a sink with water and dumping them in.

By the way, the great thing about applesauce is that there really isn't any sort of recipe to follow.   I've never made applesauce before this, and there was no rhyme or reason to the way we measured just how many apples to prepare.  Do however many you want!

One thing worth mentioning, however, is that at this point, if you do not plan to use a food mill, you will need to peel these babies.  Every single one of them.  If you DO have a food mill ($25-50 at a fleet farm) then you do not have to peel.

Next step was to cut them up. We cut them into quarters, cut out the cores/seeds, then cut those pieces into halves.

I had read that if you put the apple chunks into salt water for a few minutes that they won't turn brown, so I had to test that theory out for myself. It worked! It kept the apples nice and crisp and white until it came time to cook them!

Next step: Cook them!

You'll need a couple of large pots for this.  Put a couple of cups of water into a pot full of apple chunks and bring it to a boil.  Make sure you stir it every few minutes until the chunks become noticeably soft and almost mushy in appearance.

Once cooked, I dumped them into the food mill and cranked away.

We had cut enough apples to fill this white bowl full of sauce!

Here's why you don't really need a recipe.  Once you have your raw applesauce, you can begin adding sugar and other ingredients to suit your own tastes.   Need more sugar?  Add some!  Since our apples were not quite mature and green and bitter from literally being a backyard apple tree, we had to add sugar.   But if you are using sweeter apples like the varieties sold at the store or in your local orchards, you might not need any.

We ended up using white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg.  My husband and I continued to taste and add until we both loved what we had!

Next, it was time to get to canning.  My favorite part!  We used a water bath canner.  It's basically a large pot with a rack inside that you fill with water and boil.  It's not much more complicated than that.  We had boiled fresh lids and clean jars so that they were heated and ready.  Using our funnel, we filled pint jars with the sauce, wiped off the rim of the jars, applied the lid and put the rings on.  The jars went into the canner and when the water was boiling, we started our time.  Appx 20 minutes.

Then they were pulled out of the pot and set on the stove to sit and seal for the next 24 hours! You'll know that they have sealed when the very center of the lid won't budge when you push down on it.  (Remember the Snapple commercials?) 

I think one of the most satisfying parts of canning is after you have removed the jars, for the next few hours you'll hear the seals popping, meaning they have successfully been sealed!

Now, at this point, I feel that it's only fair for me to point out a few things to you.
As I mentioned, I had never made applesauce before this, and a few things happened that I would have loved to have been told before I tried it for the first time. 

* Most of the blogs and online sites that go over canning will mention that you need to screw the rings on 'fingertip tight' which really isn't that tight at all.  Understandable because you aren't trying to force the seal, you want this stuff to seal on it's own using heat.   In the case of applesauce though?  Forget fingertip tight!  Screw those rings on tightly!  Apparently, apples are made up of appx 25% air, and as you are mashing and grinding it, you're adding more air to it.  This air, in turn, will expand when it gets hot.  See those seven jars up there?  Only three of them sealed naturally.  The other four couldn't hold up to the expanding and ended up popping their tops and oozing sauce out all over my pot.  I had looked up at my hubby and exclaimed "See, I knew I could smell nutmeg!"  I ended up having to clean them up, put new lids on and re-process them in the water bath again. 

* The easiest way to prevent this exploding, which I will certainly keep in mind for next time, is once you have added your extra ingredients to the sauce, put it in a pot and bring it to almost boiling.  This will cause it to expand in the pot so that you can ladle the already expanded sauce into your jars, put the lids on and then tightly apply the rings.

* Make sure you take a butter knife and push out all of the air bubbles.  You'll see them through the jars.

*Get a buddy or two to help you chop and peel.  I didn't have to peel, but even the chopping and coring took a very long time even with my hubby's help, so some entertainment during the process is muchos helpful!  

Of course, always use caution when canning.  You're dealing with sharp knifes and scalding hot water and jars, so it's important that you take care.  Make sure you set out all of your supplies and ingredients beforehand.  This is my second year canning, and it always seems like I have to scramble and use speed to get things where they need to be.  But trust me, you can SLOW DOWN.  Don't hurt yourself trying to do things too fast.

Feel free to ask questions if you have any!  I'm no expert by any means, but this was a fun project that I will definitely do again!

*One other note:  I have a glasstop stove.  I have read on every single canner I've ever come across that you cannot use them on glasstop stoves.  After some research, I discovered a few things.  The reason why they do not recommend it is because of the size of most standard canners.  They are much larger than the stove's round element, and the glass above the element is treated differently then the class outside of that circle.  I bought a 'mini' canner, which I believe is an 11.5 QT canner.  I am able to fit 7 pint jars in there, and it's a safe size to use on my particular glass stove top.  Every one is different, so you'll want to do your own research before trying it on your glasstop.  However I have not encountered any problems at this point with my glasstop stove and my canner. 

Hope this is helpful!


Keep Calm & Party On!

Fishtail Cottage - Tuesday Garden Party!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Our Garden

This is the first year that I've planted my own vegetables... and have succeeded in actually getting veggies from the plant!  I've attempted several different ways to grow plants from seeds and never even make it to putting them in the ground because they die. 

This year, I gave up the seed growing thing.  Apparently, seeds aren't my thing.  So I went on a shopping spree at our local everything store (they have everything... literally) and raided their greenhouse! 

For my wedding gift last year, I asked my hubby to build me a raised garden bed.  I wasn't confident enough in my gardening skills to start digging up our lawn to make a garden, and various gardening blogs told me that raised beds were relatively easy to maintain, so it seem like the best option.  I love it and I couldn't wait to get started this spring.  In may, after picking out my plants, this is what we had.

I thought I'd spaced everything pretty well. Turns out, I hadn't. I'd gone way overboard, especially on the tomatoes. But I would remain blissfully unaware of that until about the first of July when they began growing out of control! It's all still working out alright though. I transplanted my poor pepper plants into containers so that the tomatoes quit looming over them and they have taken well to the move.

Today, our little garden is a green mass of giant leaves and vines, and everything we've planted is bearing fruit!

Our zucchini plant is growing these things like crazy. I printed off several recipes that incorporate zucchini so that I can begin harvesting them and not letting them go to waste! Looks like I'm going to need to learn how to can a lot more than I currently do!

Oh, and yesterday, our first red cherry tomato!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Super Fast Covered Storage Box

I turned 30 recently.  With my age came birthday cards. 

I'm the sentimental type who keeps birthday cards and Christmas greetings, just because I think it's fun to look at that stuff down the road.  I am also the type who gets really annoyed when I come across these old cards randomly while I'm cleaning and have no place to put them, yet when I want to look at them, I can't seem to find them.

I finally solved that the other day.  I got new running shoes and was left with this perfectly good empty box.  I decided then and there that I would use that box to corral my cards from now until forever. 

I grabbed a roll of contact paper that I'd recently found at the local Target.

You can find it online here. I love it so much that I'm lining/covering everything with it.  
I wonder if it would work on my truck... Just kidding.  Maybe.

Anyways, some quick measuring and cutting and bam!  Pretty covered box to store stuff in.

Keep Calm and Party On! Linking up to these awesomesauce linky parties!!!

Seven Thirty Three: Inspire Me Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Year of the Cardinals

When I got home from work yesterday, I was already in the throws of a very bad mood.  I was crabby for no apparent reason and didn't feel like doing a damn thing.

My hubby came in and we chatted about our day.  He always manages to make me chill out.  He told me that earlier he'd heard a bird chirping so he kind of wandered around until he found the window it was coming from.  He pulled back the curtain and startled a female Cardinal building her nest, right outside our bathroom window.  Like, not even a full twelve inches from his peering face, on the other side of the glass.  

They must have each been as surprised as the other, because they both froze and just stared at each other before she finally bolted and flew away.  He said that didn't know if they would see her again, he'd really startled her and his disappointment in that possibility was so adorable that I couldn't help but cheer up. 

I hoped she would come back, too, but wasn't holding my breath. 

This morning, as I did my girl thing in the bathroom and got ready for work, I heard her.  I knew right where she would be and I was not going to scare her away for good, so I peeked through the cracks of the curtain and saw her with a small twig in her beak.  I watched her until she placed it and flew off to get another one, then I grabbed my phone and snapped a picture. 

I did some reading on Cardinals this morning so I could familiarize myself with our new guests. I learned that there are four layers to a Cardinal's nest and that it can take anywhere from 3-9 days for the female to build it, depending on how helpful Mister Cardinal is in bringing her supplies. This is only the first layer according to what I've read, so I am excited to watch the progress!

I am picking up some Cardinal friendly feed today in hopes it helps them stick around. Stay tuned and I'll continue to post on behalf of Mr. & Mrs. Cardinal!