Wednesday, October 31, 2012

happy halloween!

 Happy Halloween from my favorite little pumpkin!

 Here's to a night filled with tricks, treats and sweets...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

a little fall baking

With Halloween being TOMORROW, it was time to do a little fall baking.  Jeff needed something for his office potluck, so Carson and I decided to bake up a storm and make goodies for the neighbors too.

The recipe of the day was...pumpkin bread.  This stuff is so good.  It just tastes like fall.  I've tried so many different pumpkin bread recipes and I finally put a bunch of them together, made a few changes and additions and came up with this one.  It really is delicious!

We made a double batch and turned a bunch into cupcakes for Jeff's office party. 

Pumpkin Bread

  • 1 15 oz. box (or can) of pumpkin
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups four
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350.  Grease and flour loaf pans.  
In a large bowl mix: pumpkin, applesauce, eggs, oil, water, both sugars and vanilla.
In a separate bowl whisk: flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger (I'm picky about my spices.  I like them nice and strong.  Penzeys Spices are my favorite!)
Stir dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture until just blended.
Baking times vary depending upon what you're making.  I've found that a large loaf takes about 45 minutes, mini loaves take about 30 minutes, and muffins/cupcakes take 20 minutes.  Check them often, you don't want to overcook these or they'll be dry.

This recipe makes 24 fairly large muffins, 6 mini loaves or 3 large loaves.

 To turn them into cupcakes, I simply added my favorite cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Mix the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until just combined.  
Add the sugar and mix until smooth.

I made them Halloween party ready by adding spiderwebs.  It's so quick and easy!

Here's how you make the spiderwebs:  
Frost cupcakes as smoothly as possible.  Add 3 or 4 rings in a darker color.  I went with traditional black and white (this gel food coloring is the best and it comes in the greatest colors - black is one of them).

 While the frosting is still nice and wet, drag a toothpick from the center outward to create the webs!

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2012

it's pumpkin time

We had a very festive weekend!  We started the weekend off with a trip to the pumpkin patch and finished it up with some pumpkin decorating.  I LOVE holidays, but I've been a little slow getting into the mood this halloween.  With Carson's birthday being 10/11, I think I was decorated/crafted out for the month.  I'm just getting around to decorating for fall and it's October 29th!  (We're going for the harvest theme this year so I can carry this through November.)

Worn out or not, I certainly couldn't let the month of October go by without pumpkin carving.  I grew up on a farm in Oregon so I don't expect much from the "farm" experiences in Southern California.  I must admit, Tanaka Farms in Irvine was pretty adorable.  We trudged through the fields of pumpkins, rode the tractor (many times), and visited the petting zoo.  The little guy definitely had a blast and the grown ups did too.  My only complaint was the weather - I can't fully get into the spirit of fall when it's 90 degrees outside.  I'm ready for some sweater weather!

We always make an evening out of pumpkin carving and this year the little guy got to join us.  I wanted him to have a little fun so he got to decorate his own pumpkins. 

 I made edible finger paint (a handy recipe from back in my Kindergarten teaching days - recipe below) since I knew some paint would end up in his mouth.

 Then I used sticker paper to create "pumpkin stickers".  

Here's the three boys having a blast!  Jake even helped out and ate some finger paint!

 The finished masterpieces

The whole family's October artwork.  We had all of 5 minutes to actually carve after all the painting, so these pumpkins won't win any creativity contests, but it's the thought that counts!

Edible (but not tasty) finger paint
1/2 cup constarch
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups cold water
food coloring

Mix all ingredients and cook over medium heat until it gets thick.  Let it cool, divide into separate containers and add food coloring.

Friday, October 26, 2012

let the sun shine in!

The first time I saw our dark, dreary, little kitchen I knew it would be perfect.  It was all dark wood paneling and avocado green paint, but it was chock-full of potential.

I couldn't wait to brighten things up.   Our house gets plenty of natural light, but the kitchen had tiny little windows.  We planned to wait it out and use the kitchen as it was (while we saved a little more money) but patience isn't my strong suit.  I couldn't fit a cookie sheet in the silly little oven, the drawer bottoms fell out from the weight of our silverware and the cupboards were more than slightly lopsided.  I only managed to tough it out for a couple of months before I'd had it.
I did a little research and figured we could make it work with the money we had, so we let the remodel begin. 
We couldn't wait to tear down the wall that separated our kitchen from our little breakfast nook.  With my father-in-law's help, we went at it with the Sawzall (one of the coolest tools ever) and the sledge hammer and within a couple of hours we had a pony wall that overlooked a cute little breakfast nook! Don't worry, we did our homework and made sure to leave the support beams in tact.  I've seen enough of HGTV's Renovation Realities to avoid that mistake!

Next step was to tear out the tiny windows and really let the light in.  We had planned and measured for new windows soon after we moved in.  I found a great bargain on windows while visiting Portland, OR (where I grew up) and they were waiting patiently in the garage, all ready for their big debut.

The old windows went to the garage for use in a later project.  (I just refinished one to create a picture wall - I'll share soon!).  The new windows made such a difference.  Check out the before and after pics.
Our old little windows
The wall that we knocked down
Pretty new windows and a new pony wall!
View from below the pony wall

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Let the diy begin...with a $10,000 kitchen remodel

We searched and searched for the perfect little Southern California beach house.  I daydreamed about a cute little beach cottage ~ shingles, shutters, a sweet little yard and definitely a farm house sink.  Well, turns out it wasn't easy to find perfection within our limited price range.

A fixer upper was the only way we were going to become home owners.  We finally found the one we wanted to transform and after a loooong escrow, it was ours.

So my fantasies changed, instead of decorating and painting, I was knocking down walls, using a tile saw and washing dishes in the bathtub.  And you know what, I actually think that's a lot more fun!

I'm going to start with our biggest project...the kitchen remodel!

I feel like everyone has been through one, but ours was a bit unique in that we only had $10,000 to spend.  I'm a pretty determined little gal and I spent A LOT of time bargain hunting.  It was definitely a labor of love.  Of course it took longer than expected.  I threw one of my best girlfriends a baby shower with half a kitchen and a tar covered un-refinished wood floor because we terribly misjudged our "finish date".  Oh well, those little stories that caused tears at the time, seem like good memories now.

I submitted our kitchen to This Old House magazine for their annual reader remodel contest.  We didn't win, but we did get sort of close.  The prize was $10,000 which would have covered all our costs (would have been nice)!  I must say the winner of the contest has an amazing kitchen (but I still wouldn't trade it for our diy version). You can ogle over the beautiful winner here.  Anyway, they recently emailed and asked if I could send them more info and pics for an upcoming issue.  This one doesn't involve any prize money, but This Old House is one of my favorite mags so I was excited anyway.

I just finished putting together all of the info and pics to send off to TOH, so now it's all organized and ready for my blog!

Here are a few beginning and after pics to get you excited.

In my upcoming posts I'll be explaining what we did, what we spent, what we'd do again and what we wouldn't!

Friday, October 19, 2012

i guess i'll start blogging...

I've been thinking about starting a blog for a couple of years now, so here goes...  To be honest I'm not sure if I've got the time and energy for this but I figure there's no harm in trying.

I guess I should start with a little bit about me.   I'm certainly not a writer.  I definitely prefer to be out getting things done.  The name of this blog is a pretty good description of my life.  A few parts sand paper and a few parts silly putty.  I love junk (well, I love recreating junk).  It's so fun to give new life to something that seems like it's seen it's day.  Our whole house is filled with flea market finds, craigslist treasures and even some dumpster rescues!  That's where the sandpaper comes in! Thank goodness we've got a huge 3 car garage (such a luxury in California) for all of my goodies.  My husband doesn't love the fact that we can't keep a single car in it - but that's the price you pay for creative genius!

I majored in elementary ed and taught for a few years before settling in with my current job training teachers on reading software.  Kids are the best.  I'm totally a kid a heart.  I have a 1 year old son who is already ridiculously fun to play with!  He's not quite to the silly putty/play dough/mud stage yet (he'd probably eat it) but I sure can't wait to get there!  I already have a big folder and plenty of pinterest pins full of kiddo project inspiration.

So hopefully this blog will serve to document my projects from big to small.  I'm aiming to do this for a year and see if it sticks.  Perhaps I can share ideas with a few friends and a even make a few new ones.  We'll see what happens!

Next blog entry, we start a project.  I'm currently putting together pics of our kitchen remodel before (yikes!) and after (yahoo!) for This Old House (fingers crossed we make an issue).  So I think I'll start there.  That was quite an adventure...a kitchen remodel under $10,000.  I'm looking forward to reliving it a little now that I'm no longer washing my dishes in the bathtub!