Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Bloomin' Tuesday...

I have a few random photos of our garden today for Bloomin' Tuesday. 
Isn't summer glorious?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Children's Ice Cream Shop...

A week ago I got inspired. Mindi at "My Love 2 Create" made a sweet Frozen Treat Stand for her children. She repurposed a nightstand to create a darling toy that will undoubtedly serve her children for years. Mindi inspired me to create an Ice Cream Shop for our grandchildren. Most of them will be here in a week for a family reunion, and I thought a new toy like this might capture their attention for awhile. A couple of days ago I found this beauty...

I know. I know. I'll just bet you're all dying of jealousy, but this little wonder is all mine. I found her at a local thrift store for $6.99. I'm embarrassed to say that I talked them down to $5.  I'm cheap like that.

To make it into an Ice Cream Shop, I disassembled it. I'm going to make the back of the TV stand the front of the Ice Cream Shop, so the top and kick plate need to be turned around to face the other way and I need to mount a piece of 1/8" hardboard on the front of the ice cream stand (originally the back was open on this TV stand).

I chose these luscious creamy dreamy colors to paint the stand...

Behr "One to Remember"

Behr "Misty Isle"

Those colors remind me of peach and mint chocolate chip ice cream. Wish me luck in reassembling it and the decorating. I'm ridiculously excited about this project!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Chocoflan {Mexican Chocolate Flan Cake} ...

I celebrated a birthday last month and on that day my neighbor brought over some of the best cake I've ever tasted. Truly. Take a look at the photo below. It's a Mexican Chocoflan. {Chocolate Flan Cake} Tasting it will ruin you for life because you will want a piece every day.

It's beautiful, isn't it? It was made by my friend's friend, who is from Mexico. That day I knew I had to learn how to make this delicious concoction. I started with an easy recipe from Betty Crocker on the internet using a cake mix. Below is the result...

Not as pretty as the original, but I was incredibly grateful that the cake came out of the pan easily and in one piece. However, the texture of my cake wasn't as dense or chocolatey as the original, so I tweaked the recipe further. First, I've always preferred Duncan Hines cake mixes over Betty Crocker, so that was an easy change. I chose Classic Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix. I also added 1/4 cup {natural unsweetened} cocoa, which raised the chocolatey level to my liking and made the cake less sweet. One of the things I loved about the original was that it wasn't as sweet as a typical cake in the United States. I glazed the pecans with a little sugar to add a crunch to the top of the cake, and I added more caramel to the top of the cake than they had suggested in the Betty Crocker recipe. Here's the result of those changes in the recipe...

Awesome yumminess.

I don't know if my pallet is particularly discerning, but, to me, this tasted very close to the original. It was delicious. My tweaked recipe is below. Not only is this tasty, but it's easy to make too!

Mexican Chocoflan

1 jar (12.25 oz. caramel topping
1 box Classic Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix
1 cup water 
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated) 
1 cup milk
4 eggs

Sugared Pecans:
1/2 to 1 cup pecans

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees (Fahrenheit).  Grease a 12 cup fluted tube cake pan with butter. Take the top off the caramel jar and put the jar in the microwave for 15 seconds to heat the caramel and make it thinner to pour. Pour 1/2 - 3/4 of the jar of caramel topping (6 oz. - 9 oz.) into the bottom of the pan. Refrigerate the remaining caramel topping. 
  • In large bowl, beat cake mix, water, oil, 3 eggs and cocoa in an electric mixer on medium speed till the cake mix is blended about one minute, scraping bowl occasionally. (Do not over-beat. You want a more dense cake, rather than light and airy.) Pour batter over caramel topping in pan.
  • In blender, place flan ingredients. Cover; blend on high speed until smooth, about 40 seconds. Slowly pour mixture over the batter in the pan. (Flan mixture will mix with the batter as you pour, but they will separate during baking, forming 1 layer of cake and 1 layer of flan.)
  • Place cake in large roasting pan in the oven. (I use a metal 9x13 pan.) Add one inch of hot water to roasting pan, so that your cake pan is sitting in a water bath.
  • Bake 1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove cake pan from water bath to cooling rack. Cool completely, for at least one hour. 
  • Place serving plate upside down on the cooled cake pan; turn plate and pan over. Remove pan. 
  • While the cake is baking or cooling make the sugared pecans. Make a simple syrup -- about 1/4 cup water to 1/2 cup sugar (1 part water to 2 parts sugar) in saucepan. Stir in pecans and cook until liquid is gone and the pecans are covered with sugar. Then spread the pecans on a cookie sheet and bake for a few minutes at 350 degrees. Cool. Sprinkle these on the top of the flan. You can also use fresh fruit, as in the first photo.
  • This cake can be prepared the day before, in fact, the cake is more moist and the flavors are better the second day!


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Bloomin' Tuesday...

Most mornings when the day is young and the temperature still cool, I take a walk with our puppy Beau.

I love going on walks that take me past homes and through parks with beautiful gardens. It's fun to get ideas from other gardeners. I've always thought that poppies need a lot of sun, but these beauties are tucked under a shade tree. So gorgeous...

But wait, there's more...

Wishing you a lovely flower-filled week.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Furniture Refinishing -- Kitchen Table -- Part 4...

I'm done. The table is fully refinished, reassembled, and sitting in our nook. What's more... I love it. Love. Love. Love. I love the dark walnut stain on the top of the table that brings out the grain in the oak.

I love the distressed white base, that lightens up the room and "matches" a little buffet table I have to the side.

Please read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 for the products and techniques I used to refinish this project. I would highly recommend each and every product that was used.

Now to figure out the chairs. Do I refinish our current chairs? I shudder at the thought, but that might be the way I go. There's a place in our town that strips furniture. It would be about $30 - $40 a chair, but that's a lot less than buying new, and these chairs are solid wood. Or, do I buy these new Eames style chairs that I adore? {I love the juxtaposition of mixing different styles of furniture -- in this case -- traditional with retro/modern.}

I'm not sure which direction I want to go with the chairs. I'll think about it for awhile before I settle on something. In the meantime, we'll enjoy this "new" piece of furniture...

Here's the "before" {with a similar table} and "after." Although furniture refinishing can be a chore, it's certainly worth the price you pay in time and effort...

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Bloomin' Tuesday...

Is there anything more lush or lovely than a peony?

As far as flowers go, the peony certainly deserves a top spot on my "favorite flowers list."

Although its blooming cycle is short-lived, for a few weeks around the beginning of June my garden is transformed by the big bright colors of this gorgeous plant.

I love making full, voluptuous bouquets of these beauties. Because our plants are over-achievers, we can bring an armful of flowers inside and still leave more than enough in the garden.

I have two peony plants in my yard. Because one is more shaded than the other, they usually bloom about two weeks apart, which provides us with blossoms throughout the early summer! Heavenly.

I wish I had more room in my garden to plant about 102 more peonies. 
Make that 105...

I'm not sure even that would satisfy me. 

Have a wonderful day!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Furniture Refinishing -- Kitchen Table -- Part 3...

I do have a way of drawing out a project, don't I? Part 1 and Part 2 of this kitchen table redo have been published previously. The hubs is thrilled this project is taking weeks, instead of hours. I'm usually a fast worker, so a project like this is good for me. It's kept me busy for days. Last week was spent adding urethane to the top of the stained table and refinishing the base of the table.

I used Helmsman Spar Urethane Clear Satin to finish the top of the table. This is an incredible product. It's self leveling, so there are no brush marks whatsoever, and it gives the surface a beautiful satin finish. I'm so happy with the results. Just follow the directions on the can for a beautiful finish. It literally looks prettier than when we bought it 25 years ago!

I had a hard time deciding if I wanted to paint the base of the table black or white with distressing. Since I had another piece of furniture in the room that was distressed white, I decided to go with that. You might remember that the base of the table was originally a golden oak finish, similar to this one...

Here's the process to paint over a varnished surface:

Step 1: Clean the area you are going to paint with Zep All-Purpose Cleaner & Degreaser or like product.

Step 2: Use Klean Strip Easy Liquid Sander Deglosser or sand it till your arm is numb.

Step 3: Apply Kilz Original Oil-Base {spray or can} to prime and seal the wood and block stains.

Step 4: Apply paint -- can be either enamel, latex, or oil. I used Behr Statuesque eggshell paint.

Step 5: {Optional} Glaze, paint, or stain the wood, if you desire to add a distressed look. {Google "distressing wood" to get ideas.} Distressing wood is an imperfect science. You just eyeball it till you get the amount of color and detail that suits you. Then you kick it a few times, slap it up one side and down the other, and presto... it's distressed. Or you leave the newly painted project in a room with the grandkids for 10 minutes. Pretty sure the end result would be the same. Distressed.

Because distressing is not an exact science, it can feel like you are wrecking your project as you add the distressed look. That's how I feel every time I distress a piece of furniture. In fact after doing the base of the table I called my husband and told him I was frustrated and wanted to repaint the base of the table black. Then I came downstairs and decided it wasn't so bad after all. Just remember to stand back to look at the project. Up close the distressing looks pretty horrible, but when you stand further away, you'll more easily see the beauty of the distressed wood.

FYI: I used a combination of light brown, dark brown, and dark gray enamel eggshell paint to distress this piece. I just brushed it on with an almost dry brush. I couldn't find a glaze like I'd used in the past in the stores in my hometown. I did, however, find one on the internet. This is what I plan on using in the future when I refinish my kitchen cabinets -- Van Dyke Brown Water Based Glaze.

Later this week I'll show you the finished project!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Bloomin' Tuesday...

There are many flowers blooming in my garden right now, but none outshine our beautiful clematis plants. We have several clematis vines that were planted years ago and are well established, but a few years ago we planted three more in a different location. It's taken them three years to really take hold, but this year they are thriving.

We have two lovely shades of violet clematis. The variety of clematis in the first and third photo is called "Blue Ravine." This vine has huge lilac-blue flowers with pinkish highlights and contrasting red centers.

The clematis below is Starry Nights Clematis. It has spectacular dark-violet, star-shaped flowers with pinkish/red stripes. Most clematis do well in full sun to partial shade.

I will say, however, that our three year old clematis vines were planted in partial shade and have had a harder time {than our full sun clematis } getting established. All our clematis were planted next to a fence and are great climbers.

I love these blossoms that are as big as a salad plate. They are hardy, once established, and become a mass of blooms all from late spring to early fall. So very pretty.

I hope you're able to enjoy the blossoms in your neck of the woods today!

Monday, June 06, 2016

Furniture Refinishing -- Oak Kitchen Table -- Part 2 {Epic Fail}...

Last time I wrote about my kitchen table refinishing project, I was feeling pretty good about it. Unfortunately, that feeling didn't last very long. Ugh. Within a few hours, I realized I'd made an epic mistake. I know it's just as important to post failures as it is successes (you learn more from the failures), so I will tell you my sorry story. Up until I applied the Minwax Gel Stain, all was good, but when I applied the gel stain I blew it. As I mentioned before I began by applying the stain on the leaves of the table. I'd never used gel stain before, but the leaves took it beautifully. I applied the stain with a 3" brush and wiped off the excess with a rag. However, I used the same rag to wipe off the excess stain throughout the whole project. I didn't realize it at the time, but when I got to the tabletop the rag was so saturated with stain, that I wasn't removing enough of the excess stain as I "wiped it off." It removed some of it, but mostly I was just moving the stain around. When the stain dried on the tabletop, I could see swipe marks and the tabletop was darker than the leaves. Frustrating. What to do?

Here's a photo showing some of the problems...

It almost killed me, but I decided to redo the tabletop from the beginning. Once again a varnish remover (which also takes off some of the stain) was applied. Then, the after wash was applied, which took off a little more of the stain. I waited 24 hours till the tabletop was dry, and then I sanded (a lot) again. I feel sorry for myself as I type this. It was a pain in the neck, but I wanted it done right. The next day I reapplied the stain. This time I used several different dry clothes to wipe off the excess, and it turned out beautifully.

I applied two lighter applications to get this desired effect. Next, I'll use Helmsman Spar Urethane in Satin to give it a protective finish. Live and learn. Here's a photo showing the incorrect method and the correct method...

That photo makes it pretty obvious how important it is to change out your cloth as you wipe off excess gel stain on your project. Wish me luck on the remainder of the table!