Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Thrift Store Revamp: Table / Floor Lamp Update

I found this old wood floor lamp with a little table built in a couple months ago at a thrift store for $6.  The finish looked terrible but I really liked how the lamp slides up and down on the pole, and the screws that hold it in place are even made of wood as well.  So, I took it home and decided to give it an update.

This little "beauty" has been sitting in my studio since July, but after one of my new fangled floor lamps decided to snap off at the base last week, it became a necessary project.

The plug was super old and you could actually see bare wires in it.  So, I went out the hardware store and spent $5 on a new cord and a new plug.  You'd be really surprised just how EASY it is to install a new plug on a cord.  They make them so easy now, you don't even have to strip any wires and it takes longer to open the plug's package than it does to attach it to the cord.

I spent another $6 on a can of glossy black paint, and $3 on a brand new (Target donation) lamp shade at a thrift store.  So, the whole thing cost me about $20.  I sanded it a bit and the old varnish flaked off super easy, so prepping it was a cinch.  One can of paint did the job, and I love how it looks now!

I'm actually planning to do something more interesting on the table top, so stay tuned for more pics when I get around to that part!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

ID Mommy Projects: Marble Mosaic Table Top

This summer I found a long, skinny table for $5 at a garage sale that I thought might come in handy on our deck to hold random stuff or even to use as an outdoor buffet for parties.  I thought I'd make it a little more fun and do a mosaic on the top with some of those flattened glass marbles you can get at craft stores. 

I got all of these marbles at thrift stores, so they were even cheaper.  They frequently turn up in thrift stores as people donate the left-over pieces from a project they've done, so I have collected quite a range of colors.  I used Eco Glue to attach them....the same glue that I use when making my Junk Mail Gems magnets.  But, any glue labeled for mosaic or other glass projects should work fine.

The table covered in marbles
 Once they dry well you can grout over the top.  I used this brown grout just because we had it left-over from a tile project in our previous house.  Just pour some in a bucket and add enough water to get it to a thick frosting-like consistency. I'm using a tile float to apply it here.  You want to make sure you get it deep into all the crevices between the marbles, and a good coating on the edges.  I find that using my bare hands works best to get the edges covered the way I want.
applying the grout

Grout is on...letting it dry a tad

Sorry, not sure why this is upside down.  But after you let it dry for a few minutes, gently wipe it with a damp sponge.

Just keep gently wiping it periodically every 10-15 minutes or so as the grout dries, removing more and more of the haze from the glass.  Once the grout is dry and hard, wipe it down again with the sponge and then buff off any remaining grout haze off the glass with a dry towel.

 Here it is all done!  It's also a good idea to brush over the whole thing with a grout sealer.  I put it off a little too long and my grout cracked a and learn!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Spray Paint Mania!!

I found this blog post sitting around as a draft and thought I'd finally post it...this is a little late as I did all of this work this spring.  But, even in Minnesota it still isn't too late to get yo' spray paint on!

We get pretty excited for spring to come in Minnesota and color to return to our yards.  (You may remember me planting grass seed indoors last year) Well, this year I couldn't wait for mother nature to color up my yard, so I went to town spray painting things. 

Flower pots by the front door! The two on the right were just those cheap clay pots you get at the hardware store for a few bucks.  The cute teapot one on the left was from a garage sale.  I got some clearance flowers at the hardware store and sprinkled them around in pots.
Metal furniture, all left behind from the previous homeowners (I did paint the base of the fire pit/bowl too after this shot!)
More painted flower pots! I also painted that tiki torch which was looking weathered, and the table!

The previous homeowners left us 15-20 of these plastic chairs, very beat up.  Did you know you can paint them?! YES YOU CAN!! Kryolan Fusion paint is made for plastic and even has a picture of these chairs on the can! I think I used a Rustoleum brand but there are plenty of paints to choose from that stick to plastic.  Just make sure to get them nice and clean first, and if you want to you can get plastic primer too.  These chairs have sat outside all summer and still look great months later, no chipping! I also painted some shepherd hooks to hold the lanterns.

Those planters you see on the top railing of our deck were $0.50 cents each at a garage sale.  they look cute painted and worked great for growing my herbs all summer! That yellow sun thing is made of clay and was also left behind by the previous homeowners.

More painted planters, pots, and a table on the deck
Not pictured are some plant hooks, outdoor metal wall decor, candle holders and baskets that I painted too.

So, needless to say, we have enjoyed a pretty colorful deck and yard this spring and summer!  It's AMAZING what a little spray paint can do to bring old, beaten up garage sale finds back to life.  If you have some outdoor decor or furniture around that is looking really beat up, if you're about to toss it out or give it away, what have you got to lose?  Give a can of spray paint a try.  Who knows, it may just become one of your favorite pieces!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Snack mix!

What do you do when you need a quick snack for your kids? While my growing boys seem to be in a perpetual state of hunger, we generally stick to our schedule of one morning snack (between breakfast and lunch) and one afternoon snack (between nap and dinner).  If you're like me, even with just two snack times per day, you can burn through a lot of snacks in a week, and a lot of money too if you're buying goldfish crackers and teddy grahams.

Contrary to what the folks at Pepperidge Farms and Nabisco may lead you to believe, your kids' snacks don't actually HAVE to be shaped like cute little animals. Here's what we now do.  I have one of those Rubbermaid containers with a pour spout (got at thrift stores of course), and I made a "snack mix" label for the side.  This thing gets filled to the top at least once a week with  a random assortment of stuff we have around the house.

Here are some of our regular snack mix components:

- Pretzels
- Cereal (Froot Loops, Chex, Kix, Cheerios, you name it)
- Raisins (Whenever Walgreens has the big cans on sale for $1.99 I buy the limit!)
- Crackers (Goldfish, cheese-its, etc...CVS sells jars of mini Ritz-like crackers for $0.99!)
- Popcorn (Kids won't let me visit our local hardware store without the free bags of popcorn)
- Peanuts
- Dried fruit (okay, same as raisins, but Walgreens sells "Nice" dried fruit mixes w/o raisins)

I never pay more than $2 for a box of cereal with my couponing.  Usually I pay around $1.50 for a box, which is much less than the tiny bag of goldfish crackers.  Teddy Grahams are cute but can get the same taste by throwing in some Golden Grahams cereal or even broken up actual graham crackers.  I usually have a few that come broken when we buy them for smores, so they go into the snack mix bin as well.  And I know there are much healthier things out there too that our kids snack on, like baby carrots and fruit!  But, when you just need a dry snack that's easy to transport and grab in a second, this works great.

Once the "bin" runs out, I dump in some more stuff and shake it around.  Even if you do get the expensive just-for-kid snacks, you can stretch them much farther with cereal this way. Often times I'll save certain kinds of cereal for just the snack mix that week, so they aren't eating the same thing for breakfast as they are for snack. Sometimes we'll splurge with a little bit of Cookie Crisp, Krave (the chocoalte cereal shown in the photo above), or even a few chocolate chips or fruit snacks for a REALLY special treat.

It's never the same twice, which keeps the kids interested!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Painting Appliances & My 1950's Style Kitchen Makeover!

So, you have already seen the whole process I followed to paint my 80's oak cabinets and give them a vintage 50's vibe.  If not, click here to check it out.  At the risk of boring you with photos of my kitchen, I'm doing this one last post just to share more specifically how I have achieved the whole 1950's style with accessories, and with a little spray paint to my appliances!

The jade green idea was inspired by a ceramic sheep planter (below) that I have which used to belong to my Great Grandma Dorothy (below).  It always sat in her front porch window, and as a little kid I remembered watching for that green sheep as we drove down her street and then being so proud of myself for being able to spot her house before Dad even started turning into the driveway.  It was the only thing of hers that I wanted after she passed away, and I love having it in my kitchen window now!
Color/Style Inspiration

I didn't mention this in my cabinet painting post, but I also pulled off the quarter-round wood trim that sat at the top edge of my cabinets against the ceiling, and spray painted it chrome!  From the distance it sits in the kitchen, it looks like metal trim.

My next big kitchen dream, which would be the sprinkle on top of the cherry on top of the icing on top of the cake, would be to get some new appliances with retro styling like Big Chill.  The funny thing is, I actually like how my old appliances look more now that the cabinets are painted than before...the bisque white matches well with the cabinet color and they blend away.  So, I just did a little red accent spray painting which really makes them look custom for just a few bucks! 

I started with the toaster oven.  I found several cool, retro looking red toaster ovens on Amazon, however, the KitchenAid one we already have is way nicer.  I didn't want to downgrade just to get the color red.  So, I painted it!  I took a trip to my local auto parts store and picked up a can of Rustoleum Engine paint.  I got engine paint because it's designed to withstand temperatures of  up to 500 degrees, and the toaster oven does get hot.  You can also find "high heat" paint at the hardware store, but I couldn't find any in red.
Toaster Oven Re-paint!
First, coil up and tape down your cord, then tape off the most important edges.  I just wanted to paint over the black metal, so that's what I taped around.  Then use newspaper with more tape to cover up the larger surfaces.  Everything should be covered except what you want painted.  Lightly sand the surface if it's slick like mine, to take off some of the gloss.  Remove the dust, and spray it!  Once you've achieved the finish you like and it's all dry, remove the tape and marvel at your "new" toaster.

Next up were the fridge and stove.  Since I liked how the off white appliances blend into the new cabinet color, I decided to just paint the handles and knobs red.  I also used some chrome spray paint to change the bottom grill on the fridge from black to chrome.  Looks soooo cool. Here are photos of the fridge and stove in progress....

Fridge Re-Paint!
 Did you know that you can remove your fridge handles?  Heck, you can swap the handles and hinges to make it open the other direction if you want.  They are designed that way. I know this with certainty, being an industrial designer who has had experience both in designing refrigerators and designing the retail environment they sell in.  Just a few simple screws will pop them all off.  Tape off the parts you don't want painted as before, and go to town.  Since the part I'm painting on my handles are made of a thin vinyl veneer, I chose to use Kryolan Fusion spray paint, which is designed to adhere best to plastics.  It worked great and was also perfect for the plastic knobs on the oven.

The fridge, complete with red handles and chrome grill!

Now for the oven...the handle removed easily, again, with just two bolts.  I grabbed an empty Club cracker box out of my recycling bin and used a knife to cut "x's" in the side, then was able to pop my knobs right through the box.  It made it so easy to move the knobs around to paint and keep them from rolling around sticking to things.  The handle was the same process as the fridge...tape off the chrome and paint away!

Oven Re-Paint!
The oven, done!  Except that one stubborn knob on the left...can't for the life of me get that one off!  I'm gonna have to see if my hubby can get it to budge tonight when he gets home. Found the cute apple towel at Target on clearance this week for $1.50.
 So, that's how I gave my appliances a retro facelift.  Here are some of the other fun, random accessories that I have collected over the summer...they all finally look like they belong here now!
I got some suh-WEET knobs for the drawers (above/below) at a place called Art and Architecture in Minneapolis, thanks to my fab sister who took me there and dug through oodles of dusty old stuff to pick them all out with me.

Vintage chrome/red handles $3.50 each on ebay, red mugs $0.50 cents from Goodwill, and vintage pink beehive pepper shaker $0.50 at an estate sale. (sitting on my toaster oven in black, before I painted it!)

My window box, full of fun vintage 1950's planters, vases, and the green sheep that inspired it all!

1950's General Electric pink wall clock, $2 at an estate sale.  I had to put a plug on the cord and happily, it worked!

Various vintage magnets, $0.25 cents each at garage sales

KitchenAid teakettle, not vintage but still fits the vibe, with cool pink rubber grips... $5 at a garage sale

Vintage Lincoln Beautyware canister set, came with the wrap organizer below, $8 at an estate sale for the whole set.
Dispenser for tin foil, wax paper, and paper towels (came with canister set above) I found some 3M Command hooks at Home Depot that were basically like metal nail heads, so I could stick those to the tile and then hook this holder to those via their keyhole hooks.  Slick! No holes needed in the tile.

Old metal dust pan, $0.50 cents at Goodwill

Vintage Raffiaware Pitcher and glass set, $12 at an estate sale
Magnetic retro kitchen timer, a Christmas gift from my Mom via Amazon
Found this cool metal "meat storage" drawer from an old fridge for $0.25 cents at a garage sale!  It sits on top our frig to hold bags of chips and other opened snacks.
Vintage Hamilton Beach industrial size triple malt mixer found at a garage sale!  I took it all apart to clean it, but the cord is too frayed to plug it in.  Just got a replacement cord at the hardware store and I'm hoping to get it running tonight!

Overall I just LOVE how it all turned out.  And I have to admit that I'm just a tad proud of myself for doing every single last bit of the work painting the cabinets and appliances by myself.  I know that's probably not very 1950's housewife-ish of me, but that's okay.  I think I'll go put on my frilly pink apron and do some more canning now!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

My First Canning Attempt: Canned Salsa!

August is always my most CRAZY busy month of the year.  My face painting business is booming and I'm painting every weekend and most weeks during the week too.  So what do I do this year during my busiest month ever?  Why, I also decide to pile on some hard core potty training of my 2 year old, swimming lessons for my 4 year old, start and complete a major project painting my kitchen cabinets, and teaching myself how to can. So there you have it, excuse for not blogging so much this summer!
My first canned salsa!
My new garden inspired (or forced) me to take my first crack at canning this summer.  Here's what I did.  I found this amazingly helpful blog that I LOVE, called "Thy Hand Hath Provided."  So, all credit must go to "Jane," who's blog I followed pretty much word for word in this first attempt.  I toggled between two of her explaining how to can, and another with the salsa recipe and a delicious pasta sauce recipe.  I thought I'd combine the two here, with photos of my attempt, in case you'd like to try salsa as your first canning attempt too!  If you have more questions as to the process of canning, troubleshooting, etc, I'd refer you back to her awesome blog  because I am still a total beginner.  ;-)

I decided on salsa for my first time for this reason: if any of my jars didn't seal properly in the end, we could have a salsa eating party.  Win-win.  (In hindsight, something like pickles is a lot easier to start with to just get used to the canning process itself, as there is less actual cooking involved.)

I did not alter her recipe but I did alter how it was laid out.  I found it easier to keep the process moving (as recommended so the salsa doesn't over cook), by first preparing ALL the ingredients into 3 bowls that correspond to the 3 steps of the cooking of the salsa.   That way I'm not frantically chopping stuff to get it in the pot in time and can just focus on prepping my canning area, then chopping my food, then cooking it, then canning it.  It's kindof a lot to juggle otherwise.

First, gather your supplies and your groceries.

Supply List:
- Canner (or Large pot with a towel in the bottom)
- 6-8 Pint Canning jars, with bands and NEW lids (you can't re-use lids!)
- Ladel (to transport your hot salsa into the jars)
- Jar lifter (to lift your hot jars out of boiling water)
- Canning funnel (has a wide opening to fit your jars)
- Non-metal utensil (to remove bubbles...I use my plastic Tupperware orange peeler)
- A couple wood clothespins (great tip from this blog to make them easier to pick out of the water)

I got ALL of these things at garage sales, with the exception of the lids which I purchased new.  You need fresh lids every time to ensure a good seal. Here are just a few Amazon links so you can see what's out there...

There are "regular mouth" and "wide mouth" canning jars.  Wide mouth jars are handy for larger pieces of food, like pickles, whole tomatoes or potatoes, etc.  I used regular mouth for my salsa.  I found many mason jars at garage sales too and just bought new rings and bands.  But they have to be mason jars...just any old empty mayo jar will NOT do!!

Grocery List:
- olive oil
- 8 jalapeno peppers
- 5 green bell peppers
- 16 cloves of garlic
- 4 onions
- Tomatoes (8 cups' worth when chopped)
- Cilantro (1 cup fresh chopped)
- White Vinegar
- 6 oz can of tomato paste
- Spices: Cumin, Oregano, salt, sugar

Directions (for both Salsa making and Canning):

FREEBIE NOTE! I have taken the liberty of creating a handy single-page recipe and cheat sheet for your 2nd, 3rd, 4th batches of salsa, when you don't need to read every step in this blog post.  You can download it for free, here.

1 - Prepare the "canning zone." Lay a towel next to the stove, and on it set your ladel, funnel, jar lifter, bands, and non-metal utensil.

The canning zone.

2 - Start your pot boiling.  I use a pressure canner pot which is huge and thick so it takes forever to get to boiling, which is why I start heating it right away.

3 - Heat your lids.  A great tip from my canning mentor blogger... clip a few of your lids together with a wooden clothespin and drop them in the pot of water.  Try to fan them out a little bit like a deck of cards if possible...if you stack them right against each other they tend to stick and are hard to get apart when you need to use them.

4 - Sanitize your jars.  Some people run them through the sanitize cycle of their dishwasher (with no other dishes - you don't want food particles on them!). I perfer to just put them in my canner and let the boiling water do the sanitizing.  Either way works.  If you do them in the dishwasher, just leave it shut until you are ready for step 7.

5 - Prepare all of your ingredients.  This will probably be the most time consuming part, but a food processor will help speed things up a ton!
In Bowl #1: 
- 8 Jalapeno Peppers, diced fine without seeds
- 4 Green Bell Peppers, diced
- 16 Cloves Garlic, Minced
- 4 Onions, Chopped

In Bowl #2:
- 8 Cups chopped/peeled tomatoes (I don't peel mine)
- 3 Tbsp Ground Cumin
- 4 tsp Dried Oregano
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp salt

In Bowl #3:
- 1 6-oz Can Tomato Paste
- 6 Tbsp White Vinegar
- 1 C Chopped Fresh Cilantro

6 - Make the salsa. Piece of cake now that you have everything done in bowls...
Saute contents of bowl #1 in 1/2 C olive oil until almost tender.

Add bowl #2 and bring to a simmer.

Add bowl #3 and heat through.  Bring back to a simmer.
Salsa is ready to can now!  Back to the big pot-o-water...

7 - Lift your jars out of the boiling water and set them on the towel in your "canning zone."  Don't dry them with a towel, just pour excess water out of them and back into the canner.  (Or, remove them from the dishwasher now if you did that instead)
Pour out excess water

Set them on the towel in your "canning zone"
8 - Fill the jars. Set your canning funnel on a jar, then ladle the hot salsa into the jar until you come within 1/2" from the top of the jar.  Repeat until you fill them all.  (If you have some left over, just put it in the fridge and enjoy it right away!)
Ready to fill!

I got this metal funnel at a garage sale.  You'll likely find plastic ones in stores.
Oooh, pretty!
9 - Remove bubbles. Jiggle your jars a little and scrape the insides with your non-metal utensil to help remove as many air bubbles as you can.

10 - Wipe rims. Use a damp paper towel or towel to wipe the rims of all the jars. They need to be clean and clear of food particles to create a proper seal.

11 - Apply lids. Pull your clothespins of lids out of the boiling water with some tongs and let them cool enough to handle, then set them on each jar.

12 - Add bands. Screw on bands until they just meet resistance, "fingertip tight."  Put one hand in your pocket if it helps resist the urge to grab the jars and screw too tight! Pressure will need to be able to release through the lids as they boil so don't screw too tight.
Not too tight, now!
13 - Set jars.  Gently lower each jar into the canner with jar lifter.  If you don't have a rack in your pot, put a towel on the bottom to prevent bubbles from knocking the jars into each other.  The water should be up to the jars' shoulders so adjust water level here if needed.

14 - "Process." Bring the pot back to a boil and then set your timer for 10 minutes.

15 - Remove jars. After 10 minutes of processing, lift each jar out with the jar lifter and set on your towel.  Keep them straight upright as you lift.  Do not disturb them!  Don't tip them to pour off water from the lids or wipe them can clean the lids after they seal.  Sit back and let them cool and (hopefully) seal. You'll know they are sealed when the raised button on the lid sinks in.

You may hear them "pop" as they seal.  Some may seal right away, some may take a few hours, and some may not seal at all.  If I have any that don't seal, I stick them in the fridge and use them right away.  RESIST THE URGE to touch the lids!  Doing so may cause the "pop" but create a false seal.

16 - Label and store.  Once they are cooled and sealed, you can use a Sharpie and write on the lids or make some labels.  Now I know you don't see pretty photos of canned foods with the rings removed, but Ball recommends you take the rings off and wipe down the lids before storing them.  The rings are only there to keep the lids in place during processing. The jars do NOT need the rings on them for storage...if you need the rings to hold the lids on then they haven't properly sealed anyway.  You should be able to pick up each jar by the lid, no matter how heavy, without the lid coming off, if they have properly sealed. Also, moisture and food does seep out through the lids during processing, and if you leave it under there it can make your lids nasty and rust out your rings.  Rings can be re-used next time you can, and you may also want to put rings back on them if you are transporting them or giving them as gifts.  So remove those rings, and wipe down the lids.  Store in a cool, dark place and enjoy the fruits of your labor whenever you have a salsa craving!


Woah, was that a lot of work?  Yeah, kinda. It feels that way the first time.  But it can be fun and addicting, and you'll really be glad you did it, especially in the dead of winter when you want to enjoy some fresh garden goodness, or want to give some wonderful homemade food as Christmas gifts.  It really does get easier the more you do it.  I have 3 tomato plants, one of them grape tomatoes.  So far I have made TONS of salsa, pasta sauce, and even some relish and pickles with my cucumbers.  I don't find this recipe to be very hot at all, so if you want to make it spicier, you can add more jalapenos.  My husband likes it more runny, less chunky, and hotter.  So, I have been doing batches with more jalapenos and more puree'd for him.  If you missed the link back in the post to my free printable recipe and cheat sheet, download it here and print it out for next time so you don't have to scroll through a blog post every time.  Have fun and stock up on tortilla chips, because you'll need 'em!


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