Thursday, January 18, 2018

Retro Kitchen Makeover

When we moved into our house, all of the walls were painted were a color I can only describe as "toilet water," the kitchen counter was a nauseating mauve and all the cabinets were cheap, unpainted wood with gold handles. I wish I had a picture for comparison, but I never thought to take one. I think the previous owner of our house just picked out whatever was on sale and didn't worry about making it look nice. Or maybe mauve was his favorite color, who can say?

The kitchen should be the happiest room of every home, but I didn't even like being in ours. However, I was 9 months pregnant when we moved in, so we didn't do anything about it for about eight months. But I planned it all and when the time was right, my husband and I worked hard for several long nights until my vision unfolded: the retro kitchen. 
Most of the small items in the kitchen are things I have collected over the years from flea markets or garage sales.
These amazing barstools are from Amazon. Someday when I'm a millionaire I'll buy a Smeg fridge and oven to complete the look.
We painted the walls, the cabinets, replaced the cabinet handles with these red knobs (from Amazon), and redid the countertops, (these are just cheap white Formica countertops from Home Depot). The cabinet doors are a little bluer than they appear in the pictures, and I do actually regret not going a shade darker. Someday I'd like to redo our floors too.

The toaster oven/ coffee maker in the corner is from Nostalgia Electrics. We had a matching microwave too (pictured in top picture), but it has since broken. 

 I almost didn't include this picture because I'm not happy with the red paint in this shelf area. I bought more of the cabinet color (light turquoise) and will be repainting it when I get a chance. But this is where I store all my kitschy knick-knacks and pyrex and random cute salt and pepper shakers.

Little fruity ceramic decorations are from a flea market. The back wall above the oven and sink has a strip of checkerboard pattern that we painted on. We taped it all and it took forever.

This wall already has more potholders on it since I took this picture, I kind of collect them because I'm secretly ninety-seven. That clock used to be brown and I painted it with the cabinet color, too. Chairs are from Ikea, and the 1950's table was from my grandparents. 

We painted the wooden edge around the countertops red and I like how that turned out a lot. Sugar container was from an antique store, the flour containers are from my grandma.

Plants on the windowsill, plus my antique wedding cake topper which was from Etsy. 

The little greenhouse in the windowsill is from Ikea, and the bread box was from a flea market. Baby is from me.

Anyway, that's all. We got all of our paint from Lowe's, and it was all cheap and is already chipping off the cabinets but otherwise I am very happy with our kitchen makeover and I no longer feel sad to be in my kitchen. Thank you for reading and hopefully if you aren't happy with your kitchen you might feel inspired to make it a happier place, too. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Lactation Cookies

Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal Cookies 
to Boost Milk Production When Breastfeeding

I'm not a big cookie person, honestly. I feel like cookies are never as gooey or chewy as I hope they will be, so most of the time it's just not worth the gamble. But when I heard of lactation cookies, I was enthralled and had to try them out. I found a recipe that I liked and tweaked it to make it even better. These have become my favorite cookies. They have become my husband's favorite cookies. They are addictive. They are everything a cookie should be. I will continue making these long after I stop breastfeeding, and I highly recommend that you give them a go, whether or not you have a nursing babe. They're that good!

yields: about 24-30 cookies depending on size

Total time: about 45 minutes


3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
5 tablespoons brewers yeast
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 14 oz bag coconut flakes
14 tablespoons salted butter, melted
5 tablespoons virgin coconut oil, melted
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 11.5 oz bag chocolate chips/chunks (I like Nestle Tollhouse)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix together oats, flour, brewer's yeast, flaxseed, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and coconut in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, mix together melted butter and coconut oil. Add in sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Slowly add in dry ingredients and continue mixing until combined. Add in chocolate chips. Mold into balls and slightly flatten onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, or until just barely golden on bottom. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

How to enlarge a skirt waistband (maternity skirt tutorial)

This is a project I decided to document after trying to look it up on Pinterest and realizing THERE IS NO TUTORIAL. It doesn't exist. Unless I was just using the wrong search words, but that's probably not the case because I'm good at picking search words and I tried a few different combinations. Instead of losing heart, I pioneered ahead and decided to figure out how to do it on my own and document what I've learned along the way. 

This is how to make a skirt BIGGER. 

This could be useful if a skirt you own is slightly too small for you, or if (like me) you need to transform a regular skirt into a maternity skirt. 

Another thing to note: it's a good idea to have a general idea of how to make an elastic waistband before attempting to follow these directions, because I don't go into that part very in-depth. There are plenty of elastic waistband tutorials online. 

Here we go:

You will need a sewing machine, fabric scissors, and elastic. I also used a rotary cutter at one point but scissors work fine. You will ALSO need a small amount of extra fabric that closely matches the color of your skirt. You don't need a lot though, so don't go out fabric shopping if you have old fabric scraps lying around. 

Here is the skirt I used. As you can see, it has a fitted waistband. Not for long...

On the back of the waistband, mark out an area of about 8 inches or so in the center.

Cut into the waistband on one side, as shown above, and then begin cutting along the edge of the waistband until you have removed the entire 8 inch portion.

As you can see, since this was a pleated skirt, the pleats will start to unfold, making the skirt widen a lot. This is good. Don't freak out that it's getting TOO wide, we're gonna wrassle most of that back in later.

This is the portion of the waistband that was removed. Use it as a loose guide when cutting your piece of elastic. Your elastic should be cut to this length PLUS THE AMOUNT OF ROOM YOU WANTED TO ADD TO THE SKIRT'S WAISTBAND, be that an inch, two inches, whatever.

Here is where your extra fabric comes into play. I tried to use a fabric that closely matched the skirt, so as to not draw attention to the area. As you can see, it's not a lot of fabric. I cut it to the length of the now open and un-pleated part of the skirt where I cut out the waistband, PLUS ABOUT THREE INCHES. The exact length of this strip will be different for you depending on your skirt and how pleated and everything it was.

Pin the strip of fabric onto the top of the skirt, good sides facing together, lining up the top edge.

In the above picture, I'm trying to demonstrate that there should be an overhang of fabric, (the plus three inches I was talking about two pictures back). Now, sew down the length of your fabric strip where you pinned it to attach it to the skirt, leaving that overhanging part flappy and free.

 Here is the overhang after I folded it to give it a clean edge. I also folded the strip down and over in back. The edge of the rest of the waistband, which you didn't cut off, can get tucked right in there. Then make a stitch to hold it there and connect it. The stitch should be up and down right where my thumb is above.

Now you can definitely tell I am not a perfectionist. Anyway, the strip is folded down and you'll want to sew the bottom of it down, leaving an open space at both ends to access your elastic (as I try to demonstrate above). You're creating a sort of tunnel for the elastic to go into. If you followed my advice and looked up elastic waistband tutorials, you'll know what I'm talking about. Once that's done, you can shimmy the elastic into the tunnel, and sew the ends of the elastic securely into both ends of the tunnel to keep it in place. 

Cut off all your loose strings and admire your comfy, new and improved, BIGGER skirt.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Mushroom Arugula Pizza

This pizza is the best pizza to ever pizza.

I know that's a pretty audacious claim, but I gave my neighbor a slice and she told me it was the best pizza she'd ever had, so if you don't believe me then at least believe my neighbor.

I have to admit I did not invent this pizza- it's a recreation of a pizza that my husband and I had in Kittery, Maine on our honeymoon five months ago that left a big impression on us. However, I did invent this particular recipe, and I haven't found another recipe quite like it, so I thought I would do the world a favor and write down my own detailed method to make this delicious mushroom arugula pizza.

(If you just want the basic recipe, without all the super helpful pictures and text, just scroll down and you'll find it). 

First off, I ought to warn you that I am not an exact measurer, and I don't think you need to be either with this kind of thing. I mean, it's pizza. A dash of this, a handful of this, and it's fine. Pizza is a very forgiving food.

So, to begin with, you're going to make the mushroom cream sauce. Chop up your portabella mushrooms into thin slices.

Next, heat up the butter and minced garlic in a saucepan, then add the mushrooms and cook for about five minutes or so.

The mushrooms should start to be nice and soft. 

Go ahead and add the cup of heavy cream, and stir.

When the sauce reaches a velvety consistency, (about 10 minutes) dump the whole mixture into a blender and blend. (It will look a little grainy in texture). Set aside for later. At this point you'll probably want to start pre-heating your oven, (450 degrees).

Now you'll want to go ahead and chop up your onion and saute it in olive oil until brown. Set that aside too.

The aioli sauce is kind of just a thinner, glorified mayonnaise. I found a ton of recipes for actual aioli online, but since it doesn't play a huge part in the recipe, and most of the recipes called for a food processor and fancy oils, I decided to just go simple and wing it and it came out pretty good anyway. If you would rather create a true aioli, or buy an already made truffle aioli, go for it! However, real aioli is a little thicker and it's advantageous for this recipe to be able to drizzle it. I made the sauce pictured below by stirring up a glob of mayo, one egg yolk, some lemon juice, and a little olive oil, salt and pepper. 

Now it's time for some more chopping! I don't recall the exact amount of mushrooms I used, but as you can see from the picture, it was a hearty handful. Mostly crimini, with a few shiitake thrown in for good measure. Honestly, any kind of mushrooms you want to throw on there will work great.

Lightly oil a shallow baking pan, and set mushrooms on in as close to a single layer as possible. They'll shrink during the roasting process, so if they overlap a little now it's no big deal. Toss a little more oil on top, and add a dash of salt and pepper. Roast for about twenty minutes in your 450 oven, stirring and flipping mushrooms at the ten minute mark.

While that's happening, go ahead and shred your fontina!

Now is a great time to spread out your dough on a spray-greased cookie sheet or a pizza stone. Note: I used a store-bought dough, since I have not yet found a satisfactory homemade pizza dough recipe. But when I do I will update this with a link to it so that you can make your dough from scratch if you prefer to do so.

As you can see, I've clearly mastered the art of flattening pizza dough. Let's just pretend I was going for an abstract heart shape. Also, I hope you have the fortune of owning a less wonky cookie sheet.

*(Not a prime example of flattened dough).
Take out your lovely mushrooms. See how they've shrunk? 
Lower your oven temp to 350.

Now you are ready to assemble the pizza. It goes in this order: mushroom cream sauce on the bottom, then fontina, roasted mushrooms, sauteed onions, and a drizzle of the "aioli." 

Cook the pizza until the crust is golden brown, about 15-20 minutes, or longer if your crust is thick like mine was. I think I took mine out at about thirty minutes, but just keep an eye on it.

Finally, top with the fresh arugula and another drizzle of aioli. It is ready to eat!

Mushroom Arugula Pizza


Mushroom Cream sauce:
-2 Tbsp. butter
-1 tsp. minced garlic
-1 cup heavy cream
-1 large or 2 small portabella mushrooms
-Salt and pepper to taste 

-1 lb crimini mushrooms or assorted small mushrooms of choice
-1/2 yellow onion, chopped into long, thin slices
-1/2 lb block Fontina cheese, shredded
-2 cups fresh arugula
-Olive oil

-One tablespoon mayo
-One egg yolk
-One teaspoon fresh lemon juice
-One tablespoon olive oil
-Dash of salt and pepper

-Pizza dough of your choice


Preheat oven to 450. 

To create the mushroom cream sauce, melt butter with garlic in a saucepan, add sliced portabella mushrooms and cook until soft, add heavy cream and continue to cook until velvety. Pour into blender, blend about one minute. Set aside. 

Saute onion in olive oil until soft and light brown. Set aside.

Chop crimini mushrooms into thin slices. Lay out in single layer on oiled shallow baking pan, top with another splash of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Roast in 450 oven for twenty minutes, stirring and flipping mushrooms at halfway point. Remove and set aside. Lower oven temp to 350.

To create aioli sauce, stir together mayo, egg yolk, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Set aside.

Flatten pizza dough onto spray-greased cookie sheet or a pizza stone until it is as thick or thin as you prefer. Top dough with a thin layer of mushroom cream sauce, evenly distributing out to edge of crust. Top with shredded fontina cheese, roasted mushrooms, sauteed onion, and a drizzle of aioli, then bake in 350 oven for 15-20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. 

Top with fresh arugula and another drizzle of aioli. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

DIY Aviary from an old TV Cabinet

I wasn't able to find any detailed instructions for converting a piece of furniture into an aviary, so I thought I would write up my own discoveries after tackling this project. The fact is, it was a lot cheaper than building one from scratch and seemed a lot less daunting originally, but it still took a LOT of hard work. However, the end result is stunning and I couldn't be happier with it.

If you are thinking about doing this project, hopefully you have access to power tools and know how to use them, or have someone who can lend them to you or help you out. I did about 85-90% of this project myself, but there were some things I genuinely could not have done without help.

These are the tools I used, so you can get an idea of whether or not you could realistically complete a similar project:

Drill: (with phillips head and circular drill bit).
Table Saw
Wire clippers
Staple Gun

For a simpler version of this project, you could probably get away without using the table saw or the bandsaw. 

The first thing I did after coming up with this idea was to hop onto Craigslist and search for old TV cabinets. I was looking for something with these qualities:

Right size, (not too big to move upstairs, but not too small either- I wanted a lot of room for a bird to fly around in).
Real wood, (fake wood or a plastic-y material would have been a nightmare to work with).
Good condition.

I was fortunate enough to find a Mahogany TV armoire just 20 minutes away. It was listed for $50 but I offered him $35 and he accepted. I am now a huge fan of Craigslist.

I lugged the thing home, (I had to borrow my Dad's truck for this part), and got to work right away. Originally, it looked like this:

My plan was to cut out panels from the sides, front doors, and back, then fill them in with wire mesh. I would remove the drawers from the bottom section, except for the bottom one, which I ended up sawing in half and leaving as a pull-out tray. This complicated things a lot, and if I were to do this all over again I probably would have left the drawers in to store supplies and not messed with the bottom at all. But at the time I thought it would be simple, and I wanted the bottom section of my aviary to be a hedgehog apartment.

First thing I did was remove everything that wasn't necessary to the frame. This included some fancy sliders on the front doors, a lazy-susan type of device in the TV compartment, and some support beams on the sides. I stripped the whole thing down to its most basic shape.

The basic frame

Did I mention this was the middle of March and FREEZING?

After the big stripping spree, I moved on to cutting out the panels. Laying the cabinet down on its side, I marked out my rectangular panel with a tape measurer and pencil. Then I cut out the four corners using the circular drill bit. From there, I could put the jigsaw into the holes and cut down the lines.

I would recommend clamping a guide board onto the edge of the cabinet to run the jigsaw against to keep a straight line. I didn't do this and my lines turned out super crooked. Thankfully my boyfriend brought over his hand plane and planed my cuts down until they were straight.

Cutting out the doors
I did this on both sides, and on this insides of the front doors. I then sanded everything down. I now had the top part pretty much good to go, and I moved on to the bottom section.

Like I said, this was making things much more complicated for myself and I wouldn't recommend it for anyone who is ONLY interested in the aviary. But I was trying to kill two birds with one stone and turn this thing into a pet penthouse, (pethouse?) and I wanted the hedgehog cage on the bottom with a pull-out drawer for easy cleaning.

So I pulled out the drawers and sawed out the drawer dividers. I sawed the bottom drawer in half and put it back in. This is where things got tricky. There was a huge gap all around the drawer where a little
Pull-out tray from half a drawer
hedgehog could have easily fallen into and hurt himself or escaped. So I had to construct a frame around the drawer to fill in the gap, but after doing so I realized it prevented the drawer from being pulled out. A lot of screwing and unscrewing and measuring and crying from frustration took place. I got my construction worker father to help me figure this part out, and finally got it to work. But then I realized I had no doors for this bottom section. And cages need doors.

I did end up having enough scrap wood to be able to construct my own doors, but this was hard too. Especially because the wood kept snapping and I had to keep mending it with wood glue and clamps, only to have it snap again. Plus, my jigsaw lines were so awful that the doors didn't end up fitting together. So I used my Dad's table saw to get the edges super straight, and let's just say thank the Lord I still have ten fingers.

The next part was to sand the whole thing down and then paint it. I painted everything inside and outside a nice turqoisey- seafoam green that I just happened to have lying around. It's a Behr paint, which I've heard has less toxic fumes than other paints, so it would be harmful to the animals- although I'm still hoping they won't try nibbling on the wooden parts of their cage.

After the paint was dry, it was time to cut the wire mesh and staple it. This was horrible. My advice to you is: wear thick gloves while cutting and handling the wire, and get someone else to help you or it will be nearly impossible. The wire just wants to curl up and it will be terrible bowed and misshapen if you can't hold it down straight. Also, the staples did NOT want to go all the way in, so I ended up having to hammer them the rest of the way. I stapled this onto the OUTSIDE of the aviary on the sides and back, and my plan was to cover the rough edges with strips of thin wood, but I haven't done that yet and realistically I probably never will.

However, I stapled it to the INSIDE of the front doors so that it would look nice, but not wanting the little birdy to hurt himself on the sharp wire edges, I devised a clever plan to cover them up. I stapled strips of denim down the sides, which were folded up to create sort of a hem so that they won't fray. I still can't believe what a brilliant idea this was.

The last steps were to put on the door handles and hinges and attach the doors.
Fancy Hinges :)
I also tiled the pull-out drawer to make it nice and mess-proof (wet wood is gross). We just happened to have leftover tiles so it worked out. However, I was terrible at cutting them so I ended up breaking one. I decided to use it anyway and break all of them to make it look like it was on purpose.

Tiled drawer
So then my aviary/ hedgehog cage was complete! The only thing left to do was put in perches. I found some natural pine branches from outside and washed them with warm water and some bleach. Pine is safe for birds, (so are a lot of other kinds of wood but I couldn't identify anything else! So to be on the safe side, I used Pine. Ha! You can just Google safe natural perches for a list if you're better at tree and branch identification).

I cut the edges of the branches to a point so they would fit through the holes of the mesh and stay secure

The last issue I encountered was finding a way to keep the doors shut. I considered magnetic latches, but couldn't find any that would really work at the hardware store. I ended up opting for a really simple piece of screwed-in wood that would just pin the doors shut or turn to release them.

Also, you might notice the "distressed" look of the paint- this was not intentional, it just got banged up during the wire stapling process. But I do like the way it looks and ended up adding a little extra with sandpaper.

That's it! Hope this was helpful for anyone looking to create something similar for a pet. It really is a big effort, but it will end up looking much nicer than a big ugly cage in your home. It will be a pretty piece of furniture instead of an eyesore. Plus, it was cheaper and if you are into DIY it's definitely worth it. Good luck!