Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Painting the Hallway and Hanging Wedding Photos

Next up on the painting to-do list was the
upstairs stairwell / hallway.

I couldn't find any good 'before' pictures for the hallway painting, so they must have been included in the pics
I lost when my computer died.  :(

However, the lack of 'before' pictures isn't 
really major loss since the hallway area was pretty lame
(seen here in my Replacing Grossness with Lovely Carpet! post)
It was pretty dirty and painted some routine (boring) version of off white, which you can see in this picture of this ugly pine dresser adorned by the lovely Bear Bear!

We painted this dresser - I will be posting on that soon too, but you can see a sneak peak of the finished product below!
While painting is no amazing feat, I am consistently
impressed with how much, and how quickly, it changes an area.  And of all the painting we have done in the house, 
I think I like the hallway color we chose the best.  
It's a soft and creamy taupe... and makes me feel like our hallway is a serene coffee shop. :) I really like the way it coordinates with the carpet too!

After painting, we were finally inspired to hang
this super cute set of picture frames that we got at
Pier 1. We purchased these frames with a gift card we received from our friends Jamie and Michelle at our engagement party.
We absolutely love the antiqued window pane style, 
they are perfect for an old farmhouse!

(I have to admit that the frames sat hung on the wall empty for several months, but we finally got some wedding pics in them!)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Gluten Free Chicken Pot Pie (...and regular Chicken Pot Pie, too!)

Nothing says fall like comfort food...
and my favorite comfort food of all is probably chicken pot pie.
(Followed closely by chicken & dumplings!)
It was easier to make pot pie a couple years ago before
we figured out that Clint has a gluten intolerance,
but that shouldn't stand in the way of good pot pie!

L - Pamela's Baking Mix, R - Pillsbury GF Dough
In our continuing quest to eat the best tasting
gluten free foods possible, I actually made 2 pot pies, each with
different GF crusts - so Clint could do a taste test comparison.  (Actually, we had company, so I made 4 pot pies 
total - 2 GF and 2 regular).

The GF Crust Options:

Up at bat were Pamela's Bread Mix & Flour Blend and a (new?) premixed Pillsbury Gluten Free dough.
(Next time I might try this King Arthur Flour recipe.
Previously we have tried the 'Gluten-Free Pantry Perfect Pie Crustand I don't remember how it tasted, but it was definitely more complicated to make.  We'll have to try it again.)

The Dough Comparison
Pros Cons
Pillsbury No mixing required, very easy to roll out, very quick to use Thinner dough is slightly difficult to work with - the dough stuck to the parchment paper a lot when trying to put the crust into the pie dish and when covering the pot pie
Pamela's Rolled dough is easy to work with, comes off parchment paper without difficulty Time consuming to make, difficult to get dough into the right consistency

In terms of taste, Clint said that the main difference he noticed was that the Pillsbury crust was thinner. (There was more Pamela's dough than Pillsbury, so they did roll out a little thicker.) He didn't seem to have a preference between the two, and claims he would eat either happily.

The Pamela's crust is a little thicker and crispier, and the Pillsbury was a little softer, and possibly flakier.
This did make the Pillsbury crust more susceptible to
getting soggy from the filling.

The (GF) Recipe

This recipe is my adaptation of a recipe originally
found on allrecipes.com, available here.
This recipe will make 2 deep pies - I like to load 'em up! 

- 2 pairs of your favorite 9" GF pie crusts
- 1 egg white

- 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken; cubed (I prefer thighs)
- 6 large carrots, sliced (~4 cups)
- 4 stalks of celery, sliced (~2 cups)
- 2 or 3 small waxy potatoes, cubed (~2.5 cups)
- 1 can of corn
- 2 cups frozen peas
- 5 or 6 cups chicken broth

- 2 or 3 small onions, diced (~2 cups)
- 3/4 cup butter
- 1/3 cup sorghum flour
- 1/3 cup potato starch
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp celery seed
- 1 tsp poultry seasoning
- 1/2 tsp garlic salt
- 2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
- 1 & 1/3 cup milk

Putting it together:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Place bottom pie crusts. Beat egg white and brush pie crusts with egg white  Bake bottom crusts at 375 for 5-8 mins. Save egg whites for later use on upper crust.
3. Combine filling ingredients (chicken, carrots, celery, potatoes, corn, peas, & chicken broth) into a large pot and boil for 10 mins. Strain filling while saving the chicken broth for us in the gravy. Set filling aside.
4. In a large saucepan, cook onions in butter until soft. Stir in salt, black pepper, celery seed, poultry seasoning, and garlic salt. Stir in sorghum flour and potato starch. Slowly stir in milk & chicken broth. Simmer over low heat until gravy is thick.
5. Fill bottom pie crusts with filling mixture. Pour gravy mixture over filling. Sometimes if the gravy is really thick (and doesn't seem like it will naturally fill the spaces well), I use a large spoon to manually mix the gravy and filling.  This also allows me to add more gravy. More gravy = more yummy!
6. Cover pies with top crust, seal pie edges cutting away excess dough. Cut small slits into the crust for escaping steam. Brush top crusts with remaining eggwhites.
7. Bake pies in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. Allow pies to cool prior to serving.

**If you prefer to make a non-GF pot pie, simply
replace the GF pie crusts with your favorite regular pie crusts,
and substitute the (1/3 cup sorghum + 1/3 cup potato starch)
mixture with 2/3 cup flour.

*Find a printer friendly version of this recipe 
on my Google Docs here!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

DIY Handmade Brooch Bouquet with Real Preserved Roses

Since I just posted about our invitation
making adventure, I figured I'll stick with the wedding theme
and cover the DIY brooch bouquet I made for our local reception.

I had seen some brooch bouquets in wedding photography and determined that this was something that would fit our overall wedding style, and would be a fun project.
While it was fun, it was also a lot of work, haha.

After looking around on the internet (and a lot of Etsy),
I eventually decided that I didn't want a bouquet made primarily of brooches, but instead a traditional rose bouquet 
highlighted by brooches.

My MIL Donna jumped on board and gave the project a head start
by purchasing the brooches on Ebay.  The set came with about 13-14 brooches, and I think she paid around 50 dollars.
The brooches were PERFECT for the style I was envisioning!

The first step was wiring the brooches in preparation for use.
Donna did several of these before I picked the brooches up from her, based on online tutorials.  It's not super *hard* work,
but it *can* be tricky to find the right spot on the
brooch to attach the wire, and it can be tiresome on the fingers.

While you can certainly find a more detailed how-to guide
on the internet...

How to Wire the Brooches 

Take a long strip of 18-22 gauge wire, and form it into a 'V'.  The wire should be twice as long as your desired stem length.
(Many people use green florist wire for this step. I didn't want any fake green stems in the bouquet, so we used silver, which blended with the brooches better.)

Find 1 or 2 (depending on the weight of the brooch) inconspicuous areas to place the wiring. 

Starting from the top (visible) side of the brooch,
slide both ends of the wire through the brooch but 
over a background element of the brooch.  

Pull the both ends of the wire all the way through as tight as you can. The point of the 'V', that secures the brooch, 
should nearly disappear into the brooch.
This is why its important to choose the spot wisely!  

Wind both ends of the wire together as close together and tightly to the brooch as possible - without going so tight that it just curls up. If you have several wires, wind them together in the middle to create one stem.

Prepping the Roses

Once all the brooches were finished, I had to prepare the preserved roses for the project by 'stemming' them as well.
They came in boxes of 6, which really only contained
the rose heads.  I bought these roses online from saveoncrafts.
I also bought these stems for preserved roses.

I absolutely loved the color of these antiqued white roses.
I used a hot glue gun to attach the tiny preserved rose stem to the wired stem.  The preserved rose stems were supposed to
conveniently fit into the purchased stems, but I think
because I bought the extra large roses, sometimes they didn't
fit very well at all.  That was rather frustrating.

I also thought it would be a lot more convenient if the purchasable stems for preserved roses were quite long - like an actual stem, but they were only about 4" long.
So I bought some paper wrapped stem wire, 
similar to these sold at Jo-Ann, and used white 
florist tape to tape the mini stems to the stem wire.

Shaping the Bouquet

The next step was to put the brooches and the roses together.
I had 24 roses and 14 brooches.

There isn't really a good way to describe *how* to put the roses and brooches together into a bouquet.  Some people that use
artificial flowers use those foam balls to stick the flowers/brooches into, and I could see that working fairly well.
I started with 2 roses and 1 extra pretty brooch in the
middle, and I worked out from there.

Donna came over, and she helped hold the bouquet. I 
would add a rose or brooch and then bend the stem so that the rose/brooch was placed just how I wanted it. Then Donna would hold the bouquet and I'd quickly use the florist tape or wire (or regular tape) to tape the stems together.
You don't have to go crazy here because this isn't a permanent solution - it just has to hold the stems where you want them until you're done shaping the bouquet and you're ready to wrap the stems to create the base/handle. 
Then trim the wire stems to the size that you want.

Turning the Stems into a Handle

I've never made a bouquet before, so I wasn't sure
exactly how to wrap the handle to make it pretty.

I ended up making a sort of 'scalloped' edge along the base
of the flowers by cutting small strips of wired florist ribbon, folding them in half, and gluing them onto the stems in an overlapping pattern.  (In retrospect I probably could have just folded the ribbon in a continuing 'W' shape and saved
myself a LOT of cutting!).  Gluing each piece down did guarantee the stability of that ribbon.
Make sure to fold over exposed edges of ribbon.
Then I wrapped a base layer of ribbon diagonally around the stems. 

On top of that layer, I did an interlocking ribbon pattern by wrapping the ribbon around the handle base, and then twisting it when I got to the front.  Then I would turn the bouquet around (you sort of have to dedicate a front/back), and do it
again on the other side.

By the time I got to the bottom, I wasn't quite sure how to finish it off, so I just tied a bow. :)

Donna is my Vanna White!

Since I was using this at our local reception
(and there was no ceremony), I wasn't planning to hold the
bouquet at all.  So for display, I bought a cheap
decanter at HomeGoods, and some decorative
sand/rocks at a hobby shop.

I thought the rock and sand mix matched perfectly!

A close-up of the flower.
All in all, I was really happy with the way
the bouquet turned out, and (maybe because of the hard
work put into it) I ended up liking it a lot more
than most of the inspiration bouquets I'd scouted online.
The real roses had a such a delicate and sophisticated
look to them, I loved the way they looked with the brooches.

Overall, this bouquet cost about 200 dollars to make.
So it wasn't exactly cheap, but then again buying brooch bouquets isn't necessarily cheap either. And I got exactly what I wanted.

If you're interested in making your own, I'd recommend:

- taking it slowly (the processes are rough on the fingers)
- listening to good music


Friday, October 25, 2013

DIY Handmade Wedding Invitations

The selection and assortment of wedding invitations out there is overwhelming!  We decided it might just be easier
(and cheaper) to make our own.

Fortunately I had a lot of the supplies I needed since I had previously purchased them for my
Etsy store (which desperately needs my attention),
including a mini-hole-punch, paper cutter, and yarn. 

Our invitations had 2 main parts - the actual invitation with the wedding date(s)and our names and blah blah, and a secondary info sheet that had details about the resort/travel.  

For the actual invitations, we bought a book of 12" x 12" differently patterned 'thick papers' - its not quite as sturdy as cardstock, but it's hardier than construction paper.  You can usually find it in the scrapbooking section. (Hobby Lobby classifies it as 'cardstock and themed papers' on their website.)
We used a mini paper cutter to get them to an appropriate size. 

We bought a translucent velum paper for the invitation text, and I wrote something up after looking around on the internet for appropriate invite verbage.  After a few tries, I finally got the formatting right in MS Word to print 2 copies of text on 1 sheet of velum, which I could then conveniently cut in half to size.

I went the easy route by crafting a lot of stuff straight out of MS Word, but if you have great handwriting/calligraphy skills, you could make really beautiful invitations by handwriting the text and then scanning it to print in mass.

To put the invitations together, I punched 2 mini-holes in both layers of the invitation, and tied them together with a lovely dual-stranded yard - a wispy creme mahair with glittery gold highlights.

I actually really loved that there were 15 different background patterns on the invitations.

We neatly organized them by pattern on the kitchen island.

For the secondary information sheet, I bought a set 
of smaller 4.5" x 6.5" cardstock (read: no cutting involved) in patterns that coordinated with the invite patterns.  We thought the colors in both sets matched really well, and I'm so glad that we found all of this stuff in one trip!

I had envisioned having a cute little picture somewhere in the invitations, so I drew a little 3 part cartoon - a boy chasing a volleyball to the right, a girl chasing a volleyball to the left, and a boy and girl finding each other (and love!).

After finally drawing a cartoon I was happy with,
I scanned that sucker up, formatted it in MS Word, and printed
4 per page so they could be cut apart easily.
I happened to have some heavy duty creme paper (perhaps for a resume back in the day?) so we printed the drawing on that.

To attach the pictures to the cardstock we took a dual-pronged approach: we cut corner slits in the cardstock (mostly for aesthetics) and then used glue sticks to glue them down.  Then I glued the actual information to the back of the cards. I thought about printing the info directly onto the cards, but the awkward size and thickness of the cardstock made printing on them seem like more trouble than it was worth. (I tried two, and they jammed in the printer).

For the RSVPs, we bought some 'natural-colored' blank
cardstock that came with matching envelopes, and printed them up.  As I was once again too lazy to deal with printing on 
overly awkward items, we hand wrote our address on all of the return envelopes, hehe.

Because the invitations and information cards were filled with different patterns, I'm not sure if any of our recipients actually received the exact same combination.
I loved how each invitation was fairly unique in that way.

The full package:

A couple more invitation combos:

When all was said and done, I think the invitations (we made ~90) cost us around 65 dollars and 10 hours of time.
Way cheaper than buying invites, and a
lot more personal.

If you wanted to make similar invites, I'd recommend the following items:

- Large envelopes for full invitations
- Cardstock
- Scrapbooking paper
- Velum Paper
- Yarn
- Paper cutter
- Hole punch
- Small blank cards + envelopes


Living Room Painting Complete!

If there's anything that can make a house feel 
new(er) almost instantly, it's painting. 
And we've set out to paint nearly the whole house.
I'm not sure if I've mentioned it, but the previous owner had like a gazillion kids (and by a gazillion 
I mean like 4, all under age 7 or 8)  
and the walls all over the house were pretty dingy.

You may remember that I painted an accent wall in the living room (see here: Living Room Updates) but I did actually go ahead and paint the rest of the room as well.  I only rushed to get the accent wall painted first so I could get all the picture frames up on the wall and out of boxes post move-in.

The accent wall was a mauve-ish pink, and so for the rest of the living room, I chose a light peachy color.
As usual, it was the Behr Ultra Premium Plus.
Personally I loved the way the colors went together!

First wall down.  You can see the contrast from
the unpainted left wall behind the TV.
In this natural-light photo you can see that
the color is actually quite light.
The peach is fairly subtle, but I love the way it complements both the pink of the accent wall as well as the brown and
white of the stairs.

The color looks more yellow at night in artificial lighting,
but it matches the top of our painting perfectly, hehe.
It's also the perfect background for that Bear Bear!

 I love the peach color against the white and brown of the stairs so much that I thought about taking the peach color up the stairs beneath the moulding, but I held off for now.
We'll see what Clint thinks and maybe we'll do it eventually...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Replacing Grossness with Lovely Carpet!

When we moved into our house, there were definitely some areas that seemed *very* questionable.  Things that were so ... unattractively highlighted in the real estate advertisements that we almost didn't look at the house.  Seriously.  

One such area was the 2nd floor stairwell landing/hallway.  As you can see below, the original wood flooring sustained some serious damage at some point in the farmhouse's history.  

My beloved Poco examines the terrible flooring.  
Unfortunately, Poco passed after 16 years with me in Oct 2012.  <3

A portion of the floor was nearly black - I'm assuming some sort of water damage since the floor is right next to the bathroom, though in all honesty I have no idea what happened. Clearly large portions of the floor had been removed and replaced - with newer hardwoods and straight up plywood.  Needless to say, both solutions looked hideous! Hehe. I googled our address and I actually found the realtor pictures from 2008, when the previous owner bought the house from the owners that preceded her.  In those photos, the entire upstairs was carpeted (and it looked WAY better), so we figured out that the lady before us must have ripped out the carpet in an effort to get to the original hardwoods below, but found THIS.  

There's a similar makeshift flooring solution in our 2nd bedroom...
part of me really wants to take up the floor and see if
there's buried treasure under these wacko floorboards!

It's not terribly terribly obvious in the photos, but there's also a full step - at least 3-4 inches - between our hallway and the bathroom... while we couldn't really address that with carpet, I DO hope to eradicate that with the upcoming main bath renovation!  (Woot! Stay tuned for that!)  Our hallway also had a huge slope - this 100+ year old house has settled, and the flooring reflected that.  It kind of made me seasick.  

Naturally, we needed a fix.  Since the hall is upstairs where the bedrooms are, we opted to go to with carpeting.  We chose a luxurious Stainmaster carpet from Lowe's. It was definitely one of their more expensive carpets (at least within the Lowe's selection), but it was so worth it - it feels like heaven underneath the feet!  We chose the 'Capri Place Comic Plush' carpeting, and it was lovely!

As the name says, it's really plush, and the only downside is that footprints are very visible, as you can see!

We didn't overtly address the sloping, but after carpet padding and carpet, the slope virtually disappeared.  It still exists, but its barely noticeable now. 

At the time, we only carpeted the hallway and not the bedrooms - only because carpeting is pretty absurdly expensive.  We did, however, take a runner down the stairs to prevent falls for us and our 4 legged friends.  Safety first!

The carpet looks way browner here.
I guess it's the lighting.
We're actually about to install carpeting in two of our upstairs bedrooms, but not our master yet, mainly because its an extra 1k just to carpet one room, and the original wood flooring in the master is actually pretty nice.  I'm excited to get that done and start making some of the other bedrooms nice, instead of random receptacles of storage. :)

Ahhhh!!! I must start posting again!

Oh my gosh, my last post was Oct 7 2012 -- I haven't posted in over 1 year!  SO MUCH has happened in just this 1 year that it's really unforgivable that I haven't posted any of it... haha. 

With every new thing we've done, I've been meaning and meaning to catch up on posts but couldn't manage to get it done. It didn't help that at some point in the last year my computer died and I lost a lot of photos... but I'll see what I can do with what remains!  Some of the catch-up posts to come include: painting more rooms, carpeting upstairs, painting some furniture, planting trees, building garden boxes, our wedding, and maybe more! We've also started a whole new round of home renovation projects, so I can't wait to catch up on old posts so I can start on some current posts!  Yay!