A walk in Old Milford

The other day O and I had some errands to run in an area of town that is one of my favorites: Old Milford. We parked in from of “The Mercantile Mall” and decided to pop in a take a peek.   If the store fronts are adorable. And they are the perfect indication of what you’ll be finding inside… charming finds for every part of your life. I knew I was in for some fun. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. I just can’t wait to go back on my own so I can stroll through without a little one hurrying me.             

Advertisements

Navy Chic

I wanted to share a few pics from a project I did with my friend in her new house. Erika’s family room has a wall that was built out to cover an old fireplace (by the previous owner). At first she talked about putting built ins on either side, but later she came to me with an even better and more affordable idea: paint stripes on the protruding wall. Whoa. Why hadn’t I thought of that!?! I freaking love stripes!

IMG_4954

IMG_4959

So we got to it one evening after work with a level, Frog Tape, and a great paint color. She chose Behr Vintage Velvet. It has a rich navy vibe with a hint of indigo. When we put the first coat on it was quite purple looking. Admittedly, I got nervous but the second coat had me sold. Between coats Erika painted her sofa table (serving as TV stand for now) navy to blend in a bit more. Above: Erika putting the room back together. But you can see all the elements of the room. I really thing the navy pulls it all together.

Below: A panorama of the room. On the far left you can see that she decided to paint the inside of the door with the same Vintage Velvet. I’m a huge fan of bringing the front door color to the inside of the house… as I’ve done it with mine a few times.

Below: You can see that the striped wall stands out and created a dark pace in the back corner of the room. On a whim we opted to try a full length closet mirror that she had upstairs to reflect lamp light and give the corner something it was missing. The mirror serves purpose as a light source but doesn’t take away from the room or create a busy corner. We’ve all hung wall art where it doesn’t belong. Sometimes less really is more.

  Below: The opposite corner of the room has more natural light with the window and Erika added a cool open shelf to match her coffee table (IKEA VITTSJO). When we were all finished with paint we took a few minutes to grid out a cluster of some small square mirrors (IKEA MALMA) over the couch. 

That wall of mirrors costs less than $25 but makes a great impact. 

In the end Erika made a bold choice by making an awkward wall into the statement piece of the room. Now it feels like a key architectural element and really brings the whole room together. I’m so in love with he ruse of mirrors that I got some for my own house!

Second Chance: Dumpster Vanity to Glam Masterpiece with DIY Chalk Paint

IMG_3612

This might be my favorite project to date. I found this vanity out on the curb on trash night in my own neighborhood. I really have no shame.

IMG_3311

As you can see, it was too cool to pass up: unique shape, abundant and tasteful details, spindled legs, and I had been searching for a new desk (ours is a Target POS). The person throwing it out helped me load it into my car… the entire time they made sure I knew all of it’s flaws: broken and missing veneer, one wheel didn’t roll, “musky” smell and so on. I saw these things too. But I also saw potential. I saw solid wood construction, drawers with dovetail joints, insane detail and lots of function. And for $0 I really had nothing to lose. If I redid this and it was a bust then I would be out a few bucks for hardware or something. But then it sat in my garage for a while because other projects took priority and I still had to convince Hubby of the potential this piece had in our home. His rule is that something (furniture or really anything I collect) has to leave before anything new can come in. And he doesn’t hate the junky desk we have as much as I do. Or maybe he hated the dumpster dive vanity more than the junky desk?

I don’t blame him… the before photos are a little scary.

IMG_3307

As you can see, the drawers were in particularly rough shape. After I removed all of the hardware and wiped the entire vanity down with my homemade all purpose cleaner. Twice. Trust me, it was needed. Then I took the broken or cracked veneer off of the drawer fronts. Only 2 of the drawers needed the veneer removed. The other drawers had what I call “stable” pieces of veneer… meaning they weren’t damaged beyond repair and didn’t even begin to peel up when I tugged on them. I removed the veneer by prying a little with a screw driver and a spatula. Everything pretty much popped right off. Wear eye protection when doing this… lots of dust but also the possibilities of small chips of veneer flying into your face. I speak from experience.

IMG_3306

IMG_3309

I really didn’t have a plan for this desk besides painting it an off-white or soft gray color. I had been itching to try to make my own chalk paint and this seemed to be the perfect opportunity. Like I said, I had nothing to lose. From everything I read, chalk paint is easy to work with, requires little to no prep work and easily lends itself to distressing. I found quite a few different variations of the chalk paint “recipes” online. But they all included the same ingredients at varying ratios. I chose the middle-of-the-road recipe.

IMG_3313

Simple Homemade Chalk Paint Recipe: 

Mix 1/3 cup Plaster of Paris with 1/3 cup cool water. Add 1 cup of any interior or exterior paint. Blend until smooth.

I used the remainder of a Sherwin Williams sample mixed with a splash of white trim paint until I had my desired creamy sort of color. Yay for custom paint mixing! At first it doesn’t look like enough paint, but I promise it covers well. I did 2 coats with this batch and still had paint leftover.

IMG_3319

IMG_3316

IMG_3320

I feel like after a couple coats of paint this looks like a way more expensive, classy piece of furniture. I think it even stood a little taller. But I wasn’t finished. Now began the labor intensive aging and distressing stage. First I “glazed” the carved details, spindles and so on. I just brushed on a dark watered down paint mix and wiped it off until I achieved the look I was going for. Then I was left with the picture below.

IMG_3582

I headed to Home Depot to see what to do for new hardware. Originally I envisioned glass knobs and nickel handles. But Hubby convinced me to keep the existing hardware and spray paint it with “Oil Rubbed Bronze”. He rarely has an opinion on my projects. Well, unless he disapproves. And then he’s very vocal about it. But I went with the ORB spray paint instead of new hardware and Hubby has earned major points for his taste!

IMG_3591

I still wanted to distress it. The piece looked old but not used-for-generations old. I used a sanding block to distress some corners and edges. I used a sanding block to distress some corners and edges. I went over existing imperfections with the sanding block as well. This brought out some of those chips and scratches and really began to add character. And I was falling in love.

IMG_3594

IMG_3592

Once I was happy with the distressing and overall look, I put 2 coats of semigloss poly-crylic seal on it to protect it and give it a little shine.

IMG_3595

I had been so excited about this project and posted on Hilda’s Facebook about the process of fixing up this vanity. The pictures were popular and brought on many comments and even offers to buy it! I was surprised, since I had pulled it from the trash that suddenly it was a hit item. I was devastated when I placed our computer on it only to discover that it didn’t fit. And the scale of the vanity/desk was way off in our already snug family room. SADNESS!!!! I racked my brain with other uses but I truly have no other practical use for it. After some thought, I decided selling it was the best option. I had at least 12 hours into this project and a lot of love. I had only purchased the Plaster of Paris, ORB spray paint and poly-crylic ($30 tops).

IMG_3601

I mean, she’s just gorgeous. Like a furniture version of Pretty Woman. Or Cinderella. Luckily, the buyer is a friend of a friend and I know she will love and care for this vanity just as I would. I even painted the sides of the drawers in a soft pink for her which was a fun little touch.

IMG_3586

IMG_3613

 

Spicy Tomato Cream Sauce

IMG_3849

I used to be so intimidated to make my own pasta sauces. Doesn’t that sound like something a full blooded Italian (which I’m not) can whip up with a glass of wine in one hand and without breaking a sweat? Intimidating. I’ve been playing around with it though… learned a few basic recipes, married a few new techniques. And I came up with a pretty easy (and vegetarian!) recipe that tastes like you spent all day in the kitchen. Ready for it?

What you’ll need:

2T Olive oil

Crushed red pepper

Paprika

Salt and pepper

1 Onion- chopped

4-6 Cloves minced garlic (4 if you prefer a subtle garlic taste, 5-6 if you LOVE garlic)

2 cups (or a 14 oz can) of petite diced tomatoes

1/4 cup water

1 T dried Basil or 3 T fresh Basil… I just cut about a dozen fresh leaves with scissors.

1/4 tsp dried Oregano

1/3 to 1/2 cup heavy cream

Supplies: Large skillet, a blender or food processor

IMG_3844

Heat Olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, paprika and crushed red pepper. Heat on mediu-high for 2 minutes until onions become golden. *Note: Start small with the paprika and red pepper… just sprinkle enough to give the onion a little dusting and red color. The flavor will intensify later and you can always add more later. 

Add tomatoes, water, basil, oregano. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 10-15 minutes. While it’s simmering you can taste to add more paprika, red crushed pepper or salt and paper. This is also when I boil water for the pasta.

Add heavy cream and immediately remove from heat. To make it vegan you could use almond milk, although I haven’t tried it myself yet.

Pour contents into blender/food processor. Pulse until smooth. *Note:It will be hot so make sure its glass or heat resistant plastic. I use large Ball jar with my blender. 

IMG_3846

I served my sauce over Roasted Butternut Squash Agnolotti (Buitoni) with fresh basil and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Hubby says it would be delish with shrimp or chicken over Penne or Fettuccine too! You can make this as mild or spicy as you like! I jarred the rest of the sauce (take note of the expiration date on your cream) and ate leftovers for lunch yesterday. So yummy if I may say so myself!

IMG_3848

Snow Day Salt Dough

The other day O and I had an unexpected snow day. Hubby worked in the morning and my already short day at work got cancelled all together. I took the opportunity to do a little toddler holiday craft with her. And you guys, I turned to Pinterest. Surprise! Having done salt dough before with kids, I basically knew what I wanted to do but I needed the recipe.

20131207-173519.jpg

All the recipes were mostly the same. Here is what I found over and over on Pinterest:

1 cup salt

2 cups flour

1 cup warm water

Optional: powdered tempura paint or food coloring to add color.

Mix all in one bowl. I started string with a spoon and quickly realized my Kitchen Aid dough hook would have been perfect for the job. After it was well blended I just dove in with my hands. The more you knead it the smoother it gets.

Bake at 200F for 20-45 minutes depending on thickness or dry overnight.

20131206-123639.jpg

I rolled it out on wax paper, used a cup as a cookie cutter to make circles the right size for O’s hands. Then I helped her make her hand print on each cut out. This is where there were tears. Apparently the kid thought these were cookies and she was really excited about cookies… but then I had to burst her bubble. She just wouldn’t accept that they weren’t cookies. So Mom of the Year over here let her take a bite and she was really disappointed that these were not cookies.

20131206-123654.jpg

After she made about 15 prints, I made holes  for a hanger and we left them to dry. I let them dry overnight (as my Pinterest sources repeatedly recommended) but I found them to still be soft, damp and still a little malleable. So I popped them in the oven as many of the sources also recommended. Um, no. NO. No. no. 20 minutes? Nope. 45 minutes? Nope. Try MOST OF THE DAY. I just kept peeking in on them. Not only did they not dry quickly… I realized they weren’t drying evenly. The bottom side that faced the pan was still wet halfway through the day! So I flipped them. And I continued to keep an eye on them. I lost track of exactly how long they were in there but they did eventually dry.

I had originally thought I’d spray paint them silver (a color I knew I had on hand) but I stumbled upon another idea on Pinterest to paint the hand print to look like Santa.

20131208-204846.jpg

I used acrylic craft paint that I already had. I’ve broken Santa down into steps above. To be honest, I did these in stages… between laundry, dishes and a tv show’s commercials. An hour maybe total. My only flaw was that I had already punched the holes. Santa will be hanging sideways… but that is ok with me. I was having fun and really considered adding glasses to Santa as a little tribute to O but decided it might be too challenging and time consuming. I sharpied her name and the year on the back. These will be given to great grandparents, grandparents, aunts/uncles and special people over the next few days. If you’re one of these people… pretend you never saw this! Of course, ours already hangs on our tree!

20131208-204556.jpg

Homemade Pop Tarts

20130723-140215.jpg

A while back we had a family reunion at our Relay for Life event. My huge family came in droves. All brought something to share and stayed for the good time for a good cause. My cousin Caitlin is a gifted chef. In fact, she’s known as Cooking with Caitlin.  And being the amazing chef that she is she brought homemade pop tarts for breakfast (Relay for Life is an overnight/24 hour fundraiser). Oh my god. What a genius! She made strawberry basil pop tarts along with Nutella marshmallow fluff pop tarts. Both were divine. I ate them as if I’d been starving in the dessert for months and had never delighted in pop tarts. I probably embarrassed myself with the speed I was eating. As I praised the pop tarts Caitlin said something like “They’re really easy, Everything is store bought. Just assemble and bake.” Freshly inspired, I went home and got to work.

All you need is a package of pie crust, marshmallow fluff and Nutella. Caitlin is right- no measuring or mixing. Just put it all together. So that’s all I did.

20130723-135819.jpg

First, I punched out round pieces of pie crust using a cup as my cookie cutter.

20130723-135757.jpg

Then I paired all the rounds to be sure I had enough.

20130723-135806.jpg

Lastly, I spread Nutella onto the bottom half of each set. After that I plopped marshmallow fluff on top of the Nutella. Nothing fancy here, folks. I don’t even measure and I wasn’t particularly neat about applying the ingredients either. So simple! I should have had the kids help.

20130723-140158.jpg

Then I crimped each “pop tart” securely closed with a fork just as I would on an actual pie.  I baked them at 350 for 8ish minutes. To be honest I didn’t really time them I just watched to make sure they got golden and cooked through but not too crispy or flaky.

20130723-140215.jpg

I think I could have done a better job sealing them closed because the marshmallow expands in the oven and helped burst a couple of the pop tarts open. In hindsight I also could have made these with just one circle and folded them in half. Might be easier for little hands and smaller appetites. Next time I plan on using strawberry preserves and fresh basil to try to duplicate the strawberry basil recipe Caitlin also brought along. Thanks, Caitlin! Now I have a new addiction.

Put a Ring on it

20130218-152812.jpg

Hubby and I are revamping our master bedroom slowly but surely, and of course on a budget. I was scrambling for inexpensive and easy ways to update things we already had for the room. We have bedding we can live with (for now), and I will be repainting nightstands and the dresser but I need accent pillows. In all my rooting through Target sales, Home Goods, and such I was frustrated. I already owned tons of throw pillows. Why do I have to buy more? Then I reminded myself of a couple of pillows I made for my sisters recently. Duh, I will MAKE new covers for the throw pillows!

Here’s the catch- I don’t sew. Not like that at least. When I made the pillows for my sisters I didn’t sew. I bought plain white pillow covers at IKEA and used fabric paint! I think I payed $3 ish for each cover and the paint was existing (but cheap if you had to buy it).

20130218-152754.jpg

Quick Tutorial:

1- Line the inside of the pillow case so paint doesn’t bleed through to the opposite side. I used foil, but wax paper or cardboard or something would work too.

2- Decide on a design. I highly recommend simple. The texture of the fabric makes detailed work hard. Consider a stencil, stamp or even tape off a border.

3- Paint away! I used a mason jar ring to stamp interlocking circles on this one. On the other side I printed her monogram but I can’t find a picture. On another pillow I taped off varying widths of stripes and painted a couple of coordinating colors. The possibilities are endless! I smudged occasionally but with a busy pattern nobody can tell and it adds to the handmade vibe. Even if you don’t have a steady hand or aren’t artistic, you could do this.

4- Dry WELL. I used a hair dryer to help it along.

5- Wash according to directions. The paint smell is strong and you will want to “set” your design” by washing it.

20130218-152804.jpg

Then fill the pillow cover with either an existing pillow, a filler from IKEA or batting. They zip closed so nothing is super permanent. Ta-da! new life to an old pillow or a new pillow all together! You could make a handful of these for the price of one already made pillow!

20130218-152812.jpg

Life Without Chocolate Syrup

I’m a sucker for chocolate. In fact, if you put chocolate on most anything I will probably devour it. The same goes for ketchup and pesto, but that’s a different post. In an effort to simplify our diets and budget, we’ve begun omitting items with high fructose corn syrup (and quite a few other things) from the fridge. I did quite well with this until I noticed that it meant no more chocolate syrup. Devistating! In a search for a decent replacement option I came up empty. I can’t afford $8 gourmet organic local blah blah blah chocolate syrup. SO not happening. So I scoured the internet for answers, asked healthy friends how they live without chocolate and even asked my mom for some direction. I present: THE ANSWER. (cue heavenly angel choir singing single high note, the cloud part).

{DELISH homemade chocolate syrup}

The recipe (originally from Glorioustreats.blogspot.com):

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (anything from Hershey to Ghiradelli)

1 cup water

a dash of salt

1 tsp vanilla

Heat water, sugar, cocoa and salt. Whisk well. Bring to a boil (stirring with whisk occasionally). Reduce and cook 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Your syrup will appear thin but thickens as it cools. Pour into a jar while still warm (easier) but if its too hot it can crack your jar. Allow to cool well. Store in refrigerator and enjoy.

PS- This takes less than 10 minutes. And it makes you look like super woman.

Easy Homemade Chemical Free Play-doh

Get this- I used Kool-aid mix to made play-doh. And it smells delicious!

Mix/whisk together in a large bowl:

2.5 cups flour

1/2 cup salt

2 pkgs unsweetened kool-aid (choose according to what color you want)

Add 2 cups of boiling water and  and 3 tbsp oil to the dry mix with a wooden spoon. stir quickly as it cools. Mix with hands as needed. Store in an airtight container. Its that easy!