Easter Snapshots

Easter sneaks up on me every year.  Maybe because it comes in the midst of planting seeds and soaking up chilly spring rays and busy days at work for both Ryan and I. In the middle of it all I forget to put any Easter reminders into our house until it’s already Holy Week and we just celebrated Palm Sunday and the means Easter is on Sunday!!

I did sneak in a chance to dye a few eggs and put them in a tall glass jar.  So our house has one tiny piece of Easter on top of the desk.

My favorite dye is made with red cabbage.  It colors the eggs into deep marbled blue. I could sit and stare at the color for hours. Someday I am going to paint a wall this blue. Or maybe a whole bathroom.

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The yellow is dyed with turmeric, and the brownish plum is from blackberries.

DSC_0156This year we also tried paint pens on brown eggs.  The white paint idea was my favorite, simple and sweet.  But…surprise surprise…the white turns out better on Pinterest than in real life.  The silver paint was much more vibrant.

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Filed under Around the House, Crafty..., Holiday, Home Decor

Chalkboards, DIY Style

Chalkboards are trendy, but the indecisive imp inside me loves that it can chameleon into anything you want. (sort of) and when you have a handy husband, you can have any size and shape you want. My quart of chalkboard paint is one of my favorite things in my craft cupboard beside the Modge Podge and my hammer.

My newest chalkboard didn’t begin that way, it morphed from a failed project. You know these awesome ‘vintage bus scroll’ wall-art pieces from Restoration Hardware?

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Pretty awesome, right? But who in real life can pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars for a shadow box with stenciled letters? Especially when I have Ryan and his skills available to me. So he built me a couple shadow boxes. They were perfect, about 2×4 feet, and about an inch and a half deep and painted in a dark grey that was almost a purple.

But then it was my turn and my crafty skills in ratio to my patience failed me.  I couldn’t get the stenciling to look right and crisp. Maybe I had given up on them in my head in the time it took for me to get the paint and plan out the street names.  I do have a very short attention span. (working on that…) Anyway, now I’ve learned the process, and when we have a bigger house, I will give them another go when I have walls big enough to show them off.

In the meantime, I painted over one of them with chalkboard paint and painted the frame red.  I ran sandpaper over the edges to give the frame age and dimension and may end of going over it again with milk paint when I get tired of the red. Then I went searching for inspiration on what to write. If you’re like me and sometimes need a little help…Pinterest and Etsy are your friends. I found the verse I wanted, and printed off someone’s chalkboard as a jumping off point of inspiration.

First step on a brand new chalkboard is to prep it. After the paint cures a few days, turn a piece of chalk on its side and coat the whole thing. Wipe it off and then do it again. Use a barely damp rag to wipe it clean, not a chalkboard eraser, which just makes a mess.

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Tip #1:

Lay out your words/picture to make sure it fits.  Just scribble it on to see how it fits the space, with curly-cues wherever you’re going to want some.  Here’s my ugly version.

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Then go back, and rub off  the words or phrases one at a time as you work. That way you won’t end up with weird gaps or squished letters (hopefully).

Tip #2

If you need more ideas for how to make letter dimensional, choose a cool font in Word and make huge letters in it on the computer screen.  That let’s you see the details and lines of the words to copy. word

With patience and frequent erasing and redoing and getting chalk dust all over yourself and the dining room table, and forgetting to make dinner, you end up with this:

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I have a place on the wall picked out once Ryan has a chance to tack a wire to the back to hang it.

Here’s our little 8×10 chalkboard that changes with the seasons. It was a cheap plastic picture frame  but with the last of a bottle of bronze spray paint and chalkboard paint, it became this cute little guy.  It takes about 20 minutes to change it, which makes it much more manageable than the big one. Here’s  a few changes from this past year:

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Filed under Around the House, Crafty..., Home Decor, Projects

Citrus Cake with Blackberry Buttercream

This cake came from the inspiration of a gloomy day. When it felt like the eighteenth day in a row of unrelenting rain and wind. The day where you need to believe that summer is coming back to visit someday if only through your taste-buds. I found the last of the blackberries we picked last summer in the freezer and spent the day with purple fingers.

Besides the messy part where you make the blackberry puree, this cake is fantastically easy and turns out in such a rich dark purple. It serves 6 in cheery little wedges. There were only four of us eating this one, which left enough for lunch the next day.

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And all you get is my iphone picture since I forgot to take a picture before we ran out the door with it to visit friends.

Citrus cake

1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup and a dash more sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp lime zest

Blend in the food processor until pale and smooth, the stage where it is almost a liquid. Then add:

2 eggs

Blend until combined. then add all at once:

1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk

Stir until just mixed, and pour into prepared 8″ round cake tin.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Let cool before frosting with the Blackberry Buttercream below.

Here’s the vegan cake ingredients as I made it, following the same methods as above.
1/2 cup shortening/coconut oil of your choice
1/2 cup and a dash more sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp lime zest
2 T flax/chia mixed with 6 T warm water and allowed to gel
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup vegan yogurt

Blackberry Buttercream

1/4 cup softened butter
2-3 TBLS blackberry puree
1 1/2 – 2 cups powdered sugar

Mix ingredients together, trying not to stain anything with the blackberries. (ha!) frost the cake, and garnish with additional zest.

Blackberry Puree
Blend 1 cup of blackberry in the food processor until thoroughly blended. Smoosh the stuff through a fine mesh strainer to remove the remnants of seeds and skin.

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Filed under food, Sweet Tooth

Visiting the ‘Boat, pt 2

We haven’t been able to spend much time with Ryan’s mom since we’ve been married. It was wonderful to see her and meet her husband Dave while we were in Steamboat Springs. There’s nothing quite like the stories a mom can tell on her kids, right?  (Only the good stuff of course, Ryan!)

DSC_0949It’s cute how tiny she is next to Ryan, her only tall child. (he’s almost a head taller than his siblings).

We did fun winter-time things with them like a cozy breakfast, shopping along Steamboat’s main street, a walk along the river, and out to a ranch to go tubing. I also found a cute friendly puppy we wanted to bring home.

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DSC_0890I hadn’t realized this about Steamboat SPRINGS, but the reason for it’s name are all the hot springs. They are all over the place, bubbly away with a nice odor of sulphur.

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Filed under Adventures, Family, travel

Visiting the ‘Boat, Pt 1

There is no feeling that can compare with locking the house door and jumping in the car or onto a plane to leave town. Even if it is to a relatively normal place you’ve been before, it’s still away from the everyday and familiar. Stepping into a new place, and having all of your senses assaulted with new smells, sounds, and sights (bonus points if you have to talk to the locals in mime). If only plane tickets and vacation time grew on trees…

Since we have done very little traveling so far, only about 2% of the traveling I hope to do in my lifetime, I get excited about trips to places even an hour away. So I bouncing off the walls about our Christmas gift from Ryan’s dad: tickets to visit Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where both of Ryan’s parents live. The town is so beautiful, and heaven to the snow-starved among us.

It was a laid back trip with lots of good food, visiting some of Ryan’s old friends, and me throwing snowballs at Ryan whenever his back was turned. We haven’t gotten to spend much time with either of his parents when we’re not in a big group, so it was nice to have the chance to just sit and talk.

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Ryan was pretty excited to spend some time in a fully outfitted wood shop with his dad, who has every tool and saw. Alot of things I didn’t even know the names of, but apparently Ryan knows how to operate.

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Mount Washington

We didn’t get up into the mountains and fishing lakes nearly enough last summer. But since the Cascades haven’t gotten much snow this year, many of the lower elevation trails are still mostly clear this time of year for hiking without snowshoes.

So Grace and I sneaked a hike in on MLK day.  It was the kind of hike that you force yourself out of bed and into shoes and a coat, and wish you hadn’t agreed to get picked up so early in the morning on your holiday. But once we were warmed up and climbing up the trail, it was perfect.

The first half of the hike me and my quads were cursing whoever’s idea this hike was (mine). The second half of the hike was the mental stage that Ryan tries to either avoid or capitalize on, the stage where I plan on signing up for half marathons and actually accomplishing a yoga headstand. (ha!)

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DSC_0858And here’s the view from the top of Mount Washington.

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Filed under Adventures, Family, Out and About

Butcher Block Cutting Board

This is the next installment of Beautiful-Things-That-Ryan-Makes. There’s been the bookcase, and a projects for other people that I haven’t taken good pictures of yet. Last summer he built book-carts for our church’s hymnals. Here’s a sneak peek of filling the holes until I take real pictures of the finished product.

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Most recently, he built me a butcher block cutting board out some scraps he picked up of walnut, cherry, and a yellow African wood called movingui.

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I already knew I much prefer wood cutting boards over plastic ones, but I learned there is so much more to cutting boards. The butcher block style like this, many blocks glued together, makes the surface of the board all ends of boards (like a tree stump, as opposed to flat piece of lumber.)
End-cuts make a much harder surface, and last much longer, but take much more time and labor to produce. This style protects both your knife blade and your board, as the blade slips between the wood grains (in a teeny tiny way), and the grain of the wood can then self-heal back together, leaving little or no trace.  With a flat grain cutting board, your blade is crushing against the wood fibers together, putting more wear and tear on both the board and knife.

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I was also thrilled with groove Ryan routed into the board.  Now he can carve a roast or chicken without the juice spilling out onto the counter.

He wanted to finish it with an oil so he could sand and refinish or refresh it whenever we needed to.  So he made a finish rub with beeswax and mineral oil.

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He melted it down in a tin can to combine the two, and let it cool. Then he used a rag to rub it into the board, giving it a smooth easy-clean finish.

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