Thursday, December 5, 2013

Real Talk

For realz, this is what my bedroom looks like right now.

I sold all the furniture. Well, most of the furniture. The bed is on the floor, and unmade because I am lazy. And also because I work from home at 9:00 each day and today I woke up at 8:50. Clothes are in laundry baskets and bins because Husband has no dresser. I have a dresser because mine is hidden in the closet, so it made the cut. However, I'd like to sell it to get one just slightly bigger to maximize the space. I don't think he would understand my desire to sell an Ikea dresser for like $20 just to go buy another almost identical slightly wider one for $100. It's a matter of inches.

Or maybe he would. He's a man, after all. #PG13

And I promised to wait until after the holidays to start putting it all back together. I want to paint becuase it turns out I'm not super into neon green walls. I need new curtains or blinds or something because I left the lights on one night and I now know that my neighbors can totally see into our bedroom. Since I live in a townhouse, the neighbors are like three feet away. Show's over, people. The furniture I sold was absolutely lovely, late 50s, and I totally saw one of the dressers on the cancelled show Vegas. (Pretty sure that's not why it was cancelled.) But the furniture was way too big for the room. As you can see, I haven't sold the nightstands. I love them too much so asked more money for them than for the two dressers. They still won't fit, but I like them enough to save them for years. Unless someone wants to give me $400 for them but they probably don't. I have evidence that nobody does.

What did Mary Poppins say about promises? (I know what she would say about the state of my bedroom.) Promises are like pie crusts -- easily made, easily broken. Pretty sure that's it, based on the five hundred times I watched that movie as a child. Because, um, I logged onto Joss & Main last week and the PERFECT BED was there for a great price and I bought it. It's being delivered on Wednesday. Whoops. I want to at least paint before it gets here. Did you notice that patch of pastel green on the wall? I bought a tester of what I thought I wanted. But it's too light. So I tacked up some options and am diving in sans-tester. Gonna wake up and paint. Can you guess which one I chose?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Corner Chair

Meet the chair in the corner of my office:

I kind of love the lines of the back, but that gray vinyl was not doing this chair any favors. So yesterday I decided to recover the poor thing. Wait, that's a lie. I actually decided to recover this chair when I bought it over six years ago for $75 at a flea market with three of it's friends and the wooden table that now poses as additional counterspace in the kitchen (and I would like to keep this sentence going as long as possible). Since then, I've sold two of the chairs, and the fourth is in a basement somewhere. I think. BUT. This little guy was hanging out in my office and in need of a makeover.

I didn't want errands or money to be involved in this spur-of-the-moment, after work project. Luckily, I have a bin of fabric in the craft closet because doesn't everybody?

How about this one?

No. How about this one?

No. Wait, maybe. It's reversible!


So I set about removing the staples in the gray vinyl. All 52 of them. And surprise! There's another horrid seat cover under that one.

I then removed 55 more staples to discover, YEP, another awful seat cover under that one.

I suddenly realize I'm dealing with the Russian matryoshka doll of chairs here. I start to get really worried about what is under this layer. And then really excited. What if it's a treasure map! Will Nicholas Cage help me!? Will he even take my call?!?

After 49 more staples, it turned out to be just a nice, clean cushion. I must have sold the one with the map. Those lucky unsuspecting Craigslisters!

The cushion was stapled nicely around the edge and didn't smell bad or anything. Yes, I checked. Since I didn't really go into this project with any upholstery foam lying around, I thought it best to use it as is. My original half-formed plan was to triple up on batting; this was way better. I then just cut some batting and fabric, lay the naked seat upside down on top, and started stapling everything to the bottom of the seat. After a few staples to secure the batting and fabric, I cut away the extra. Then I stapled and stapled and stapled. Staple guns are super fun, by the way. I totally get the staple overkill. I did it myself.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

From Scratch: Canned Pears

Last night I continued my Adventures in Canning with mixed success canning the pears from our trip to the orchard last weekend.  Here you go, step by step.

Rinse the pears.

Peel the pears.

Put them in a bowl of cold water and a teensy bit of vinegar to keep them pretty while you finish.

Do you have any rounded measuring spoons like this?

Use one to scoop out the seed bits.

Meanwhile, boil some water and add however much sugar you are comfortable with. I am not comfortable with lots of sugar so I made a very light simple syrup. You can add more for a heavier syrup and you're still eating whole foods you made yourself so go ahead and feel great about it.

Put the pears in the jars.  Add the simple syrup to the jars, so that the pears and liquid come to just below the glass thready bit. 

Wipe the tops of the jars with a clean, dry cloth.

Put on the metal lids, screw on the metal screwy part, and get them in the canning pot.  Just like with the applesauce, cover, wait for it to boil, and set timer for twenty minutes.  Then take them out and let cool on a towel lined counter.

Like I said, mixed success.

About half of the jars looked like this.

But the other half looked like this!

I blame the wide mouth mason jars.  Next year I will try again with regular jars.  And this week I will eat a lot of pears.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

From Scratch: Applesauce

For the past four years, I have spent one Saturday in October making applesauce with my mother-in-law. I make about twenty jars for the year. One for myself and the rest for sweet, adorable children.  (Take a hike, mean babies.) It does not actually take an entire day to make twenty jars of applesauce if you are pressed for time.  But it does take us an entire day because it turns out the only apples in the world come from an orchard an hour and a half away from my house. Which makes it over two hours away from the in-law's house.  So off we trek, party of four (with our respective husbands), to the only possible place on earth to buy apples.  I will admit that they are very delicious.  But.  BUT. There are like twenty thousand farmer's markets that I can think of, just off the top of my head, within a fifteen minute drive from my house.


So every year we stop for coffee, drive to the apples, check out the tiny ornamental squash, 

drink a paper cup of free cider (yum!),  take a photo in front of the pumpkin pyramid, 

consider buying a pumpkin to carve, 

decide against the pumpkin carving, choose some other fruits or veggies or pies or cookies or jams or berries from the cute little shop, 

load our goodies and apples into the trunk, and drive away.

My goodness, it's already afternoon.  Of course we simply must stop for lunch.  

Do not misinterpret -- I love Fall Festivities Day every year. And this year is bittersweet because the in-laws are moving to Myrtle Beach soon, so next year will probably not happen quite the same way. I say probably because I already know that they will drive 2.5 hours for apples. Maybe they will drive 10 hours for apples.  I cannot say for certain that they will not.

Also, this year they left early and I made the applesauce myself. It seemed a natural progression. 

Year One I mostly watched, took notes, and peeled apples.

Year Two I helped.

Year Three I was supervised.

And now Year Four, I was on my own.  I documented the process so I could do this again next year.  And YOU can too!

Get some apples and some mason jars. I got pears for extra credit but haven't gotten to those yet.

You also need one of these giant canning pots with the jar separator insert.  Take a minute to figure out how the separators work before everything gets hot.

Then you need to peel and cut up one million apples.  Pro tip: Fill a large bowl halfway with cold water and a tablespoon or so of vinegar.  Add the peeled, cored, cut up apples to this water so they don't turn brown while you peel the other 999,999 apples.  Also, make sure you get ALL the peel off of the apples, because the peel contains something called pectin. Which is used to make jelly.  And will do weird things to your applesauce.  (According to my MIL, anyway.  She seems to know what she is talking about.)  Of course, this knowledge made me immediately want to skip ahead to making jelly from scratch, but I know I'm not quite ready for that. Maybe next year...

When you have more than you think you need, add them to a pot on the stove on medium heat. No, you do not need to add water.  You will want to, at first, but don't do it.  The apples will cook down and turn saucy.  Stir them a bit.

Add some sugar if you want.  (I did not add sugar this year because I knew baby Vera would be sharing this year's bounty.)  Add some cinnamon if you want.  (I did add a little cinnamon for flavor.) Add whatever you want.  You are the boss of your applesauce.  MIL suggests adding a few candy red hots.  They turn the applesauce pink/red and give it that sweet, spicy, cinnamon flavor.  I need to try this sometime.

While the applesauce is cooking down, simmer some water in the giant pot, only a few inches.  You don't want to put a glass jar full of hot applesauce into a pan of cold water.  Also, simmer some mason jar lids (the flat bit, not the spinny bit) in a shallow pan.  These need to be very hot when you put them on the jars to get a seal.

When the apples are sauce, you can optionally put them through a hand held, crank operated food mill.  I like to puree it for the sweet adorable children, but it's not required.

The next bit got intense and I failed to photograph the action, but this is what you do.

Make sure your jars are clean.

Get a cool jar funnel and scoop the applesauce into the mason jars.  Fill them to just below the glass thready bit.

Take a butter knife and run along the inside of the jars, careful not to to ding the glass, making sure there are no air bubbles between the sauce and the glass.

Wipe the top lip of the jar with a clean, dry cloth.

Take a heated lid from the simmering pan that should already be on your stove (use tongs) and put it on the jar.  

Screw the other metal part on top.

Place it in the big pot.  Those metal separators lift up so you can fit in the jars and keep them from touching while you do the actual 'canning' part.  It's a tricky puzzle, so figure it out before you get to this step.  

When all jars are in the pot, the water should come up to just below the metal tops.  If it does not, add some warm water.  

Put the top on the giant canning pot and turn up the heat.

Once you hear it start boiling, set a timer for twenty minutes.

Use this time to line a counter that is blocked from any draughts with dish towels (or regular towels). You want to make sure you are not placing a boiling hot glass jar onto a cool surface.

After twenty minutes, turn off the heat and take off the lid.  

Use tongs and pot holders and whatever else you need to not burn yourself, and take the jars out of the canning pot and place them on the towels you just laid out.  Make sure the jars do not touch each other.  Make sure they are not susceptible to draughts of air from a fan, open door, air vent, etc.

Pour a glass of wine, go sit by the fire, and start listening for the satisfying pops that mean the jars have sealed.  

The next morning, check to see that all of your jars are properly sealed.  You can tell if it is sealed by pressing the metal bit in the center of the jar lid.  If it bounces, it did not seal.  If it looks like this, it did not seal.

See that little nick on the side there?  Yeah, put that one in the refrigerator and eat it soon.  

SIDE NOTE (or actually BOTTOM NOTE because I am pretty much done here):  I used a mix of regular and wide mouth jars this year because that is what I had.  I have never had problems with the regular jars not sealing, but two of the wide mouth jars did not seal this year.  Maybe only use regular ones unless you're making pickles or something.  I don't know how to make pickles.  Maybe next year....

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Advanced Sewing

This is not a How-To.  It's an I-Wish-I-Knew-How-To.

Sometimes it's the little updates that make me smile so much. I bought this beautiful picture from Crafty Bastards last weekend. This piece is made by a lady named Jamie and here is her Etsy shop.

I hung it where I will see it every day and it makes me so happy.

Until I look at the almond, paint-covered light switch below. I need to stop obsessing over stupid crap.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Tufting Lessons - Or What NOT To Do

Ok, FIRST OF ALL, I carried that one hundred ton headboard upstairs all by myself. That's the big deal here. Points.

But before I even covered it, I measured (gasp!) and marked the spots for the -- tufting buttons? -- what are they called? And I drilled holes in the MDF before covering. Behold.

Transported upstairs! ALL BY MYSELF!

And it sat there behind the bed sadly untufted for weeks.

I had already made the buttons, which was really fun and slightly mind-blowing. I went to the craft store last month with no clue what to buy for tufting buttons.  After staring at all the actual buttons I found this kit to make fabric covered buttons.  Seriously, guys, I had no idea this technology existed.  I brought it home to give it a try and just LOOK how fun and easy it is.

I finally found a long enough needle to do the tufting. Kind of. Mostly. The longest actual needles I could find in the stores were four inches long. This is something called a Ball Point Bodkin. (A quick Google taught me that bodkins are used for pulling ribbons or elastic or whatever you want I guess through fabric corridors. Fascinating.) I still had to really push it through and then pull out the other side because I clearly made the whole thing too thick.

LESSON ONE: You do not need heavy MDF. Use plywood.

LESSON TWO:  You do not need 4" padding. Use 2". It will be fine. No. It will be BETTER.

For the actual tufting, I turned to the internet. The internet actually had lots of ideas about how to secure the thread to the back of the headboard, because the internet is smart.  My favorite plan suggested I tie a washer to a piece of heavy duty thread, send it through the back with my needle (bodkin), grab the button, push the thread back through, pull taut for the tufting effect, and tie the loose end to the washer to keep it tight. Love it! And I had washers so didn't even need to go to the store.

When I finished with them all, there were buttons evenly spaced, but not really tufted. It was difficult to tie the string to the washer after threading the button while simultaneously keeping it pulled tight through that four inch upholstery foam. (Seriously. Don't use that. Use something else.) Still pretty.  But I wanted that bounce, y'all.

I figured out that I could pull the washers a bit and then duct tape them to the MDF board to get a little more tufting action. Voila.

RECAP: This the opposite of the correct way to tuft a headboard. It doesn't need to be so big. I bought this cool french hook clasp thing to hang it on the wall but it is so big that it just sits on the floor. It doesn't need to be so heavy. Regular plywood is much lighter. It might be a little bendy at first but once you staple the batting around the foam, and then add fabric, I'm sure it will steady itself. Don't use four inch think foam. This headboard is super padded, and that's nice and all, but I think it could be just as padded with half the foam, and I would have been able to use a regular upholstery needle. Learn from my mistakes.