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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Kitchen Improved

After living in my house for nearly 9 years, we finally were ready to fix our eyesore of a dysfunctional excuse for a kitchen. I was soooo excited. We spent a month designing it and then another two weeks interviewing contractors and pricing out all the pieces. 

Originally we were going to get our 10% off cabinets at Home Depot, but I am very glad we did not go that route. Let me explain. We were going to purchase a cheep cabinet with a kitchen designed (hopefully right) by someone who had never seen or measured our kitchen. Then to use their contractor to install the kitchen would cost more money then we thought right and this cost did not include a plummer, electrician or permits. Ultimately the idea of having the miscellaneous items completed and done right within the time frame scared me. This is why I looked at other options. 

I know I should have posted this months ago (7 months ago actually), but as they say, it is better late then never! 
What we decided:
Extent the useless L shaped kitchen into a more useful U + Walnut expresso cabinets + Light quartz countertop = Kitchen Demolition

The contractor we hired was able to get us much nicer solid cabinets, permits, electrical, plumbing, etc. for the same cost as the low quality home depot cabinets. YEA!

The fun part of redoing the kitchen is moving the entire contents of the kitchen so that we are still able to use some kitchen amenities and have access to food. We managed to work it out with my toaster oven so that some food could be heated.

There were some problems that came up along the way: termites, rats, late cabinet delivery, wrong cabinets installed … Unfortunately the flooring had some water damaged pieces and had to be replaced. Too bad we couldn’t just replace what was there because I really liked having one cohesive floor. Without the budget for flooring, we decided on a tile laminate for 98 cents each square foot. 

The biggest lesson that I learned is that when dealing with a contractor who is never there, you really have to micromanage everything! Double check the plans, insist on sketches, don’t let him buy anything important to you (i.e. sink or fixtures), when he says he can get you something free or for less assume that is BS so you aren’t disappointed.

In the end, I am SOOOOO happy with my kitchen! I love it. It is a dream to cook in and I wish that we had done it sooner!

Then once all the appliances were replaced to match, it looked even better!

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Double Wonderland Party

Guest went down the rabbit hole

I know, I know… it has been an eon since I have posted on here my only excuse is that life gets in the way. I do have a dozen of subjects to write about though!
                 A good resolution for 2014: write my thoughts down more often!
It is a therapy of sorts for me to escape from my mom-duties and just be me (books and paper are much cheaper than a psychiatrist… look I’m saving money already and the year just began! A good start.)  

So for the first post of the year I thought I would share pictures from the Wonderland Party I had for my kids. My son turned 6 and my daughter turned 3 years old and I was too lazy to have two parties so I had one BIG one. I mean big as in props, costumes, and cake. I had a lot of fun putting it together, but I have to say that it was a LOT of work!
For all of the props, I collected cardboard for several months. I really should have taken a picture of my living room at one point because I had stacks of giant boxes and all the random cardboard that I could find. You might be able to appreciate the amount of cardboard cutting and decorating by some of the pictures...

When guests went down the rabbit hole and through the door, they encountered the hats. These were the party favors. Boys could pick top hats or pinwheel hats and ties while the girls got hats and necklaces. 

Most of the girls were more into the dress-up spirit. (My daughter is wearing a different hat in every picture!) The boys seemed to like the hats and gave the ties to their father's to wear.
Some of the other Decorations...
I am very sad that I didn't get a good picture of the table before it was destroyed. We put three 6 foot tables together lengthwise for the "tea party". The tea cups had snacks like fish crackers, raisins and nuts. I used different fabrics down the length and a polka dot fabric as a table runner.
I also had a really cute centerpiece! (I just did not get a picture of it on my pretty table. SO Sad!)
There were so many things to do!
(although the pic was taken later when the kids had already destroyed it)

Bubbles! big and little wands
Play! There is my little 'Alice' going down the slide.
The playset was popular!

The boys found the checker table.

Painting the roses RED!
The Roses were a project! They took FOREVER! But they did turn out good, if I do say so.

 To make them, I used giant cardboard boxes and newspaper. I also found a bunch of leaf shaped paint sample swatches at Home Depot that I took (don't tell, but they were free).
 The process for the bushes was quite an undertaking and I had not seen anything like it on the Internet. First I cut the tops to make them uneven. Then I spray painted the green (spray paint is my new friend!) I didn't take the box stickers off since I couldn't get them off anyway so there was no use worrying about it. Then we took another green to make swirls and add depth.
Once that was dry, I glued the paint samples on there to make 3D leaves and the the roses... but the roses was another process and took several days of dedicated rose cutting, twirling and gluing.

I recruited my little daughter to help paint the "bushes." My husband and sister helped me make several boxes full of roses. I can't even tell you how many times I burned my fingers with the hot glue... ouch!
My big helper
Another cardboard project was strictly for looks,
but I really liked my Wonderland flowers!  

I cut out a bunch of flowers from cardboard boxes of different shapes and sizes. Then I went spray paint crazy.

To assemble: I glued the flowers in layers on top of a pool noodle I bought at the dollar store. I also glued big googly-eyes in the center of the smallest petals. The pool noodle, once sliced down the back, is really easy to put on an iron fence and will stay there without any tape or pleading.
I made a few costumes for this party. My daughter was 'Alice'. My son was the 'King of Hearts'. My husband was the 'Mad Hatter', but he refused to actually dress up except wearing the hat I made him (out of cardboard and fabric!) And I was the 'Queen of Hearts'.
 This picture with my mom shows part of the skirt I made. It is a big poofy thing that I have a crinoline under to make it huge. I like the picture because you can actually see the glasses I worked SOOO hard on. Four dozen frappaccino glasses with my own "Drink Me" stickers. I spray painted the lids different colors and had my husband drill a hole in the center to accommodate a straw. I was able to wash and save the whole set of glasses for the next party! (rejoicing over future cost savings!)

Alice's costume was a blued dyed (because I couldn't find a shirt that color!) shirt with the apron and tulle skirt sewn on. I even made a pocket in the apron--which my daughter loved! The King is very picky about textures so I made his costume out of a plain shirt too. I sewed on the cape with front holder to match the Queen's costume. There are also a few jewels glued on too. Although he wouldn't wear it, I also made him a crown... that one of his friends liked and took home.
Alice & the King... and their Cake!
  The Mad Hatter hat was something! I cut some pieces of cardboard and wrapped it in fabric. There are also spray painted feathers sticking out (which you can't see) of the band.
My sister dressed as another Mad Hatter, but I think one of the kids took off with her hat... In the below picture you can see my skirt a little better... and the Cake!
 This is my first fondant cake. It was a bit of a pain but the result was awesome! The fondant was made from marshmallows (yumm!). The bottom and cheshire cat are made of 2 cake layers while the green Hatter Hat in the center is made of 3 layers. I admit that it looks homemade and not very professional, but it didn't cost as much as a professional cake either. I spent the entire day before making and putting this together. The fondant was made the day before that. I needed my husband's muscles to roll it out since it had hardened in the refrigerator.
Never mind the backwards 3
Here is to a Happy New Year!
Tip Junkie Handmade Projects
Shared at: Anything Blue, Saturday Show & Tell, Make it Pretty,

I would love the feedback of my readers... What types of posts would you like to see here? Crafts? Kitchen Experiments? Kid stuff? Organization? Let me know!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Feeling Pickled!

When life (or Mom) gives you a bunch of cucumbers and dill... you make pickles!
I have an issue with canned pickles. I don't like them. But I love the fresh deli pickles... and my husband could eat them all day long.

On to my next experiment in the world of fermentation. I spent some time searching the web for the perfect pickling recipe and the issue I had was that they all had relatively the same ingredients but different ways to put them together. Odd. Why would I heat up the salt and water? I didn't have to do that for any other fermenting. When it came down to it, I figured it was my experiment, I was going to do it My way (with help from several websites to figure out ingredient amounts).

Ingredients: Per jar
couple Peppercorn
1/2 tsp Ground mustard (can use more whole mustard seeds, but I used what I had)
1 tablespoon Sea Salt
bunch of Dill leaves and flowers
1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar (organic with mother)
3 Garlic cloves
Onion slices

Stuck everything except the onion and salt in the jar before adding the cut cucumbers. Add Salt.
Top with filtered water and onion. I used the onion to keep the cucumbers submerged in the brine. Put the lid on and shake it up.
I left these in the sink to ferment 4 days before I put them in the fridge. The water did get cloudy and bubbles appeared at the top while they fermented.
Before putting them in the refrigerator, I did taste them to make sure they were done and to my liking. I actually let them sit out another day before cooling them.

They are super tasty! and crunchy and I think that the onions even taste good. I am really amazed at how easy and fast this is to make. Why didn't I try this sooner?!

Have you tried fermenting anything lately?

Shared at: Blue Friday, Show and Tell,

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fermenting Experiments

This summer has been fun in the experiment, idea, and travel departments. So many things to do! 

I have been enjoying the benefits of some food fermentation. My first thoughts when tracking down the recipes were, "This is easy!" With easy in mind, I wanted to tackle some of my favorites: Sauerkraut and Pickles! Let's discuss the Sauerkraut.
I love Sauerkraut. Yummm. And now after having the fresh stuff... I don't think I can ever go back to the store-bought squishy stuff.

What I used: 1 Giant cabbage. Sea Salt. Garlic. Huge Bowl. Mandolin. Knife. Mason Jars.
 I sliced the cabbage up in order to shred it with the Mandolin.
Every time I added a new layer to the huge shredded cabbage bowl, I sprinkled Salt over it. I might have used a total of 2 or 3 Tablespoons.
My little helper massaging the Salt into the cabbage.
 Once I finished slicing, I squished. You need to massage (squish) the salt into the cabbage. It doesn't take long to start feeling the wet brine all over your hands (hope you don't have any open cuts!). I squished for about 20 minutes for this entire mountain of cabbage until the pieces looked translucent.
It's wet!
I chopped up a couple garlic cloves at this point to give it a little spice and tossed it in with the cabbage. Then I started stuffing. I jammed as much Sauerkraut into each jar as I could and then pushed down so the brine covered all the cabbage. (In hindsight, I would have added a sliced onion or something on top to keep the kraut submerged.) Put the lid on and stuck the jars in a corner to ferment.

You can see the Brine a little in this picture. No water added, I promise.
Next time it would be a great idea to leave the jars in the sink to ferment since they actually bubbled over the top onto my counter leaving me with a bit of mess and smell to clean up 2 days later. I added filtered water to keep the Kraut submerged. The jars shouldn't be left in the sun, so it will have to be covered up. I tasted it after 3 days and put them in my refrigerator to slow down the fermenting process. Easy! (you might choose to leave it out longer, it is all to taste.) It would take longer if I chose to ferment all of it together too, but since they were portioned in jars, it was rather quick.

The result: Even though the cabbage started out green, after fermenting the Sauerkraut really is white. I am so glad I thought to add the garlic! It gave the Sauerkraut a bit of a bite. It has a really nice flavor and is still crunchy! So good.