Monday, June 29, 2015

Cookie Bites and Ottoman Covers, Oh My!



I posted this picture on Instagram recently, and a number of people asked me what exactly it was and if they could have the recipe.

I figured it would be easiest to share the recipe here, so here ya go!

Cookie Dough Pretzel Bites*

1/2 c. unsalted butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips
pretzels
8 oz. chocolate chips (about 1 c.)
1 tsp. coconut oil or shortening (for thinning the chocolate)

1. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, and sugar together on medium speed until light and creamy.  Add the milk and vanilla.  Mix.  Add the flour and salt all at once and slowly mix until everything is moist.  Add the mini chocolate chips and mix.

3. Roll the dough into balls, about 1 1/2-2 tsp. of dough per sandwich, depending on desired cookie size.  Sandwich balls between two pretzels and place on baking sheet.  Freeze for 20 mins.

4.  While the pretzel bites are chilling, melt the chocolate and the coconut oil or shortening in microwave for about 1 minute, stopping to stir every 20 seconds.  Dip the pretzel bites halfway into the melted chocolate and place back on the baking sheet.  Refrigerate the dipped bites for at least 15 minutes to allow the chocolate to set.  Cover and store pretzel bites in the fridge for up to five days.

*recipe found under my "Sweet Treats" Pinterest board.

It's an added bonus that this recipe is egg-free, which allows Wade to enjoy them!  And enjoy them he did.  I can't say that I blame him; they are quite tasty.

Switching gears, I just have to share a fun little project I just completed.  Remember when I shared pictures of our entryway last year?



I'd always planned to come up with some sort of slipcover for those ottomans because I knew that some fresh fabric could go a long way with their nice shape.  (I was originally inspired by what Emily A. Clark did with a similar pair of ottomans.) I finally did it, and I have to say, I am so proud of myself!



Seriously, it is a minor miracle that I somehow managed to pull this off.  I mean, I sewed these babies with minimal mistakes along the way and very little frustration.  I can hardly believe it.  I honestly find it challenging to even sew a straight line, so I really don't know how this happened.



After I completed the first one, I was so tickled with myself, I may have giggled out loud with delight.  (Let me be clear--I was also quite tired because I stayed up way too late getting these done.  But I say, sometimes all a mama needs is to enjoy a finished project in the midst of the chaos, and the satisfaction that is found makes up for some of that lost sleep!)

The fabric I used is by Nate Berkus.  I had pinned it and then quite fortuitously found it for a very discounted price on eBay.  I ordered it through this seller.



Gosh, I love the feeling when my vision for a project comes to fruition!


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Our New Patio Set

Over the past couple weeks, Craigslist has been so kind to me.  Humor me and get excited with me, won't you?

I've been scouring Craigslist for a teak patio set for a while now.  (Did you know that when properly cared for, teak is said to last for generations?  Amazing!) The wrought iron set we had was decent enough, but it only sat four, which made it difficult to host friends and eat outside.  We were always wishing for more space and seating.

Definitely not my house, but note the beautiful teak furniture!


I have an alert set up through the Craigslist app (highly recommend, btw), so I am ready to pounce at a moment's notice when a post containing one of my keywords is found (in this case, "teak").  Can you imagine my horror when I inquired about a post literally six minutes after it went live, only to learn it was no longer available?  Apparently, I was not the only one in hot pursuit of some teak.  Not one to be easily deterred, this setback only intensified my drive, and a week or so later, a set was posted for sale for super cheap.  The icing on the cake?  It was located about 8 minutes from my house!

I'll leave out all the details of how obsessive and crazy I behaved while I waited to hear back from the sellers.  Here I am rolling back up to my house with my new teak set in tow.  Holler at my sweet neighbors who loaned me their van and trailer!!!



I love love love love love it!  It even has a hidden leaf that extends the table to provide for more seating.

grainy photo taken without enough light…



I've started cleaning it, and it's amazing what a little elbow grease will do!  I love the gray look of teak as it ages, but there was quite a bit of dirt that had to go.  Check out what a difference it made:



Our new patio set has given me much-needed motivation to address the rest of our back, so hopefully some improvements will not be too far off in the future.  And while I'm not going to show you just how rough the rest of our "yard" is, I will share some pictures of some gorgeous outdoor spaces I've recently pinned.  Our back yard looks about like the opposite of these images, just in case you were wondering.











all images and their sources can be found under the "Patio & Garden" board on my Pinterest page.  

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Getchu Some Art! {Susie Bettenhausen}

I have so many amazing, new (to me) artists swimming around in my head, and I often think to myself, "I must share about such and such on my blog!"  It's really quite wonderful all of the talent you can discover through social media.  I kind of want to sell every non-essential thing in my home and fill every square inch of my little home's walls with original art.

Today I'm sharing some work by a friend (she counts as a friend in my book if you've "known" her through Instagram for two years!), Susie Bettenhausen, who is as lovely as she is talented.  She and her cute family split their time between the panhandle of Florida and way down in south Florida, where she creates the most beautiful art.  I love the color combinations she chooses.  To me, her paintings feel both energetic and exciting, while at the same time refreshing and calming.  Susie just released pictures of new works that will be available TOMORROW on her website!  Here are some of my favorites, all of which can be seen (plus many more!) on her website under the 'journal' tab.  










Friday, April 3, 2015

A Tale of Two Coffee Tables {Part 3--The Big Reveal!}

The wait is over, my friends.  Are y'all ready to see my new coffee table*?  I love it so much, and I hope you do too!

It's always nice to remember where we started, no? (Part I and Part II for reference :)



And here she is after I brought her back to her life!



It's rather nice to have a shot of my table with neat and organized piles on top of it.  One forgets what that kind of order looks like without the pictures to serve as a reminder :)

I am so happy I stayed the course and committed to my original plan to strip and stain vs. paint.



As you can see, I have plenty of painted pieces.  I think the new coffee table is just what the room needed.

I just love that yummy walnut stain!




You can also see that I went with one long bench cushion on my new sofa (I posted about that dilemma HERE), and I am pleased to report that we have been so happy with it.  In the absence of a guest room, it comes in handy as the bench cushion almost feels like a bed.  I have also been impressed with the Sunbrella indoor/outdoor fabric I chose for the sofa.  It cleans up really nicely with soap and water as I had hoped.



One last before and after photo of the table that consumed my life for many weeks:



Many thanks to those of you who cheered me on when I felt like giving up!  Once I finally removed all the old paint, I really enjoyed the process of staining the table, so I plan to tackle some similar projects in the future.  Next on my list though is painting both of my bookshelves white….

*disclaimer:  my living room is never this clean and/or organized.  These pretty pictures are courtesy of a kind friend who came by and picked up my older kids while MG napped (Hi Michelle!), which allowed me to tidy up.  

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Tale of Two Coffee Tables {Part 2}

As sad as I was to see my beloved marble-top coffee table go (read about that here), there was a part of me that thought our current living room layout would actually work best with a round coffee table.  The marble table was pretty big too, and there's not much in my California house that could be described as big…

So, round and smaller…my mission was clear.  (I'm sure you don't have to guess where I went looking.)  I eventually stumbled across this listing.



I loved the unique shape and the dimensions seemed perfect, but of course, a bright blue top and white base were not really what I had in mind.  While the easiest thing would have been to just paint it, I really felt like my room could stand a dose of good 'ol fashioned wood.  I have quite a few painted and upholstered pieces, and a pretty wood-stained piece seemed like the right addition.

I'm also nothing if not over-zealous for a daunting project that's perhaps just slightly out of my comfort zone.

Our sweet babysitter was kind enough to accompany me to go see the table.  She is one of my very favorite things about California.

I am in denial about how old I am, so I like to pretend that our babysitter, Natalie and I are peers by asking her if she wants to hang out with me and take selfies with me.

Now I have to confess, I almost backed out on the table when I saw it.  It seemed like the top was a veneer, and it had some small splits in it.  There's also something about seeing an old piece of furniture in the dark in a not so cute environment that can cause even the most visionary among us to doubt potential!  But, when the seller said she'd take 40 bucks for it, I figured it was worth a try. (Also having the vote of confidence from some DIY gurus like my friend Carson and even Jenny Komenda herself gave me an extra dose of courage!)

I was itching to get started to see what would come of this guy with a little elbow grease, so I followed the advice I read on Little Green Notebook and Little Black Door and quickly got to work.  I applied Citristrip all over the table and found that so long as I put it on thick enough, it took the paint right off the legs of the table.
The orange substance is the Citristrip product.
You can see how the stripper did its job by causing the paint to bubble up so that I could scrape it off.  


The top was another story.  Something about the wood veneer made for a surface that sucked that blue paint deep down into each and every crevice!  When I had hit a wall with Citristrip, I figured I'd pull out the big guns and go for the heavy duty stuff.  It seemed to be more effective, but it was still slow going and required multiple coats.




I used our electric sander and made progress with that too, but no matter what I did, that blue paint would not disappear.  {This is when it comes in handy to be stubborn and obsessive.  Eventually you will prevail.}

It was fascinating to see how the stripping agent literally lifted the blue out of the wood.  




I finally got that sucker down to about as raw a state as it was gonna get (We are talking weeks went by with multiple coats of the stripper!).  Sweet mercy.

I cleaned the wood with mineral spirits, gave it a final light sanding with a finer grit paper, and wiped it down.  (I also repaired a few of the cracks in the veneer with a stainable wood filler)





Finally, it was time to apply the stain!  I had only done one other stripping and staining project, so this was still pretty new to me.  I used a brush to apply the stain, but I think a cloth would have perhaps worked better.  Working with the grain of the wood, I applied the stain in manageable sections and allowed it to soak into the wood for 10-15 seconds or so before I wiped off whatever was remaining with a clean cloth.

This is the only photo I have of this process as I was nervously trying to work quickly, hoping I wouldn't mess it up!
Staining the wood felt more creative than when you simply paint furniture, and I loved seeing the wood grain take on the stain.  Once I had let the stain dry for the recommended amount of time, I applied several coats of poly in a satin finish.



Yes, it was a lot of work, but let me tell you, I LOVE my new table!  Stay tuned for the final reveal!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Tale of Two Coffee Tables {Part I}

So, we have a new coffee table! It's very exciting, I assure you, and like nearly every other piece of furniture I own, it has a story about how it came to live in our home.  But, before I get to sharing my new pride and joy, I feel I must tell y'all the story behind our old coffee table.  (As it turns out, she's the reason we have a new one actually.)



Two years ago, when we lived in Illinois, my living room was quite spacious, and I determined that we needed a fairly large coffee table to suit the space.  As any Craigslist-obsessed person does, I diligently checked the St. Louis listings until one day I saw an ad for two marble coffee tables--one rectangular shaped table for $150 and its square-shaped mate for $100 or so.



Obviously, the price was more than fair, but it was going to be about a 45 minute drive, so I needed to do a little planning to figure out when to pick it up.  Oh, and the seller said to bring help, as it was really  heavy.  Now, when I am in this kind of situation where I really want something that is listed, but I am dependent on the seller emailing me back and wanting to pick me as their buyer (because in my head like 20 other people are also emailing them about the awesome $100 marble coffee table!), I can be a little crazy.  I try to walk that fine line between "very interested, yet level-headed buyer" and "strange obsessed person."  Sometimes I probably do a better job at walking the line than other times.



Well on this cold December night, I did what any reasonable wife would do.  I hired a babysitter to watch my kids and begged my husband to drive with me after work to pick up the heavy coffee table!  God bless that man who had to get up at 5 am the next day (I'm telling you, I remember details when it comes to my CL acquisitions.) and agreed to come on this journey with me.

He's a keeper!!

Just testing it out!  Ah, my babies!  They have grown so much since these pictures!


Once we arrived at the home of the coffee table, we realized how heavy this sucker actually was.  Literally, it was 300-400 lbs.  I kid you not.  Thankfully the seller had a dolly, but between Philip, myself and the woman selling the table, we nearly had to give up on the whole thing it was so unbelievably heavy.  Thankfully I did not have to call the whole thing a bust and somehow we managed to get it in the back of our car.  Just to give you an idea of how involved, exhausting and flat out ridiculous the whole experience of trying to move the table was--the lady ended up giving it to us for free!  I believe she said something along the lines of "If you want this table this badly, I just want you to have it for free!" I may have hugged her.

Are you seeing the kind of muscle that was required to move this thing?! Many thanks to these dear friends for their assistance :)



Let me try to wrap this up.

The coffee table was everything I could have hoped it would be and more.  I loved it in our living room.  Fast forward to a year later and my table was not so kind to my girls.



The little lady on the right lost a tooth very prematurely thanks to an unfortunate collision with the table.  The little lady on the left got a small chip in her tooth when she grazed its edge on her way down to the floor.

At this point I decided I should go ahead and hang my Mother-of-the-Year badge up and find us a different coffee table--maybe one not made of a hard stone?!  Not to worry, my marble love lives in its own little crated bed in our garage (I'm totally serious) and will hopefully be able to join our family again in a couple years.

Proof that it does have its own bed. (Again, please note the grimacing occurring.  These movers loved it when I mentioned that I got this for free.  ha.)   Surely y'all must have pictures documenting the life of your furniture too?


Check back soon for the next installment in this riveting series :)