Wednesday, August 31, 2011

DIY- give an old chair new life!

 I have been itching to re-do a chair for a really long time now. A really long time. It's ridiculous to think of how many flea markets, thrift sales and garage sales we've scoured looking for the right piece. Right is code for "cheap", by the way.
Finally, we found this chair while searching for fabric at a thrift store. You always find what you're seeking when you stop looking for it, truly.
 I bought it and walked out of that store a very, very happy girl. John walked out a very, very *confused* man. But he is no longer confused! I'm happy to say that the once dusty, dirty, scratched up and vinyl covered chair is now very cute! You can't tell from the before picture, but the seat is a cream vinyl that was covered in marker. It was really in bad shape. It turned out well though, and John is going to go back to see if they still have the other chair there like this one. If so, I'm going to turn that one into a fully upholstered chair and do an upholstery tutorial. This is more of a makeover than that... but the next one will be really great!
For this project, you'll need a chair, some paint/primer, a screw driver, a staple gun with plenty of staples, scissors and some new fabric.

finished sanding
So, to start, we unscrewed the seat from the chair and then sanded down the finish. I still can't tell if it was laminate or wood, we're inclined to say wood. It was really old! We used a 150 grit sandpaper to sand it down. Remember to sand in a ventilated area as a lot of old paint has lead in it and you don't want to breathe those bits in. We didn't sand it down too much, just enough that the wood showed through and the finish was ready for paint/primer. We didn't intend to prime the chair necessarily, but the "cream" paint we used ended up drying reallllyyy white. So. Try, try again!

Primed and painted

We, *ahem*, primed the chair and then allowed it to dry for a full day before painting it a nice shade of ivory. We only needed one coat of paint since it was already primed, but you'll need more than that if you haven't primed your piece. You can hand paint, stain or even spray paint your chair, whatever you want! If your chair has laminate on it, you'll want to sand and use a paint that's made for hard-to-paint surfaces just in case. There are lots of spray paint options, but they can be really drippy, so just be ready and don't use too much :)

Lay the seat upside down on fabric

Upholstering the seat was so insanely easy. We cut a square piece of fabric to a good size, giving a few extra inches on each side. We put the seat upside down on the WRONG side of the fabric- you want the the pretty side on the ground and the ugly side sitting against the seat. Then we wrapped it around the seat and stapled it to the seat with a staple gun- easy! Take care to avoid the drill holes so that you can screw your chair back in with ease. You can leave it unfinished on the underside or you can add another piece of fabric to cover everything up for a very luxe look. We didn't do that with this chair, but we will for the next one.
Staple the fabric to the seat
You'll want to make sure the fabric is nice and tight. We started at the bottom and stapled it across and then did the opposite side, pulling tightly before stapling. Then we did the sides. Take care at the corners to fold them in so that you get a nice, uniform look. It may look a bit messy on the underside, but you can either leave it be (who is looking?) or you can cover it up with another piece of fabric (as we will in our next project). Again- keep those holes visible so that you can easily screw the seat back on.
Cream/brown zebra striped seat

If you're wondering about where to buy fabric, there are several options. We got this pattern at Jo-Ann Fabric. It was $40/yard but thankfully it was on sale. We bought 1/2 yard and then used the excess (there was TONS!) to make a pillow, which I'm working on now. Next time, the extra will be used to bring the upholstery up the back of the chair for a very comfy seat. Hobby Lobby had some really fun fabric, too. They don't have nearly as many options as Jo-Anns, but I liked what they DID have better, and it was much more affordable. You can always get fabric online, too, but that can be risky. Remember to use coupons! You can always get a 40% off coupon for either of those stores and it is good for one cut of fabric. 

Beginning to embellish

the finished front

We chose to embellish the chair, so we purchased some "decorative" tacks from Hobby Lobby for  $1.99 to add along the front/sides of the chair. We found the easiest way to do this was to use a TINNYYYY drill bit to make a hole first and then add the tack and if necessary hammer it totally in. Before you start, you should mark out where they go. You can see in my picture that we had a row of black dots telling us where to drill. We took a ruler out and put a dot every 1/2 inch to get that spacing.

all done! (for today... ;) )

We are almost done! We screwed the seat back in (I'll spare you the pictures, it was slightly awkward) and then added a bow at the top. I played around with the bow for a while in different places, but ended up settling on that location for now. It would have been fun to make a pattern out of the ribbon on the back of the chair using those spindles. I should mention that the bow will end up being brown or grey in the end, we're waiting to decide until my chaise arrives (coming next week!!!), but I wanted to give you an idea of what the finished project would look like. Also, I'm going to use a Sharpie paint pen to write along the front panel of the chair, but I didn't have it yet... so it isn't done yet. I'll update the photos next week. Hopefully it looks lovely, but if it doesn't I'll just paint over it again!
bow detailing
I hope you're inspired to re-do a chair of your own! It's so much more affordable than purchasing something, plus you have the opportunity to make it fit your personality AND your home perfectly! It's really rewarding. I can't WAIT to do the next one, I have it all mapped out. It will be so great to turn a very simple chair into something entirely upholstered, plus I've been bugging John about a little chair for our bedroom for ages now. Originally, I was going to add more padding to this chair, but I decided to save it for the next chair to make the two more distinct.
As always, I hope your day is a breath of fresh air. I have a good feeling about today... it's nice and gloomy outside, and I love the rain! I have so many projects going on at our house right now that I can't wait to share with you. I have a really fun scarf project, but I don't want to depress all of the summer lovers out there just yet.
Be inspired and enjoy your day!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sopapilla Cheesecake (easy, fall-ish, revised version)

Word to the wise: read this now and on your way home, get the ingredients. You need this. There is no time to delay.
Ok, so that being said, this is not my original recipe, I saw it online. It looked incredible, but once I actually read the ingredients it seemed a little too unhealthy. I'm kind of crazy about health. Just a titch. So you can always count on me to make a recipe as healthy as possible. Now, I'm not going to pretend that this is suddenly healthy, but it is much, much more tamed down than the original. It's still really, really good. Sometimes I think we add fat and sugar just for fun, and I don't know that it actually enhances the recipe. I also gave it a fall-ish twist, since I am already getting myself ready for the next season! I love fall and all of the pumpkin-dishes, apple orchards (I hear this is a Michigan thing, so clearly I need to make a blog about it for the rest of you!), sweaters and smells that go with it.
So, for this delightfully delicious "cheesecake" you will need...

1. 1 package of crescent rolls
2. 1 package (8 oz) of neufchatel cheese (sometimes listed as 1/3 less fat cream cheese)
3. 1/3 c. of regular white sugar
4. 1/2 tsp. of vanilla (or almond!) extract
5. Brown sugar to sprinkle
6. Pumpkin pie spice to sprinkle (or a mixture of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg & ginger)
7. A very small amount of butter (refer to pics and recipe)

press 1/2 the dough into pan

First, preheat your oven to 350 and get out a pan. I used a cake pan because our square dish was dirty. There is no need to grease your pan of choice.

 Secondly, open the package of crescent rolls and divide it in half. Press the first half into the bottom of the pan until there are no more creases.

place extract, cheese and sugar in bowl

Next, combine the neufchatel cheese, sugar and vanilla/almond extract in a small bowl and stir. This will be a breeze if you allow the cheese to soften for 20ish minutes prior to beginning. I used a knife, but a spoon would be just as appropriate. Mix it well, til it's nice and creamy.

already good enough to eat!
Now, take the mixture and place it on top of the first dough layer. Spread, spread, spread!

pre-baked confection

Lastly, roll out the second half of dough to the appropriate shape (square or circular, depending on your pan of choice) and press til there aren't any creases. Place it on top of your cheese mixture. Sprinkle some brown sugar and spice mixture on top. Take a stick of butter and shave little pieces off to finish. You really don't need much butter, as you can see from my photo. Place the dish in the oven, wait 30 minutes and remove. It will smell like heaven, but it will be SUPER hot. Give it a few minutes to cool before diving in, though you don't need to eat the dish warm. In fact, I'm eating another serving from last night right now!

the final product!
Now, I realize that my chair was supposed to be the subject today, but it isn't quite ready. Unfortunately, the shade of paint we used dried stark white instead of cream. I was going to let it go, but I can't. It just doesn't work. SO, I'll write the blog today and get it all ready so that tomorrow morning when the chair has dried I can snap the final pictures and post!

Have a LOVELY day! Enjoy summer... warm weather is something to relish if you live in the northern states. If not, enjoy it anyway- each day is a gift :) 

Monday, August 29, 2011

DIY all natural dishwashing detergent... did i mention it's super cheap?

Bonjour, mes amis!

I know that mondays are notoriously awful for 90% of the population, but today is so fun! I woke up early, read a bit and headed out to meet a friend for a morning of French and ballet. In my book- that is perfection. And THEN- I went to Horrocks, and found that they are indeed stocking my favorite baked goods again. Are any of you out there fans of Rise 'n Roll Bakery? Maybe if you're from Indiana you've heard of it. It's an Amish bakery that makes in the world. the best. I promise. Recently, they stopped coming to Lansing because it was too much trouble to make the weekly deliveries. Do you wonder why? That would be because they DEFINITELY use a buggy! I promise. I've seen it. Anyway, there was such an uproar that they're back! I'm not too proud to admit that I both spoke with a manager and wrote e-mails about the situation. Victory is mine. I'm currently devouring one of their powdered cinnamon donuts between clicks on my keyboard. bliss.

Rise 'n Roll Bakery... mmm, lecker
And NOW it's time for another DIY natural product tutorial. If you made last week's laundry  detergent then you should have nearly everything you need for this project. And hey, this project is EVEN EASIER! The only additional ingredients you need are citric acid, which can be found in most grocery stores right now (canning section) and epsom salt. 
If you didn't make the laundry soap (you should), here is what you'll need...

1. 2 cups Borax (available in the laundry section of Walmart)
2. 2 cups washing soda (again, laundry aisle)
3. 1/2 cup of epsom salt (usually with the muscle pain relief items)
4. 1/2 cup of citric acid

mix it all together!
Literally, put everything into a bowl and stir until well combined. Transfer it to a container of your choice (I usually get really cute ones from Marshalls/Homegoods/T.J.Maxx for $3 and then label them with a Sharpie paint pen). Use 1 tablespoon per load... you're done!

Odette, plotting destruction 

Some people choose to add essential oil (of the citrus variety) to this, but it doesn't appeal to me. All of the other ingredients were purchased for a total of $12.50, but you will have lots of extra for making several batches. Plus, as previously mentioned, the washing soda and borax can be used for the laundry detergent. Borax also has a zillion great uses around the house, as you can read here. My dishwasher requires dishes to be rinsed before they go in. If you're used to putting dishes directly into the dishwasher without rinsing first, I can't say what the performance will be since I've never tried it :)

So... go make it :) Personally, I have GOT to clean the kitchen and spend some time with Odette. She's hanging upside down from my leg warmers (no... definitely haven't changed out of my ballet clothes yet) and attacking me. She needs love. Annd, of course... I really need to decide what color I want to paint the chair for tomorrow's blog. Time is ticking!

 Bon chance! <3

*** UPDATE: Pay attention to whether or not you have hard/soft water. Soft water requires less detergent. Also, store bought detergents are full of fillers and this hasn't got any- so remember, you don't need to use a ton. If you use too much, your dishes will come out streaked. Also, you can add a rinsing agent (vinegar works well) if you continue to have that problem :)

Pin It

Sunday, August 28, 2011

sweet sunday

a head band from the hair piece tutorial

I hope you're all having a lovely and refreshing Sunday! No tutorials today, but we'll be back in full swing tomorrow!
Wondering what's on the sched for 'la vie' this week? Allow me to clue you in...

Lundi: homemade dishwashing detergent 

Mardi: repurposing a chair (we bought the upholstery today! i cant wait to do the bench next)

Mercredi: my mom- queen of crafters

Jeudi: creating a haircomb for a special event

Vendredi: editorial/design... favorite spaces

Yay! I'm also working on several long-term projects as well that will be fun. And- possibly some guest bloggers for tutorials about all kinds of exciting things!

Enjoy today, it'll be over before you're ready for Monday!

Pin It

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Roses and buttons and bows, oh my!

the supplies :)
After my grandfather passed away this winter, I decided to donate my hair. With cancer, there is so much that you can't control, but donating felt like a way of fighting back ( However, losing fifteen (!!!!) inches of hair was a HUGE adjustment that left me feeling slightly less feminine (not to say short hair can't be femme, it just didn't feel that way on me). Immediately I began wearing pretty things in my hair as a way of compensation, and many of them I made myself. I'm going to show you how to make your own super cheap hair pieces as well!
We have three types...
  A. the hair band

B. the barrette

C. the bobbie pin

A) The hair band that I pictured is super easy, though you can really embellish them however you'd like. In this instance, all I did was hot glue a piece of material/ribbon around the band and tighten it and then I hot glued on a button.
You can also use the skinny bands that are super popular right now (I got 6 for $1 at the family dollar) and attach pleated ribbon, buttons, flowers (i have tutorials for rosettes and many other varieties), bows... whatever you'd like!

measure out your ribbon length.

B) I purchased a large pack of these barrettes from the bridal section of Michael's. Then I took ribbon and hot glued it on to cover up the parts that will be seen on your head. Don't cover up the bottom tip (refer to pic) because you need the metal tip to secure it in your hair. Just cover half way up the underside, around the front and all the way to the end of the inside top bracket (see pic). After that, you can glue on bows, buttons... again- anything! Depending on your hair type, sometimes these can slide around. If that's the case for you (as it is for me!) just slide in a bobbie pin first and then cover it with your barrette.

continue gluing ribbon across top & 1/2 into the inside

start gluing 1/2way across bottom end 

place wax paper in the pin

C) The bobbie pin is super easy and cheap. I like this because you can cluster them together to make a big impression or just use one for a hint of cuteness. Today, I used arrangements of buttons stacked on top of and next to each other. Again, use hot glue to attach your object of choice to the bobbie, but make sure to slide a piece of wax paper into the pin so that you don't glue the pin shut. The wax paper will get stuck to the glue permanently, so just tear off around it til the lines look clean.

allow the creation to harden

Really, anything can be attached to these hair accessories using hot glue. I got the buttons from a quilt store bucket for 25 cents/oz. You can get buttons from thrift stores, purchase pre-made bows and flowers or create your own. Experiment with different combinations, even mixing mediums, until you create something that is perfectly you!

Wearing the rosette to a summer wedding
This is more of a "look what you can do with barrettes, bobbies and headbands!" than an actual tutorial. I have plans to show you how to make a flower haircomb for a wedding or special event as well as more in-depth tutorials for some of the pieces seen here, but if there is something specific you'd like to see- please let me know!

The finished pieces

I also need to mention that today I found a great little chair for 2.99 that is in the process of being restored for a future blog. It's a great start for anyone who wants to repurpose furniture but feels a bit nervous about how much work or skill may be required. We're about halfway through already and I can assure you that it is easy and fun!
We also found the upholstery today for the bench project- yay! So stay tuned :)
Pin It

Friday, August 26, 2011

The beauty of BORAX

So, yesterday I posted a tutorial for a DIY laundry detergent that involves borax. I've had this container of borax for months, and for the first time ever I happened to check out the back while making that tutorial. Borax is incredible! Baking soda is still the most versatile agent I've known... but check out all the things borax can do...

1. Laundry boost, and HE compatible:
Add 1/2 cup to every load along with your regular detergent (which should be this DIY natural detergent) and it will ... 1) remove tough stains 2) be a natural alternative to ColorSafe Bleach 3) Deodorize and freshen and 4) Naturally soften hard water.

2. Bathroom/Kitchen cleaning and deodorizing:
Sprinkle borax on a damp sponge or cloth and wipe your shower/tub/tile/counter. It will... 1) clean without chemical fumes (bird owners) or scratching (great for porcelain and fiberglass) 2) remove soap scum, hard water deposits and dirt 3) help dishes really shine while removing grease and grime and 4) eliminate odors and freshen.

3. Garbage disposal and drain
Sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons in the food waste disposal/drain. Allow it to stand for 15 minutes or longer and then flush with water for a few seconds (with disposal on).

4. Toilet bowls
Add 1/4 cup into the bowl and swish with your brush, allow it to stand 30 minutes or overnight.

5. Laundry stains
Works great on tough stains including tomato sauce, oil/grease, grass and dirt. Add 1 tbs per gallon of water and allow the garment to pre-soak for 30 minutes prior to washing.

6. Carpets and rugs
Dissolve 1/2 cup of borax in
1 pint of water. Sponge on to *TOUGH STAINS*, wait 30 minutes, rinse well, allow to dry and vacuum.

7. Dishwasher
Boost the cleaning power of your dish washing detergent (tutorial for DIY, natural detergent to come) by removing hard water minerals and residues from the wash water. Add 1/4 cup in the bottom of the dishwasher to reduce spots and film from dishes and glasses.

A lot of bennies from such an inexpensive product. I got my 4.75 lb box from Walmart for only 2.98. You can usually find borax in the laundry section. I basically copied everything from the back of the box, but I bet a little research online could find even more great ways to use it! I'm so excited to clean my counters now :)
Pin It

Thursday, August 25, 2011

All natural, super cheap laundry detergent!

Good morning!
I have one giant word for today: SUCCESS! Thankfully, our tutorial for today didn't turn out nearly as bad as the last one. The laundry detergent came out nicely, as this recipe always does. I began making our own laundry detergent several months ago. It's soooo expensive in the store and really, it isn't very good for you. In fact, though I've been noted as an avid lover of the smell of fresh laundry, the last load I did at my parents with store bought, highly-fragranced detergent made me feel ill. That's very telling.
So, with no futher ado, here is today's tutorial! This is for top-loading machines and is EXTREMELY easy. I'm going to do another version next week for HE machines at the request of a friend. The HE version is nearly identical, it just has a few extra steps and is a liquid instead of a powder.

Here we go!
All you need is...

1. A container/jar to store it. I got mine for $2.99 at Homegoods (T.J. Maxx, Marshalls...) and then used a sharpie paint pen to label it

2. A 1cup measuring cup

3. A 1/2 tablespoon measuring spoon

4. Borax (2.98, walmart)

5. Washing soda (2.77, walmart)

6. A regular bar of soap (about 4 oz), any kind!

7. A fine grater

8. A large mixing bowl

See how inexpensive this is? I've made at least 10 batches of this detergent and I STILL have tons of washing soda and borax left. I defy you to show me a store bought detergent this affordable.
As far as the bar of soap goes, I've seen lots of variations. Personally, I like to use the yardley type soap that people give out as gifts at baby/wedding showers. I don't like to use it in the shower, so this is a good alternative. I also like to go the all-natural route and use things like Castile soap, but you can really use anything you have- even a bar of zest or dial!

1 c. each of soda & borax

Measure out 1 cup each of borax and washing soda and place in a bowl.

TIP: If you're using a large enough container, you can just pour it directly in. Then at the end, instead of stirring, you can shake it up :)
Also- Borax is anti-social and doesn't like to mix with anyone but itself. It's good to really crush up the huge balls that form so that your detergent gets mixed well.
grate your soap, changing orientations

Grate the entire bar of soap.

TIP: This is the hardest part of the whole process, however, in my opinion it counts as your upper body work out for the day. I like to grate mine while sitting on the floor, it's easier. Also, if you notice that your soap isn't grating well, just switch directions (horizontally or vertically). It's good to keep switching the orientation of the soap as you grate it, it keeps the soap from getting craters in it that don't allow the grater to actually reach the soap. Lastly, watch those fingers and nails as you get closer to the end!

shake it in the jar!

OR- stir it in a bowl!

Mix it all together! You're done! If you had the large enough container and you de-chunked your borax in advance, you can just shake it up. If you're making several batches at once (I made 4 today!), you should use a spoon and stir it up in the large bowl. Some people like to put the entire mixture through a food processor at this point, but I don't find that to be necessary. If you want to and have a food processer, go for it! If not, just mix really well :)

all done!
Pour it all into your jar (if you haven't already) and place a 1/2 tablespoon measuring spoon in the jar or on top of it for convenient use. 1 tablespoon for light loads, 1.5 for regular, 2 for large and 2.5 for heavily soiled :)

Wasn't that super easy and painless?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

good [cake] gone bad.

Have you ever had really great aspirations?
I have them daily.
My latest was to turn this blog into something of a DIY/doing a lot with a little/jack of all trades blog that centered around design, culinary arts and projects of the crafty variety (I have a great plan for making a bench!). I decided that the first blog should clearly be an undeniably gorgeous and extremely satiating cake. Yes. It could not be paralleled. But first, I had to create a very different, never-before-done batter and frosting. Now, I love frosting. I do. I love it. I like making it, I like experimenting with it, clearly I like eating it... I like it all. But I couldn't use anything that was based on someone else's recipe OR even something run of the mill that I had already created myself. So, I decided to make a blind batter and frosting. Yes. I literally threw things in a bowl and proved my insanity by honestly believing in my heart of hearts that it would magically come out as the greatest culinary creation of all time. I could see mouths salivating all over the world. Sadly. It was not to be.
No... this is the story of a good cake gone bad.
Things started out really well, and to be honest, the cake batter wasn't so awful. The cake turned out quite well. I added .25 c butter to 1.5 c sugar and blended. Mmm. Delicious. There isn't much to rival the smell of sugar and butter combined. Next I separated out my dry ingredients (flour- 3.5 c, baking powder- 3 tsp. and salt- 1 tsp) and set them aside with some very cold water (1.25 c).
After my sugar-butter was delightfully combined, I added in some fruit preserves (.25 c) and blended again in sheer bliss. My latest obsession is baking (and eating!) duck eggs. They are INCREDIBLE! I don't have space to detail the bennies of using duck eggs, so that will be saved for another blog. Just trust me for now. So, I added in two of those along with 1 tsp each of vanilla extract and almond bakers emulsion (this is much better than extract).
It was finally time to add in the dry ingredients, so after really blending them I began to alternately beat them in with the cold water until everything was combined and it began to look like this really WOULD be the greatest summer cake the world had yet seen.
Lastly, I added in the blueberries (1 c) and stirred them in before transferring everything into two well-greased glass pans. I could feel the pride building up in my heart. Yes! Success! Everything went into the oven for 30 minutes at 350 F. They came out a lovely shade of golden brown. I turned them over to cool so that they'd be flat for decor and stacked them on top of each other with a layer of preserves in between. Thankfully, I used my Martha Stewart Silpat for this, which is great... because it cleans really easily. Easy cleaning became essential in the next few moments...
You see... while the summer cake was baking in the oven, I had begun to create the frosting. Generally speaking, when doing something totally new, it's good to have a plan. Especially if you intend for people to EAT it. However, I don't really enjoy taking the time to fabricate plans for things like this... so... I just threw some ingredients into my Kitchenaid and let it whirl.
You may have noticed that I gave the recipe along the way for the summer cake.
Not so with the disastrous frosting. I'm afraid of the lawsuits I'd incur as a result of people actually attempting to recreate it. No. You'll just have to see the chaos that resulted from my ill-fated ambition. First of all, the frosting was way, way too thin. I've only once had a frosting come out that way before and that also happened to be an entirely new self-creation. That recipe also happened to never be repeated. I was really anxious for this to go well since once I get an idea in my head, it must be done. I scrambled to add various things from my kitchen... but to no avail. This was clearly never going to be a frosting that even the most skilled of bakers could pipe with. So, I gave up. I decided it would look just as nice cascading over the cake as a glaze and preceded to pour it all over the cake.

Big. Mistake. Apparently this was a super heavy, super sticky, super powerful substance that grabbed and tore at the cake as it writhed it's way down into pools of white at the bottom of our counter. The cake was literally falling apart; huge craters were forming in the middle and breaking out all around like mini earthquakes. Or cakequakes.
... it was a good cake gone bad.
We ate it anyway.
And I brought it to work. While it definitely didn't turn out the way I wanted to, I honestly laughed ALL night about the experience. It was really funny to me how badly it ended. Things don't always go the way we want them to in life, but if we keep a sense of humor about them we'll have the heart to "try, try again!"
So... to all of you aspiring bakers out there... be encouraged! There's always tomorrow. Speaking of tomorrow, maybe I'll try to create something successful to blog about :)
** Ps- if you didn't notice, most everything I bake is relatively healthy. There may be a shocking lack of fat and sugar in this recipe, so I understand those who wouldn't naturally enjoy it :)