Friday, April 27, 2012

Boxwood Wreath

Our front door hadn't had a new wreath since after the holidays, so this week I scrounged around the house to see what I could put together without spending any money, and this is what I came up with.


I used a grapevine wreath that was already strung with Boxwood garland - a previous Goodwill find for around $4 that I'd had around the house, a "B" wall art letter I had scored at K Mart for .99 and a scrap of burlap from my previous burlapalooza projects. That's it!


Not too shabby - and it gives the door a bit of personality! I'd really like to paint the door a pretty red this summer too, but that's a whole other post!! 


Have a nice weekend!! 


Monday, April 23, 2012

A $3 Stand Makeover

My thriftiness runs deep in the blood. Long before I enjoyed perusing Goodwills and thrift stores, I was being dragged there by my father, who still loves the thrill of a good find in those shops. While I appreciate this now, back then, it was not nearly as exciting.

So a few months ago when Dad was nice enough let me have one of his great finds, I couldn't have been more excited. He had snatched a small, solid walnut stand for just $3 but hadn't had time to spend give the attention it needed. And lucky for me, this little gem couldn't have been more perfect for spot beneath the window in my kitchen.

 Take a look at all of this potential ... 


The shelves had already been sanded down, but the legs and the trim still needed to be tended to. 


And while the easy thing would have been to paint it, it just wouldn't have been right. I can vividly remember watching Trading Spaces in high school and watching Dad cringe at the designers painting antique furniture turquoise, or wood trim white. So we got out the orbital sander and got to work. 




And once we finally had it all sanded down, we used Minwax Gel Stain in Walnut. 

Minwax 26060 1/2PT Walnut Gel Stan
Image courtesy of Google

I'm not going to lie - I haven't stained much of anything in my life. Using the gel stain was surprisingly easy, and I was thrilled with how well it turned out. What do you think?!
  

I'm extremely happy with it. And I'm so glad we did this project the hard way - sanding and staining and finishing rather than just painting. The dark wood is exactly what we needed to break up all of the white cabinets and beadboard in this kitchen, as beautiful as it. For a look at our kitchen makeover, click here


Look at the grain on that wood. :o) 


So happy with it, and I hope Pops will be too! 


Have a good day! 


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Easy Cheesy Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Casserole

Hope you were all able to enjoy the beautiful sunny weather today! I know we were, which is why I needed a quick easy recipe for supper - we spent too much time outside!

Chicken, broccoli and rice are staples around here, but not often do we eat them all together. So, after doing a bit of searching in the pantry, I was able to whip up this easy broccoli, chicken and rice casserole. It took me all of 10 minutes, and turned out great!


Here's are the ingredients:

1 13 oz. can chicken
1 package Ready Rice -  I used the wild rice
1 can Campbells condensed cheddar cheese soup
1 package broccoli (I used the Steamables florets)
1 4 oz. can mushrooms
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare the broccoli and rice according to package directions. Mix all ingredients except for cheddar cheese and spread in 9x13 pan. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until bubbly. That's it!



Enjoy! 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Yard Full of Sweet Surprises

I want a garden. With lots and lots of fruits and vegetables! Onions, peppers, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli - you name it, I want to try to grow it! And we're right on track this year to make it a reality. Greg and I have already gotten started on laying out this magnificent garden, and even tried our hand at raised beds. (Stay tuned for this weekend's post to see how we did it, with Dutchy's help of course. :)


And while I realize it isn't the most cost effective way to plant a garden, I'm OK with buying starters for most of the plants we're going to grow this year. I'll shell out a little more if it means they will grow!

And nearly every plant sounded doable - except, of course, for strawberries. Buying young plants sounded so intimidating -  with their crazy runners taking over flower beds. And, after all that work, you didn't receive fruit from some plants for at least a year. 

Today Greg and I were outside doing a bit of yard work, and ventured over to the no-man's land on the south side of our house. I'm actually embarrassed to show you this picture. 


This is the side of the house that is fenced off from the back yard, and on the opposite side of the alley - in short, we don't see it unless we make a point to. And, when we moved into the house, we only knew there were bushes and stepping stones - nothing more. 

So when I ventured over to this secret garden today, you can imagine my surprise when I looked down and saw leaves that looked a bit familiar ... 


But wait ... it couldn't be ... 


Yes, it could! We have, ahem, STRAWBERRIES!! It's true! In the weedy, overgrown, mess of a flowerbed  that disgraces the south side of the house, there are oodles of strawberry plants just waiting to supply me with fruit for pies, jams, jellies, smoothies, ice cream and all things wonderful!  


Oh how exciting ... Greg was truly shocked at how much this brightened my day. And it doesn't stop here! The tall, over grown bushes that are drooping over and hiding my strawberry plants just happen to be raspberry bushes! Are you serious?! 


Apparently they are of the thorn-less variety. I guess I'll know for sure if a few months pass and we don't get fruit. But I wouldn't be a self-respecting country girl if I didn't recognize those leaves ... 


I'll keep you posted! 

And last, but certainly not least, I've found one final variety of plant that couldn't be more welcome in our little yard. But before I introduce her highness, please allow me a short story time. Feel free to gather round and sit Indian style on your floor mats. :o)

When Greg and I were hunting for houses, one of the many things I loved to note about them were their landscaping and plants. A house could be a terrible match for us, but perhaps not all bad if it had a backyard full of day lilies. A lot could be too small, but if the flowerbeds had hydrangeas, the visit wasn't a total loss. But most importantly, any house with peonies .... sigh ... was truly a pleasure to see. 

Growing up, there were peonies EVERYWHERE! My parent's house, my grandma's house, my mother-in-law's house, my parents friends' houses ... everywhere. And I loved each and every variety. In fact, I was so bound and determined to carry them as my wedding bouquet, that much to my mother's dismay I did not book a florist. Instead, I gathered flowers and buds from the garden's of each of those yards and preserved them in the refrigerator until my wedding day. I put together my bouquet a few hours before the ceremony while getting ready at the church. 


So .... you can imagine my excitement when I spotted this lone beauty on the furthest southwest corner of our lot ... 


A budding peony bush!! 


I just love surprises. :o) Hope you have a few nice ones of your own this week!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Baby Flannel Rag Quilt Tutorial

I have a dear friend who is pregnant with twins. Twin girls, to be exact. So other than two of something, I wasn't sure exactly what to give her, as she already has the most adorable two-year-old boy and all of the "baby" stuff that entails. But, after a little convincing from my mom, who has made her share of beautiful quilts, and from Pinterest, I was inspired to try my hand at sewing. 

But, other than a pair of floral shorts and a jumper, (stylin'!!) I made while in 4-H while in junior high, my sewing skills were a bit rusty. So, let me preface this post by saying that if you can sew in a straight line, you can make this flannel rag quilt! 

This particular pattern, with long, wide strips of fabric rather than squares made the process extremely simple.  And the best part - it's as soft as can be, and only gets better with every wash. Does that sound like a commercial? It's true! 

Here's all you need to make your own: 

7 different coordinating pieces of flannel, 1/4 yard each
2 yards of batting 
thread
scissors
... and a sewing machine of course!

First, the most difficult step of the whole project - choosing your fabrics. There are too many cute patterns! I got mine at JoAnns on a day when all flannels were 50% off. 

 

Next, lay out your fabric and cut your material into strips. You will need four 7" strips, and three 4" strips. 



Make sure to cut off the dead ends ... 


Next, cut strips of batting two inches smaller than your fabric and lay it in between two pieces of fabric - like a sandwich! The "good" sides should be the ones showing. 


Pin your material, and you can begin sewing (yes, already)... One tip on the pinning first, though. Make sure at least one end of your sandwich has a straight top edge - don't worry if the bottoms don't exactly meet. You'll use all of the "clean" top edges for one end of the quilt and the uneven edges will all be on the other side, which you'll trim up after sewing all of your pieces together.  

First you'll sew directly down the center of the fabric strip to keep your sandwich together. A tip on this - the machine I used has a wavy stitch, which was very forgiving. If my line wasn't exactly straight, it wasn't as easy to tell! 




Once you have all of your sandwiches made, lay out your pieces on a flat surface to try and piece this quilt together and form a pattern. This part was hard too, but just a matter of arranging and rearranging until the pattern looks way you want.

Here is the layout for one of my quilts. I folded my strips over so I could see the pattern on the back as well, since I used different fabrics for each of my "sandwiches" to add some variety.)


Once you know how you want the quilt to look, start from on end, and pin two adjoining pieces together (front to front, or back to back) and start sewing a straight line - it's that easy!! I used ahem of about 5/8" as it was a bit easier for me than a half inch. The flexibility is the best part about this project. 


Then grab the next adjoining piece, and so on, and so on ... 


Once you have all of your pieces sewn together, make sure to hem each outside edge of the quilt, and also to trim up the bottom with the uneven edges. Find the shortest length and use that as your base measurement for cutting the other pieces. Once you've completed all of these steps, you'll end up with a quilt!

 Here is the finished product with all of the piece sewn together and the edges hemmed. 


You're almost there! The next step is to cut your seams in 1" increments to create the signature rag quilt fringe.  


For this step I'd recommend a sharp pair of scissors and few movies ... the below worked well for me :) 

 


Love stories at their best, people. And if you haven't wiped your teary eyes with them, your seams should look something like this!


And when you've cut each seam, the rag side of your quilt will look something like this ... 


The last step is to run the quilts through the washer a few times - this is how you get your edges to fray. One tip here as well - these quilts tend to produce a TON of lint, so I'd agree with the experts who recommend drying them at a laundromat. If you want to use your home dryer, make sure to check the lint trap several times while they dry. 


Here's one after being washed a few times - it's the beginning of a nice, soft rag-ish edge. :)


After Mama B washes them a few more times, I'm confident they will continue to get even more soft and fluffy. 



So there you go. If I can do it, I know you all can, too. Yes, you could certainly buy a quilt like this, but there's nothing better than a handmade gift straight from the heart. I hope the twins will agree! :) 


I'm linking up to: 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Cutout Cookie Frosting Tutorial

Before nearly every big holiday, since I can remember, my family has always decorated cutout cookies. This Easter was no exception. Using the top-secret family cutout recipe, mom whipped up a few batches of dough, rolled out a few eggs and bunnies, and we all gathered round to channel our creativity - even Grandma who's 96! 


This year, it occurred to me that this ritual would be a great topic for a blog post. Not just because of the family tradition - that's important, too. Mostly because back in college I was a semi-professional cookie froster. That's right. Laugh it up! But it's true - I frosted dozens and dozens of cutout cookies for a local cookie shop in my home town. It was a great temporary position since they always needed people when I needed work - on Christmas and summer breaks. So every year I had a temporary spot waiting for me. 


And while I'd now consider myself retired, I've never been able to go back to the sloppy, unprofessional cookie frosting I so enjoyed before holding this unique occupation. So here are a few of my works of art this weekend ... 



And here's a cookie frosting tutorial! 

We'll start slow with the easy shape - an egg. 


First, put a dollop of frosting onto your knife ...


Then spread it to evenly cover the surface of the cookie ... 


Next, make your swirl. You want to start at the top of the cookie and work your way to the bottom. Move your knife back and forth from one side to the other, and make sure to press hard enough so that a swirl pattern forms in the frosting. 


Here's the most important part. Scrape your knife on the edge of your bowl to remove any excess frosting. You want to do this continuously throughout the next few steps. 

With your "clean" knife, find an edge of the cookie and begin scraping off any excess frosting from the edges. Your motion should be sideways and slightly downward. 


With each scrape, make sure to clean your knife. And here is what your end result will look like! 



Do you feel up to it? Let's try a harder cookie. How bout a bunny. Same steps, just more edges and more knife scraping. And to this one, I added a second color.


 Take your bunny ... 


Spread your frosting evenly across the top of the cookie. 


Once you have your base color situated, add your second color to the middle of the cookie. I used yellow. 


Swirl. Scrape. Scrape. Scrape. Voila! 



I hope you found this helpful, and that you will all be frosting fools for your next cutout occasion! 


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