Thursday, November 29, 2012

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Mavis!

Mavis has decked her head with boughs of holly, you guys!

Damn, girl!  You make $8 worth of cheapo faux floral thingies look goooooood.  Or at least cheery.

Aside from Mavis's contribution, the only other holiday decoration up so far is a new weather-resistant wreath on the fence where the spinal column wreath was in October and the birdseed wreath was not in November.  I have a few ideas from something less seasonal, but it will have to wait until after the holiday creating and traveling is complete.

I'm thinking (and hoping) it will look cheerier when there's some snow around. At least now when we give directions we can say, "go straight at the Glama Wreath."

Another cheapo project: $2.99 wreath form (bought with the Michael's 25% off your whole purchase coupon), four $1 lengths of blue/silver tinsel garland, dollar store plastic, glitter encrusted ornament, and a 79 cent sequin "ribbon" floral pick (also 25% off).  Sure it's not the prettiest or the best designed, but it should hold up for the winter and still show up with snow.  And when the parts get ruined, it won't hurt my feelings much that I'm going to have to take it apart and make another wreath... oh, I'll use that form again all right.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

$4 Fridge Makeover: How I spent Thanksgiving Weekend

This is the fridge that came with the house.  Well, it's one of them, there's another, larger, un-stickered one in the mudroom (also white).  I didn't hate the stickers.  I liked the sentimental idea of a family chronicling their travels and interests over the years in the room that is the "heart of the home" for so many.  I think they ate most of their daily meals at a round table in the kitchen and it just seems super homey.  And there was some sadness in removing them, like removing part of the history of the house.

It took about an hour to remove the stickers using a couple razor blades, then another 20-30 minutes to get the adhesive residue, sticker bits and associated dirt off.  I also removed the Whirlpool plaque and the handles.

Our other appliances are black and the white just stands out so much against the cabinets and we don't want to buy a new fridge right now, especially another one small enough to fit the cabinetry.  So, what to do?  Thought about painting it until I saw the wood grain contact paper in the bins with the clean contact paper that I used for faux etching the cabinet glass!  Faux bois fridge?  Now, that would be both fun and funny!

After scraping, washing and drying, I drew a plumb line to match my seams.  One roll would not be wide enough to cover the whole front, let alone wrap around the side of the doors.

So the line is not actually plumb, it's square to the fridge's top which is not level.  I figure if we ever bother to level it and if by some miracle the contact paper is still worth keeping, I'll want the grain to be plumb then.

Then I cut the contact paper into pieces long enough to cover the door from top to bottom and also wrap around the top and bottom edges.  The faux plumb line is placed so the width of the paper will reach it as well as wrap around the side of the fridge doors.  Then I applied the contact paper matching a factory edge to the plumb line and smoothing with a tool used for applying one-time, self-adhesive stencils and probably used for vinyl decals.  After the first was on, I matched another factory edge of a cut piece of contact paper to the existing piece and just kept doing this until the doors were covered (4 pieces, 3 rolls of Dollar Tree contact paper).

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There is just something about the dorm/hotel fridge vibe that tickled me.  However, I didn't like the remaining white so I also removed the grill at the bottom and the hinge cover at the top.

I mulled over what to do with the handles, grill and hinge cover.  Paint, but what color?  We decided on black to play on the idea of iron.  I then disassembled those pieces as much as possible and scrubbed them really well, then let them dry over night.

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You can see here that I also did the top & sides... at least where they show.  Ahem.  I had one more roll and some scraps from covering the doors, so I used those to keep the white from standing out so much.  I didn't do anything to the door gasket, so it's white, but meh.  It's a tongue-in-cheek fridge rehab, for crying out loud!

Annnnnnnnd done.  Probably.  I've toyed with the idea of applying faux or dummy iron-looking strap hinges for an old-timey, country look, but haven't been hit by satisfying inspiration as to how to accomplish that.  Plus, I'm kind of diggin' on the fact that I only spent $4 on this project!  I already had the spray paint (the Fred Meyer house brand in "semi-flat" black) and all the tools and cleaning supplies, so all it took was four $1 rolls of contact paper (yes, it was Contact brand and everything).  When I painted the various parts, I also painted the Whirlpool plaque, but I haven't reinstalled it.  I kind of want something funny there, but I haven't found just the right thing yet.

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OK, that white strip between the doors bugs me a little bit, but the truth is that neither Eric or I actually see it unless we are opening the doors, because it's below our standing line-of-sight.  And yes, those are bloody hands on the front door in the background, still there from Halloween.  Those silicone window clings are a hassle to take down and put away so I'm procrastinating.  Besides, red is such a cheery xmas color!

What's next? We're narrowing down on a back splash solution, so we're getting close replacing the wallpaper with something that suits us better.  YEY!   

And finally a gratuitous dog-photo-bomb!

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UPDATE: $4 DIY vs. $85 Store Bought: You be the judge.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

It's Mavis!

It's surprisingly rare to come upon a branch of any size with any needles of consequence on it laying on the ground around here.  Nonetheless, Mavis has been pined.

She seems like a good visual representation of the change of seasons or the cycle of life or something eternal and meaningful with her orange and green needles arranged asymmetrically. [nod knowingly and reflectively here]

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.*

While setting the table this seemed like such a big and elaborate spread!  I think you'd have to see our normal 1 or 2 dish meals to appreciate the bounty shown here.  Plus we layered our service like fancy times.

Two 17-hour round trips in 2 months seemed a little much, so we decided we'd spend Thanksgiving here in the woods and Christmas back in Portland.  In order to make it not just another Thursday (which right now is just like any other Monday or Saturday or any day), we are making a special dinner.  Just not that special dinner.

Eric made this beer-cheese soup (with turkey kielbasa).

I made these Hasslebeck Sweet Potatoes (thanks to Dale for posting the recipe on Facebook)

Flavored with maple syrup, cinnamon, applesauce, apples, dried cranberries and pecans.

... and beer bread from my mom's recipe.

We used Guinness this time around.

We threw together this yummy green salad with dried cranberries, candied walnuts and blue cheese.

A very friendly salad: served in a housewarming gift from our neighbors, the Baetens, and dressed with oil and vinegar served from the cruet set I was given by Cinda!

Of course, we paired the meal with Jubel Ale and what was left over from the above recipes. No one is thankful for wasted beer.  No one.

And for dessert, I made slow-cooker cinnamon almonds using this recipe from the Detrimental Beauty blog that I found via Pinterest.  I'm not sure we're going to even be able to look at those almonds we're so stuffed.  Oof.

HOLIDAY BONUS ACTIVITY: Bigfoot somewhere in this post!  Can you find him?

*This quote is attributed to Ben Franklin**, but apparently he didn't actually say it.
** Ben Franklin was not really a pilgrim, but he wore old-timey clothes and is a long-dead, American historical figure, so I think that's close enough of a connection for my Thanksgiving post, thank you very much.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Holiday isn't a Holiday without Costumes

Eric's always saying that these dogs are a couple of turkeys, but I have come to learn that the truth is they are one turkey and one pilgrim.  A few weeks ago I thought I'd whip up a couple of turkey costumes for these turkey-chasing turkeys, but it took HOURS to make that tail-feather tutu-like thing.  Of course, a second one wouldn't take so long, but I couldn't face doing another so I decided to whip up a pilgrim costume instead.  And it was actually whipped up.

You've probably gotten tired of this photo by now.  Nah! Who am I kidding?  Who could get tired of this photo?  No one, that's who.
How to spend hours making a turkey get up for your dog:

We got a 50-pound turkey this year!  Domestic, but semi-free-range, organic and omnivorous.

I cut 5 feathers in 3 sizes in both dark brown and tan felt.  Then I cut details in red, orange and yellow making sure that no two adjacent feathers had the same color in the same place AND that the backside details didn't match the front side details.  I originally planned this for Betty who will wear such things and wanted it to look good coming and going.  Then I sewed the detail strips to the base feather for the 10 pieces making a shaft in black-threaded stitches up the length of the feather.

I wanted them to stand up so I cut a cereal box to make supports and glued one dark brown and one tan feather to either side using about a teaspoon of glue out of the gallon if Elmer's Glue-All I have.  I left about 3/4" of cardboard hanging out the bottom that I cut a slit in to make two tabs.  I folded one tab toward the front, the other towards the back.  When all 10 felt feathers were made into 5 two-sided feathers and the glue had dried, I glued the tabs (one facing forward the other facing back) to another strip of cut cereal box just longer than the 5 feathers' bases.  I took no photos of this for some reason, possibly hatred.  I did get some closeups of the finished product that may help illustrate, though.

Left: The cereal box cardboard between the felt feather layers. 
Right: The tabs at the base of the feathers and the strip they're glued to inside the polar fleece waistband.

The finished feathers stand up pretty well and I don't think the whole thing was particularly uncomfortable.  Delia just prefers to be mostly nekkid is all.

While that dried, I sewed a long tube of brown polar fleece and cut a slit in it the length of the 5 feathers' base.  I inserted the feather assembly through the slip and glued the fleece over the cardboard.  When it was dry I did a quick fitting on Betty, cut the extra fleece off each end leaving enough overlap for a goodly amount of hook and loop tape which I then cut and sewed in place.

She did NOT want to take this photo.  She kept insisting on showing me the non-wattle side.  But as soon as the shutter clicked on this shot she was relieved of her modeling duties and released into the yard to play.

The turkey wattle assembly is roughly based on a Gentle Leader which is a "headcollar"  that fits over your dogs muzzle, but doesn't inhibit their panting, sniffing, biting, kissing, drinking, ball stealing, etc.  Mine is made of 4-way stretch something-or-other that I had in my stash, luckily it's black so it blends with the Beastie Grrrlz' snootles.  I just cut a wattle out of red felt left over from the tail feathers and sewed it to the "headcollar" with a zigzag stitch.  There's a loop at the bottom that slides over the "neckcollar," but the whole thing is loose enough that a few swipes with the front paws takes it off her snoot and leaves dangling from her collar (see video below).

How to spend about an hour making a pilgrim costume for your dog:

So prim, Miss Betty is.

Another turkey tail was out of the question, so I decided on a pilgrim costume.  Either dog would wear the collar, but Delia would never go for a hat.  Luckily, the girls are very close in size so I could just make Delia the turkey. (actually, it's Delia who makes Delia the turkey)

Betty's pilgrim outfit was made entirely from scraps, leftovers, and scavenged parts saved for just such an occasion.

I've had great luck with costume parts that just slide over their collars, so using white fabric left over from some forgotten project I cut 2 collars based on a quick internet search and some creative license.   Next, I sewed them right sides together leaving about 5" for turning and the ends of the top open for the collar to slide through.  I top-stitched around the perimeter to close the hole left for turning and to keep the collar crisp looking, keeping the collar holes open, then hand sewed on a couple of brass buttons from the box o' buttons.

The buttons are not at all centered.  After the first one was on I considered taking it off and centering it, but then I said to myself, "it's a dog costume."

I had made myself a Pilgrim Cheerleader costume a few years back, so I dug out the hat from that to use as a pattern.  A few size and dimension modifications and an elastic chin strap rather than ribbon ties and it was done.

Maybe someday I'll dig out my Pilgrim hat again and Betty and I will do mother-daughter pilgrim costumes.  Eric can be a turkey with Delia.

I was not yet done.  There's just something about a pilgrim that needs a buckle.  I don't care if it's historically accurate or not (and I didn't look it up), it's almost as much a part of childhood Thanksgiving drawings as hand turkeys.  I dug around in my stash, found 2 brass buckles (what luck, dog ankle-sized), found just enough scrap of black vinyl from Eric's Halloween costume a few years ago, a tiny bit of extra-strength, black hook and loop, and some black elastic in just the right width,  Yes!

My favorite part!  The "shoe" buckles!  These were the only thing that Betty fussed over at all and that was minimal.  I took them off right after this photo.

Because of these costumes and a housewarming gift from the neighbors, we now have a Thanksgiving/Autumnal Decorations box in the garage.  I never expected to have one of those and I'm pretty sure that Eric didn't either.

Rest assured, the dogs are not left unattended while wearing these things and they wear them for only a short amount of time.  Keep your pets safe!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

This is Mavis!

I would like to introduce you all to Mavis.  Everyone, this is Mavis.  Mavis, this is Everyone.  Mavis joined our family last week and has been settling in to her new home in the living room.  The Beastie Grrrlz have totally accepted her.

You'll be seeing more of Mavis, I guarantee it.

In other news, I tried again with the birdseed wreath, but this time I think I nailed the dissolving of the gelatin and I used a mini-Bundt pan to make cupcake-sized wreaths.

This is a single batch, rather than the double I used for the bit wreath, and as you can see it made 9 mini wreaths.  Again, I let them set up about 24 hours. Only because I'd moved on to other things at the 2-3 hour mark and figured it wouldn't hurt to give them more time in the fridge.

We hung four on a tree we can see from the kitchen window that already had a remnant of tinsel garland in it.  The downward pointing arrow indicates why they are hung rather high in that tree.

I don't know if it's surprising or not, but it seems that dogs like birdseed.  All I can say is that when they somehow get to eat a fair amount of birdseed their "solid waste" looks more like a granola bar than you'd want to believe or think about very much. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

If You Can't Stand the Heat...

Considering our kitchen was built in 1976, it's pretty decent.  Sure, it's design finishes lean towards the rustic, but we do live on a mountain in the woods after all.  Until we decide to do a full-on remodel, we just want to deal with a few smaller projects.  One thing I didn't expect to have to contend with again was open shelving for the kitchen upper cabinets.  But, most of the uppers are either open shelving or glass fronted doors.  I can't really do anything easily and inexpensively with the open shelves, but I could do something about the glass: faux etching.  POW!

But what design?  FAUX BOIS!  But before we get to photos of said faux bois, how about some before photos?

The highlighted circle up top: the red thing on the right is a ceramic Santa Claus napkin ring left by the original owner of the house and the ceramic kitchen witch on the left was added by the folks who bought the place in 1986.  We'll figure out a way to display them and add our own "kitchen totem" eventually.  All that other stuff up there will find a home, most likely in a cupboard.

I think that the wallpaper has served it's purpose and deserves to be retired.  We'll do that once we decide on what do put up as a back splash.  I have a few ideas for durable, inexpensive, DIY installation options that will also be fairly easy remove when we do decide to upgrade on larger scale. 

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Another set of doors on the opposite side of the kitchen.  The fridge is just to the right and will be one of the next project in there.  Wait'll ya' see that!  (assuming it turns out)

This project was moderately time consuming, but not really difficult.  The hardest part was getting the wood and glass (4 panes of which had been right by the stove for decades) really, really clean and able to receive masking tape and contact paper, respectively.  The people who lived here before kept a really clean house, but nooks and crannies just build up with stuff.

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Took the doors off their hinges, cleaned them really well, masked and applied clear contact paper from the Dollar Tree.  I didn't have enough for all 6 doors, so I had to go back for more.  Luckily, piecing together pieces for this project is fine so long as the whole surface of the glass was covered.

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I looked at some faux bois images that I'd pinned as a reference and then free-handed the wood grain onto the contact paper with a Sharpie.  Obviously, I wasn't going for realistic wood grain, so it was pretty easy.

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I used a razor blade to cut the contact paper around both sides of the wood grain markings.  Again, I wasn't going for realism, so I didn't have to be very exact.  An Exacto or utility knife would work just as well, probably be easier to control, but since this pattern was relatively free-form I decide to use cheap, plentiful blades that I didn't' have to put in and take out of a holder.  The first time I did this on the first 3 doors, I removed the skinny little grain pieces instead of the wide pieces.  Luckily, I caught it before spraying the "etching" paint on!  And I had already planned to go back to the Dollar Tree for more contact paper.

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Ready to spray, with the correct pieces cut away and removed. 

I did all those steps in the kitchen and in the office in the house, but I moved the center of operations to the shop for the spraying.  I used Krylon brand Frosted Glass Finish which I had to shop 4 stores to find.  I wasn't looking specifically for Krylon brand; there just wasn't any frosting product.  I'm pretty sure this stuff is available at the chain craft stores in Portland, but not in Missoula and not at the hardware stores in the Bitterroot that I checked.  I finally found it at the big Ace store in Missoula where we get the Beastie Grrrlz' food.  BUT I as able to walk right into the spray paint aisle unaccompanied and view all the spray paint cans without a glass or metal barrier and then just buy it like a law abiding citizen!  Didn't even have to show ID.

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I did eight (8) coats, following the manufacturer's directions of doing horizontal, then vertical passes and standard rattle can *best practices. 

I didn't remember to take photos of them after they were painted, but before I pulled the masking.  But they looked pretty much like that, only the glass was frostier.  I used a picking tool from large scale, one-time use, self-adhesive stencils that I have used in my decorative painting business to grab the little strips of contact paper so I wouldn't have to dig gently and precisely with what is left of my fingernails.  The tape just pulled off.

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Annnnnd our spices, oils and vinegars are now much less visible behind the frosted glass! 

In person, the stuff in the cupboard is even less noticeable and the diminished visual clutter is such a relief to my eyes.  Also, it's inspired me to finish unpacking and sorting out the kitchen stuff to further diminish the visual noise (as much as we can with the wallpaper still up).  We'll see if that inspiration lasts the next couple of days.

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And the other one from the before photos.  I think part of continuing to sort out the kitchen will be finding a different home for those white boxes containing hundreds and thousands of cocktail umbrellas and cocktail swords, respectively.

 We're both pleased with how it looks.  It solves the issue of seeing every last bit of our kitchen crap, updates the look, expresses a little humor, keeps with the rustic/mountain style AND was accomplished for under $25 and is reversible with paint or lacquer thinner.  Also, it claims to be washable, but I applied the spray to the inside surface of the glass, to minimize its exposure to grubbiness and scrubbing.

* I apologize for the yucky business jargon, but it's late and I couldn't remember another way of phrasing it.  What a burden.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

They Can't All Be Winners

So, it was past time to take down the Halloween wreath, but I wasn't sure what to replace it with.  It's WAY too early for a Christmas or winter wreath and well, let's just say Thanksgiving is not my favorite so I couldn't come up with anything along those lines that fit my parameters of: inexpensive, using mostly stuff I already have on hand, quick-ish, and able to be out in the weather .  So, I perused my pinterest account and found this birdseed wreath.  WOO!


 All it takes is birdseed, water, plain gelatin, non-stick spray, a stockpot and a mould.


 Add 2 packets of gelatin to 1 cup water and simmer until the gelatin is completely dissolved.  Then stir in 2 cups of birdseed until completely blended.


 Press the mixture into mould that has been sprayed with non-stick spray, then refrigerate for for at least a couple of hours.  I doubled the recipe and as you can see it filled the Bundt pan only about halfway.


I left mine in there for about 24 hours, then popped it out onto a cutting board, wrapped an oilcloth "ribbon" around it for hanging and prepared to walk it down the road to the "entrance" of the property.  It was kind of crumbly around the edges, so I stayed out of our super warm kitchen and took it down there on the board, defending it from Betty the whole time.  Delia was focusing her attention on running around the lower pasture looking for turkeys and probably turkey turds.

I hadn't really thought this part of the project through in that I couldn't really set down the delicious birdseed jello mold where Betty could get to it and I needed to take down the other wreath while holding the new one level on the cutting board and keeping my camera from whacking into things.  Somehow I managed to unwrap the wire on the Halloween wreath and set it on the ground out of the frame of the photo I had in mind.  Then I turned my camera on and got the settings in order so I could act fast.  Finally,  I managed to get the new wreath's oilcloth "ribbon" around the fence post and set the cutting board down out the shot and when I turned around... the wreath had disintegrated!  ACK!  Dammit!  Sigh. I came down here with the camera and I took those in-progress shots, so I'm going to finish this!


Red arrows indicate pieces of what had seconds before been a cute little wreath for the cute little birds to eat cutely.  The arrow pointing the left out of the shot is a piece of wreath that Betty was eating kind of cutely, but not as cutely as the birds were going to eat it.  I collected all the pieces I could find (5) and brought them back to the house with the Halloween wreath, fending Betty off both the entire time (probably less than 5 minutes, but still).  The Halloween wreath went into storage with the other Halloween decorations; the remains of the birdseed wreath went on the second story balcony where I hope the birds will find them, but the dogs won't.

I'm not sure where I went wrong, but I think I may not have let my gelatin simmer until it was completely dissolved.  I am going to try again, but perhaps with a different, smaller form.  I've seen similar wreaths made with suet as the binder, but the directions I saw had me rendering the suet, straining it and then rendering it again.  Uh, ewww.

In other wreath news: I think I have what I need for a Christmas/winter wreath, but I can't seem to find my wreath frame.  Ever have those times when you believe you've been stepping over something for ages, but can't find it when you're ready to use it?  Sure they're only a few bucks, but dammit I moved that sucker into 2 houses across 3 state lines and I'm going to use it.

Friday, November 9, 2012

White Stuff

For some reason this feels like our "real" snow.  Maybe because it stuck to the driveway and was stacked up on the deck rail?  Maybe because it coated the ground even under the trees?  Regardless, I took lots of photos and not just of the Beastie Grrrlz*.

This is the east side of the house and usually not where we hang out, as it's the driveway- and road- side.  On the other side of that fence is the neighbors' property rather than the National Forest which is on the far left out of the shot.

And I just picked up where the shot above left off for this one.  There is overlap.

Sweeping south we're facing the direction of the opposite neighbor, but can't see our fence from here as it's down a hill.  That's Betty eating snow, our coop, shop/garage/greenhouse, and ATVport (like a carport, but for the ATV with snowplow).

 If you could see past the parked cars you would see the little gate to the National Forest there to the right of the picnic table and the left of that slatted piece of fence.

The Alexanders left us this picnic table!  I wonder if we'll keep it there or move it somewhere else.

 Behind the shop/garage/greenhouse is the garden area.

The garden is fenced for critters, but I can't think of a single critter other than a dog who couldn't get through or over the fence.  And since the bear knocked over one of the posts, the dogs can get in, too.

In the garden is a bench for sitting and taking it all in.

Behind the chicken coop and enclosure.

We probably lost about half of this to melt today; the wind kicked up in the late afternoon and blew it off the trees, but we're supposed to get more over the next day or few.

*Still, there are lots and lots of pictures of the Beastie Girls.  Even videos such as this one:

Betty has a sprained toe so she's a little limpy.  We've been keeping her off it, giving her anti-inflammatory meds and she's improved a lot.  There's just no, non-cruel way to keep her still when there's snow to be played in.  We drag her back in way before she's ready and hopefully this won't postpone her healing too much.  The cold can't hurt, right?  It's like her entire domain is an icepack!  Yeah.  Yeah, that's it.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Oh, The Mundanity !!

We're figuring stuff out around here.

Ideal color palette? Nah, but these are the "ideal" readings of the hot tub water.

The dogs' neighbor friend, Bella, wears orange tape so hunters know she's not a deer.  The Beastie Grrrlz shredded theirs in a few minutes of wrasslin'.  Now they have "safety capes" that slip easily over their collars.

A bonus benefit is that we can also spot them more easily!

The Safety Dance: How plastic tape gets shredded.