Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Customized Gifts with Cafe Press

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Cafe Press. I received product compensation for this post. All opinions are mine.

My kids are fan obsessed with certain TV shows. Leelee, as we've well established is a Whovian. She's also a fangirl of something called SuperWhoLock. Apparently, it's a mash up of Supernatural, Doctor Who and Sherlock. I told her there is absolutely no such thing outside of her little group of friends.

She decided to prove me wrong by showing me a shirt on Cafe Press.


Yup. It's real. People (other than my daughter) created a customized shirt on Cafe Press to give a shout out to their favorite fandoms. Anything is possible on the internet!

 Who doesn't love a little Princess Bride awesomeness?


I also love this shirt:. 



 I saw a woman at the pool who had a customized shirt for her elementary aged son that said "Non Verbal Autism" to let people know, he couldn't speak even if he needed help! Cafe Press is the perfect place to do that!

You can totally design your own shirt  with whatever message YOU want!


 Cafe Press is more than just T-shirts. You can customize so many things, including your own party invitations. We're having some big movie themed parties coming up in November and I love the idea of being able to just order the invitations and let someone else do all the work! There are also a ton of customizable birthday party invitations and even holiday invitations!

Punky Brewster's birthday is a few days before Halloween, Leelee's birthday is the week of Thanksgiving and D's birthday is a week before Christmas.  Big holidays and big party time! If I can do anything to save time, like ordering my invitations, I'm going to do it. I can pin all sorts of cute invitation ideas, but let's face it...I'm not actually going to make them... But I definitely want them to be on theme. Cafe Press does the work for me!

Have you been to Cafe Press? Is there a product you can't wait to order?


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Progress on stairs!


Right now it is very tempting to be in a corner rocking back and forth. This no Internet beyond my iPhone is makings wonder how life functioned at all before the web!

To put it in perspective, I got my first email address in 1995! That means I have had online access for 18 years...nearly half my life and pretty much ALL of my adult life. 

I know I could go to a fast food place and hop on WiFi but I have a feeling it wouldn't be nearly as productive.

I have been putting off work on the foyer for so long. But now the trim is all primed! I ran out of paint so opted to work on the stairs a bit more. 


 

Before, the stair rails consisted of a couple of 2x4s. D and a friend built this for me in February.

It's a bad pic, but this is what we had for a stair rail! (and you can see wallpaper issues, too!)


The next step was to prime and paint... Getting rid of the brown on all the stairs!

I also primed the risers. 


It's a big difference already. No worries about all the paint drops on the steps... Because I've also started stripping that paint! The goal is to expose the original oak. There are so many layers of paint and its taking forever. It's warm enough that the gel stripper is drying more quickly than I expected. Same issue that I ran in to with the wallpaper removal. 

I don't expect to finish the steps fully until after the kids are back to school. But, I'm so excited to be at this point after dragging my feet for so long!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Working on the Grand Foyer

The In-Laws will be here in about a week...so it is the perfect time for our internet to go down! By perfect time, I mean, I can't work on the blog or play on pinterest instead of working on those projects I've been putting off. I took Leelee to a party at a friend's neighborhood pool...and they just happen to have WiFi...

I've been intending to finish the Grand Foyer for several months. But the idea of pulling down the wall paper and working on getting rid of the poopy brown trim and all the priming involved was a real deterrent.

The good news is all the priming and wall paper removal is finally done! It took me two days, half a gallon of primer and a ruined manicure..but it's DONE!

The stairs are still  a work in progress...


This is an OK before shot. I remember to take a picture after I started priming the risers. I still have to strip the poopy paint off the steps. I did one so far and it revealed a beautiful original stain. There is something to be said for people not doing proper prep...it makes undoing the ugly paint a lot easier.


And to keep it real, here's what the room looks like as I'm working. That coffee table belongs in the living room, but Punky Brewster decided she wanted to mop the living room floor...and let's face it, when your kid volunteers to mop, you don't exactly say no.

The plan is to start painting for real Monday. D is going to take the kids swimming and I should be able to finishing the walls and trim work while they are gone.

Hopefully, I'll have internet Monday and will be able to do a great before/after!

So...if you were without internet for a week...what kind of work would you get done?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why you should prime before painting

It seems like the biggest complaint against painting is all the prep work. I love to paint, but I really do hate taping things off, washing down the walls properly...priming. I just want to get in to the heart of the room transformation.

Just think of all the fun you could have with projects if you didn't have to prep anything?

The original color in my dining room just wasn't quite right. I loved the idea of blue, but it wasn't quite the right blue.


As you can see from the "test" area...I wanted to go just a bit darker.

Before painting, I did a basic wipe down on the area, but not any real prep work.  I didn't give the walls a scrub, which can be forgivable in most cases. But the worst thing I did or rather didn't do: I skipped the primer.

I figured it was close enough in color, it would be fine.

That was a HUGE mistake.

 A year later that same portion of wall looks like this:



Those spots of discoloration are from where the kids got the wall dirty and I wiped it up with water! Soon, other stains started seeping through and the wall became a hot mess. This room used to be the kitchen, and I'm betting those are old grease stains and the pretty blue paint was fresh and covering up the nasty.

I used to think primer was just for covering up old paint when you were going from one big color to another. Now, I know the truth: Primer is the Spanx of the paint world. It holds everything in and keeps all the imperfections from showing. You skip the primer and you may be facing serious the paint equivalent of a wardrobe malfunction.

If you suspect there might be stains, be sure to get a quality stain blocking primer. As always, make sure you get the right tools for the right job. I prefer using an oil based primer like Zinsser ... I'm not affiliated with them...just like the product!



linked up at: house of hepworths **project stash ** mom on timeout **kitchen fun ** craftionary ** the creative connection ** tater tots and jello **best of the weekend ** create and inspire **

Monday, July 22, 2013

Build Your Mac N Cheese

Mac N Cheese is a staple in our house-- and I'm not talking the blue box kind. In the time it takes to cook the noodles, you can actually make your own homemade cheese sauce. So for the same amount of cooking time, you get a much better tasting mac.

Tonight was a pretty bad night. It started off with the sink leaking, a trip to Home Depot and coming home expecting to make a quick Japanese dish...only to find missing ingredients. I didn't want to run to the store so I went with my go -to last minute dinner: Mac N Cheese. I usually have an embarrassing amount several varieties of cheeses in the fridge, so I can really make a creative mac...and it never tastes the same way twice!

The kids prefer to have it topped with breadcrumbs for an extra crunch. I love being able to add in whatever meat and veggies are on hand to make sure it's not a total carb fest.

I always start with the same basic Mac...give or take the cheese proportions...And boil up the noodles: elbow, penne, zitti, corkscrew...


Add caption

Basic Mac N Cheese Sauce

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups half & half
1 -2 lb shredded cheese
salt & pepper to taste

In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.  Whisk in flour. When the flour bubbles, slowly whisk in the half & half. Turn the heat up to medium and let cook until thickened. Add in cheese. Stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper. 

For our dinner tonight, I used a combination of gouda and colby/jack. I also saute some kielbasa and Brussells sprouts. Let me assure you, kids will eat many things when covered in cheese...including Brussels sprouts!
There weren't any leftovers, which is a good sign in our house! It's too bad, because I was really looking forward to this for lunch tomorrow.


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Friday, July 19, 2013

Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Popcorn


It's no secret I love popcorn.

This week, when it seemed like every teenager my kids know was at my house, I made popcorn for snacks. Yummy flavored popcorn, and not just the regular salt and butter.

My favorite creation was Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese.



It was super easy to make. After popping my corn in my whirly popper, I drizzled it in about 3 T butter. Next, I crumbled up 3 T of Chavrie Goat Cheese with Caramelized Onion and tossed it in. The cheese blended well with the butter and spread all over the popcorn.

Most of the teens gravitated to the sweet popcorns, but this savory and tangy popcorn was a nice treat that I was planning not to have to share! Little Miss grabbed the bowl and took off with it. She was not inclined to give it back to me, even to snap a picture.




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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Doctor Who Art

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the TV show Doctor Who. I didn't get sucked in until maybe eighteen months ago, but I really fell for this show. And I fell hard. Not as hard as Leelee who has gone total fangirl obsessed.

She's pretty lucky to have friends who are also Whovians. Not to mention her siblings are pretty obsessed, too.

One of her Whovian friends is having a birthday and instead of buying some mass marketed Who-gear, she opted for a custom piece-- of her friend's name in Gallifreyan!

We started with an awful canvas picture, then painted over it in a solid color ... one that's almost TARDIS blue.


I did two coats of paint and let it dry over night.






I used several circular objects, including a cheese box, a plate, a large cup and a canning lid to create all the circles!

There's a great Gallifreyan Translator that will translate the names for you instead of having to figure out exactly where the circles need to go.




Leelee texted pictures of the project to all her friends and the response was very positive! I mean, what Whovian wouldn't want her name in Gallifreyan?

A little before and after....Cheap thrift store painting + a bit of paint + paint pen=custom art!




I think Leelee's friend's name in Gallifreyan looks like some sort of armor or a shield. It's pretty cool art by itself!

The useful part of this is using the thrift store canvas is cheaper than buying a brand new canvas. It's definitely something that can be done on any number of projects.


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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Adding Pizzazz to a Cube Shelf


I am about ready to build a small boat. Or maybe an ark.

It's raining. Again. It started raining more than a week ago. We had a day off and then...more rain. The forecast is calling for rain well in to next week. I feel like I've moved back to Oregon. Only without the great fresh berries, high gas prices and fantastic public transportation.

I try to do most of my projects when the kids are out of the house. It's hard to get anything done when you have so many helpers.

Enough excuses. Time to show off my latest lame project: Making a set of boring cubbies look less...boring.

Redoing this entry has been a pain. I keep getting furniture for this room and finding it works better in another. I picked up a large cubbie from a neighbor and it just didn't work there any more when I made the wall clock.



The large cubbie moved in to my room to hold my fabric and the smaller boring cube shelf made it's way in to the useless entry space grand foyer.



I have no idea how to really style a bookshelf. I've pinned many tutorials but haven't actually looked at them yet. I'm sure none of you ever -- EVER-- pin stuff and never look back!

After moving everything around, I realized the cube shelf needed a little something special.



It's a nice little touch and didn't cost anything since it was supplies I hoarded  purchased years ago.

Other ideas for adding a bit of something special:

  • Wrapping paper to the backing
  • Paint the insides or the backs of the cubes
  • Decoupage pages of books or music to the insides or backs
  • Stenciling
  • Add decorative trim or molding along the top or bottom
I'm sure there are a lot more ideas out there! My goal was fast and cheap so I went with what I had on hand. 


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Friday, July 5, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake in a Cast Iron Skillet


After spending all that time getting my cast iron skillet ready, we really needed to make something in it besides dinner. Everything tastes better when cooked in cast iron...so why not dessert?

Leelee and I were bonding over a new cookbook I picked up from the library and she found several recipes we knew we had to  make. None of them called for cooking on cast iron. Heck, none of my recipes called for cast iron cooking unless they involved camping and an open fire.

Not deterred, Leelee decided she really wanted a cookie cake and adapted a recipe from Ready for Dessert ...


It's no surprise that it was pretty darn amazing. Thick, gooey...soft on the inside and crispy on the edges. Her version used a bag and a half of chocolate chunks...needless to say, it's also very chocolatey. I'm not a milk and cookie person, but after a few bites, I had a small glass of milk, dunking the cookie wedge and savoring the deliciousness.



Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz

2 1/2 C flour
3/4 t baking soda
pinch salt
2 sticks margarine
1 C packed brown sugar
3/4 C sugar
1 t mexican vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 bags chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. In another bowl, beat together margarine, sugars and vanilla on medium speed, until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, then STIR with a spoon the flour mix, then chocolate chunks.

Lightly butter a 10 inch cast iron skillet. Spread the dough in the skillet. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes.







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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Season Cast Iron with Coconut Oil


This week was supposed to be all about camping. We had grand plans to camp along the gulf coast, but the weather looks a bit iffy so we decided to stay home. I really hate camping in the rain. It's amazing we ever went camping at all when we lived in Oregon!

In preparation for our trip, we pulled out the gear to assess what needed replenishing and what had grown legs and wandered off.

One look at the cast iron cookware and I knew it needed some TLC. It had sat languishing in a box since the last time we went camping back when we only had 5 kids.

Using the cast iron as my daily cookware has always been something I've wanted to do but just hadn't gotten around to  getting the stuff out of the camping boxes. This seems like as good a time as any to take the plunge and start using the cast iron all the time.


Since my skillet was a bit rusty in spots no longer looking pretty, I had to give it a thorough cleaning. And, after that was done, it also needed re-seasoning....which is basically oiling it and then baking it in an oven at a really hot temp. Or, I suppose if you're in Arizona right now, it means just setting it on your car hood.

When oiling a skillet, choose a cooking grade oil or shortening. For this, I decided to go to my new favorite oil: Coconut Oil.



Add several tablespoons of oil in to the pan and spread it around on the bottom and up the sides. Next wipe it out with a paper towel. Really well. If it looks like there's oil on it, you need to wipe more!

Place tin foil on the bottom oven rack to catch any drips. Then, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Place the cast iron skillet upside on the top rack. Bake for 30 minutes. You may need to do this several times to get a good oiling.



Not only will your house be a freaking sauna toasty warm, you'll also feel like you're really camping with all the smoke. Totally normal.

As you use your cast iron regularly, it will get nice and dark, much like the pampered chef stoneware. The darker it is, the better the seasoning.



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