Simply a Stool

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We’ve been remodeling a cabin in the woods we bought a year ago.  As remodels go, the construction process once we replaced the initial contractor with an experienced GC has gone pretty smoothly but challenged the wallet in a big way. Our contractor is beyond amazing and worth every single detailed minute of labor he puts in but clearly the change meant decorating would be a second phase at a date yet to be determined.  And anyone who has remodeled knows that nothing from the pre-remodel phase fits in to the new home, whether it be color, style or the dust it collected sitting in storage that long.

Being the maker kind of gal that I am, I promised myself and my husband we’d have our champagne taste in decorating on a beer budget at the end of the construction rather than wait who knows how long before we could have the beautifully remodeled house look like a home, and we’ve both been pleasantly surprised at the finds on Craig’s List which have helped the decorating phase start to come to life.

That said, when I first came home with 3 of these stools for $15.00, David wasn’t so sure my promise would be upheld but he went along with me anyway as I’ve been know to be pretty stubborn at times.  And he really wanted stools with backs (which I couldn’t find 24″ stools with backs anywhere).

IMG_0241I hadn’t worked with Annie Sloan chalk paint before, but had read about it in a magazine.  I scoured Pinterest, and found a concept piece with the creativity I needed (The Retired Nester).  I wanted the wood to show through a little, which this lady Shari did quite nicely on her Spanish Moss debut piece (turnstylevogue.com) so I took a lesson from her site and went to work (really LOVE what she did with her piece).

I removed the seats and sanded them down using a belt sander.   Using a tree template I had on hand and a leaf template from my stash of stencils, I painted a tree onto each sanded seat using Annie Sloan Barcelona pain. Once that dried, I painted the leaf over the tree using Annie Sloan Graphite paint (for one stool, I did opposite, using Graphite for the tree and Barcelona for the leaf stencil).

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Once the stenciled art was dry, I applied two coats of MinWax Early American to the seats.  When the seats were completely dry, I applied two coats of matte polyurethane to protect the seats.

On to the base of the stools…I used Chateau Gray first, 2/3 paint to 1/3 water, and applied it liberally to the stools with a brush then rubbed it into the wood so the grain showed through.

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Once it dried, I painted on a coat of Coco, 2/3 paint to 1/3 water, and using the same technique as before, rubbed it into the wood.

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But not to miss a surprise element, if Christian Laboutin can paint the soles of shoes red, I painted the underside of the seats Barcelona (snapped a picture after first coat but forgot to snap one after).  Not that anyone will ever see them but the dog maybe…

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I then applied a coat of dark wax followed by a coat of clear wax the next morning, using a rag to work the wax in and around the leg posts, wiping the excess wax off with a clean rag after each coat.  I left the second coat of wax to set overnight, then lightly buffed the legs so they had a matte look to them.  I only learned later that it is best to apply the clear wax first because it provides more protection to the furniture.

Reassembled stools came out really well and not only did David love the way they turned out, he loves to sit on them.  Total cost, maybe $30.00 plus the labor of love. I have plenty of chalk paint, stain and polyurethane for several other projects.    Win win for our wallets and our breakfast bar area!

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Garden Fresh Artichokes

Colby's First Dau 7945A year ago, my son Colby and I went shopping for our summer garden plants.  I turned my back for a second (it seemed) and as I went to place some herb selections in the cart, a pumpkin and an artichoke plant had been settled in to the cart, with a beaming and a grinning 6 year old standing proudly next to them.  “Mom, I want to grow these this year”. They weren’t on the list, but did make it into the car that morning as I couldn’t say no the passion and conviction he had around pumpkins and artichokes, despite him not having heard of artichokes before that day.

The pumpkin plant prospered and Colby had a field day checking on the progress of his planted seedlings.  What a happy surprise when he realized he had 5 growing pumpkins.  He wanted nothing to do with pruning any of them out so the others could get bigger.  And as usual, I’m happy I went with the Colby flow, as we harvested beautiful, bigger than large bowling ball pumpkins just in time for Halloween.  One of the conscious parenting moments I’ve worked on as a working mom is really picking and choosing my battles with my son.  With anything crafty, creative or outdoorsy he normally convinces me and both of us are delighted with the outcome in most cases.  The seeds from the pumpkins were roasted and toasted and were a delicious fall snack for several weeks.

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We also nurtured the artichoke plant, which seemed to be struggling and grew quite slowly despite being fed and watered regularly.  Until this year that is, when I arrived home from work one night and Colby ran up to greet me with a huge smile on his face saying, “Mom, we have artichokes growing”.  We hurried down to the garden and sure as day, we had one good sized artichoke in the center of the plant, surrounded by two younger buds.  Another week passed and there appeared 4 more artichokes.

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It was time to harvest them before they turned to flowers (artichoke flowers are quite lovely in and of themselves).  Years ago one of my college roommates from California had turned me on to artichokes and shared the simplest artichoke recipe for cooking a basic artichoke.  I have used this recipe since and it never fails to deliver to our table a mouth watering artichoke appetizer we can’t get enough of.

We enjoyed them on the terrace al fresco and they were amazing.  I love the inspiration Colby infuses into my life and the passion he exhibits with everything he does.  I doubt I would have planted artichokes and find myself looking forward to an abundance of them from that plant he nurtured along to its bearing fruit age.   I look at that handsome smile as he nibbles on his first home grown artichoke (which he has all to himself of course) which brings pure joy to my heart, much as the freshness of the artichokes brings a savory moment to my taste buds.

Artichokes al fresco    colby & artichokes


Garden Fresh Artichokes

Ingredients:

Artichokes

Olive oil, 1 teaspoon per artichoke

Garlic, minced

Lemon juice, fresh

Lemon slices

White wine

Salt & pepper

Chopped parsley

Melted butter (optional to add chopped chives or herb of your choice)

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Directions:

Using a serrated knife, cut the stem off the artichoke (the artichoke should be flat so it sits level in the pot).  Wash and drain the artichokes.  Cut the pointed tips off the artichoke leaves using kitchen scissors.

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Fill the base of your steamer with enough water to reach the bottom of the steamer basket and bring to a boil.  Place the artichokes in the steamer basket and drizzle with the olive oil.  Rub the garlic over the tops of the artichokes then drizzle with the lemon juice*.  Place lemon slices over the artichokes or around them in the steamer.  Liberally drizzle the white wine over the artichokes.

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Place the steamer basket over the boiling water, turn heat down to medium low, cover and simmer until done (depending on the size of the artichokes, can take 30-60 minutes).  Use kitchen tongs to pull a leave off the base of the artichoke, if the leave pulls out easily, the artichokes are ready to eat.

Plate the artichokes, salt and pepper to taste.  Add fresh parsley if desired and serve with the melted butter.

Artichoke Lentil Burger

* I use fresh lemons and sometimes will replace with orange juice, which makes the artichokes sweeter.  We love lemon and use it quite liberally!  We rarely use butter as the olive oil permeates through the artichoke and moistens the artichoke heart nicely, giving it a butter-like flavor.


Garden Fresh Artichokes (pictureless version)


Ingredients:

Artichokes

Olive oil, 1 teaspoon per artichoke

Garlic, minced

Lemon juice, fresh

Lemon slices

White wine

Salt & pepper

Chopped parsley

Melted butter (optional to add chopped chives or herb of your choice)

Directions:

Using a serrated knife, cut the stem off the artichoke (the artichoke should be flat so it sits level in the pot).  Wash and drain the artichokes.  Cut the pointed tips off the artichoke leaves using kitchen scissors.  Fill the base of your steamer with enough water to reach the bottom of the steamer basket and bring to a boil.  Place the artichokes in the steamer basket and drizzle with the olive oil.  Rub the garlic over the tops of the artichokes then drizzle with the lemon juice*.  Place lemon slices over the artichokes or around them in the steamer.  Liberally drizzle the white wine over the artichokes.  Place the steamer basket over the boiling water, turn heat down to medium low, cover and simmer until done (depending on the size of the artichokes, can take 30-60 minutes).  Use kitchen tongs to pull a leave off the artichoke, if the leave pulls out easily, the artichokes are ready to eat.  Plate the artichokes, salt and pepper to taste.  Add fresh parsley if desired and serve with the melted butter.

* I use fresh lemons and sometimes will replace with orange juice, which makes the artichokes sweeter.  We love lemon and use it quite liberally!

Corks…and more Corks

IMG_1068                                       My husband owned a restaurant years ago.  When we closed the restaurant, a spare bedroom became the overflow wine cellar as the Vinotheque clearly couldn’t fit that many cases of wine.  And sometime even before that, I had begun to collect corks.  At many business dinners with good friends and colleagues, we’d sign the corks.  I dropped them in my bag, took them home, and saved them.  I envisioned making a table of them, or shall I say a table top, though there wasn’t yet a specific plan in place, or vision of what they might be used for.  I’m sure my friends thought me crazy but they went along with it.

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4 years ago, we moved into our current home.  The man-cave downstairs housed a black leather sectional with a solid and large wood coffee table.  A few scratches, a bit of wear.  But a functional, heavy piece of furniture.  It came to me then that the table top would become a work of art with the corks I had been collecting.  Fast forward two years.  I was finally ready for the cork project.

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It took me a few attempts to determine the optimal pattern and with the help of my husband, decided on a herringbone pattern.  I had never considered that corks are so varied in size and dimension – the Justin corks are medium in length, Silver Oak corks very long, Rombauer and Turley are on the shorter side ( a few of our favorite wines).  There are fat, narrow, and odd sized corks that all needed to be fit together like a jigsaw puzzle to make the pattern I wanted.   Which meant that despite the fact that I had wine boxes and bags full of corks, I reached out to our club and favorite restaurants and asked them to save me corks.  Most were very happy to share the corks, particularly given they were going to be used in an upcycling project.

I also learned that old corks were much shorter than those used today.  By old, I mean 50 year old + corks.  My very sweet 85 year old neighbor gave me a bag of corks he had collected over 50 years.  They were so fun to go through – and to see the old brands still very much a part of the wine ecosystem today, like Robert Mondavi or Acacia.

IMG_1066Once I got the assembly right, I used cement glue on the table and the back side of the corks, and working in sections no bigger than a square foot, began the gluing process.  I used a glue gun to fill in when the corks didn’t fit just right.  Over the course of the next two months, I went down memory lane as I glued the corks, “oh this was from the trip to NYC with Caroline, Maria, Bill” or “this was from the dinner party with Doug and Scott”.  Going down memory lane with each one…where the wines were drunk, with whom, how we learned about that wine, I reflected on the stories, friends and places I experienced over the years.  I also wondered what the stories were behind the special collection my neighbor gave me, which is easily remedied by having him over for a glass of wine!

At last, the corks were fully assembled, a beveled glass piece was ordered to place over the construction and the table top was completed.  We were delighted with how it came out, beautifully patterned and reflective of the complexity of so many of the wines.  I didn’t bother to count how many unique wines were used for the project.  Perhaps some day.  But I did try to find just last night a few of the corks that were signed and amazingly enough, they weren’t as obvious as I thought.  I felt like I was looking for Where’s Waldo, so sat back and just reengaged with the fun memories of the stories that led to collecting the cork and the joy that the table creation had given me.

As for the hundreds of corks I have left over, I’m confident there will be an inspirational project that comes up when the time is right.

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A New World

It has been on my to do list for a very long time to start a blog.  My main reason is to post accomplishments from my creative side – the things I do at night and on weekends to charge my batteries for my day desk job.  I’m a lucky gal as I work for Mixbook by day, a website where customers create personalized photobooks of meaningful events in their lives.  I work with a phenomenal team and we all love what we do, which has re-inspired my passion for creating pretty much anything…good food…gardening…painting…canning…crotcheting…you get the idea.  I am thrilled to be reengaged with many of the crafts I enjoyed growing up and to share them in my new blog.  Welcome!

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