Black Raspberry Goodness

It’s that time of year again… the black raspberries are ripe. This spring I was busy tearing apart the house so I didn’t get out there to cut down the invasive species surrounding the raspberry jungle. It is bad out there right now. Nettles. Poison ivy. Buckthorn. Russian olive. Lots of other weeds. (Does anyone else hear how necessary goats are out here??) But… those little black juicy morsels make it worth braving the jungle for. They started ripening last week. I’ve only done a bit of peripheral picking and introduced a couple cute nephews to the magic of black raspberries. The Hobbit couldn’t cram them into his mouth fast enough.

Monday night was my first time to go out prepared to take on the jungle. Long pants, shoes, socks, bug spray, long sleeves. I got half a German Park bucket full before it started raining. Black raspberry picking is slow. The very definition of slow food really. They are tiny. They are covered with pickers. They are in a jungle. And they are completely delicious. Sometimes we all need to slow down a bit and savor the goodness of summer.

I used the last of the rum in the cupboard to start some of them infusing. (Note to self: buy more rum).

Then I made cobbler which my cousin and I had for breakfast. I’m pretty sure I’ve shared this before but it bears repeating if you have any fresh berries of any kind sitting around. It is incredibly easy, not too sweet (because I’ve cut a lot of sugar from the original recipe) and buttery goodness in every bite. Believe me, you want some.

Fresh Berry Cobbler

  • 2 1/2 cups berries (I used mostly black raspberries with a few mulberries– but whatever you have will work)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I cut the sugar from the original recipe a lot! If you are using more tart berries, add more in)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 375. Mix berries and sugar together and let them sit while you put the rest of it together. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add milk and stir. Add melted butter and mix together.

Put the batter into an ungreased 8×8 pan (ish). Glop the berry/sugar mixture over the top (or just mix it together- I’ve done it both ways). Bake the big pan for 45 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

Top with ice cream if you like. Eat it for breakfast (it is practically a health food, right?? Something about antioxidants and organic, locally sourced berries). There’s no wrong way to eat it. Ready go.

Update: I bought more rum. Who wants to come over for black raspberry cocktails? 

Doll bunk bed

 

DSC_9229-4059994656-1493346283518.jpgIn today’s episode of #makeallthethings, I have a really cute niece turning 3 today. Gloria is a darling girl with a great sense of humor, gorgeous red curly hair and an imp face, and she is a girl who loves her babies. For Christmas I gave her a made over doll high chair, which she uses regularly. For her birthday, I suggested to her sisters that we make a doll bunk bed for her. Jane and I sewed the bedding a couple weeks ago while Lucy worked on her teepee and kept Daisy distracted while ignoring us entirely (and believe me, I get it). Then this week arrived and with only a few days to spare, I figured I should get this thing built.

I looked at these plans by Ana White – which are darling but involved a lot of small pieces and I was too lazy to comply. I also decided to skip the ladder since clearly dolls don’t actually climb into bed on said ladder. So I didn’t actually follow the plans, but I used the rough dimensions and got inspired by them.
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It isn’t perfect but I think it turned out pretty cute. I used wood from my stash, paneling from the dining room walls for the bottom of the beds, wood filler to cover the pocket holes, and went all out buying a can of spray paint. Woooo. I can’t decide if I get half ass points for this because it is far from perfect (yes, I deserve points) but on the other hand, I made a doll bunk bed the same week I dropped a roll of toilet paper down a hole in my bathroom floor and I still don’t have a bathroom door (do not pass go, do not collect half ass points).  You decide.  DSC_9486
After I took these pictures, my niece Jane showed up with the foam mattresses she made (I am so proud!). The gift was taken home for the birthday party tonight and I can’t wait to see Glo’s face when she opens it! DSC_9490

Make All the Things Christmas

It was a big Make-All-theThings-Christmas over here. I went overboard which is so unlike me (said no one ever). The last couple years I’ve sewn a lot of things for the growing crowd of nieces and nephews. This year I’ve been doing more woodworking and did more along those lines for the kiddos. Although the last several weeks have been filled with panicked making of all the things – it has been good. Really good even. There’s something special about making things for your best people that you know they will love, not to mention some much needed home time and project therapy time when life is crazy. And it is certainly true that it is better to give than receive.  Here’s a round up of the projects, complete with messy before and after pictures:

Craft Carts

Two of my nieces are very creative and crafty girls. They have a little craft ghetto in their unfinished basement and I asked their dad to send me a picture of their work areas to inspire me. The craft-splosion photos made me all mushy inside, remembering the weeks my sister and I would set up our rickety folding table next to the furnace in the basement, huddled over glue guns in the dimly lit room creating Christmas magic for our friends and family. It also just made me happy they have that spot to be creative. We creative types need that. And it inspired me to make craft carts for them. I took a used kitchen cabinet, added casters, painted it, added a planked top, and a pegboard on the back so they’ve got a spot to hang all their tools. It was a stash busting project in that I could pass on some cabinets that weren’t needed for their original purpose. Ten year old me would have been thrilled and it didn’t disappoint – the girls loved them and I imagine they will be put to good use for years to come.

  

Magnetic Chalkboard

This one might be my favorite. I saw various tutorials and then kind of winged it. 1 x 3’s for the frame, kreg jigged pocket holes and wood glue to connect them, I stained the frame, made chalkboard paint out of clearance black paint and unsanded grout, and D ring hangers on the back. I might have to make one for myself.  (In case you try this at home, I used a sheet of metal found in the plumbing aisle – rather than the triple the price sheet metal found otherwise.)

Desk

This was a fun project. I bought this little desk a dozen years ago at a furniture sale at the school my mom attended as a kid. I went with my aunts and we all found some fun little pieces. I used this desk for several years at my old house but I don’t have a use for it at the new place. I sanded down the old crusty paint job and decided the original desktop wasn’t good enough to keep. So I made a new planked top out of 2×12’s I had in the barn. I used the kreg jig to make pocket holes to connect the two pieces and then stained it. The 2×12’s weren’t perfect but they add to the rustic charm. I painted the bottom (same chalk paint I had made for the chalkboard) and then finished it with poly.

 

Doll high chair

Thrift store find originally. Came looking a little rough and needing some love but I loved the pretty wood scallops and knew I could rescue it (duh). I glued and nailed a few loose joints, added a tray, and painted it. I think it came out adorable. My two year old niece loved it and reported that her baby said “I like it” and “thank you.”

Bench

I used an old twin bed head board and foot board to build a bench for two small nieces. I used deck boards from my stash to build this bench and was really happy with how it turned out. I sprayed it with my Critter sprayer using outdoor paint, home mixed for a custom blue. One of the girlies who received it was thrilled, the other informed me she doesn’t like sharing and would like me to build her a doll high chair instead. Hopefully she will enjoy it in the future. I want to make one for my house now, of course.

Water Towers

My two year old nephew is a super engineer nerd in the making. I’m so proud. On the way to a family wedding this spring I explained to him about water towers and how they create a pressurized system. That was an innocent beginning to a full blown obsession. This kid loves his water towers. He regularly watches youtube videos of water tower demolition and likes to play demolition. He was using a counter height stool the other day to demolish. Naturally, he isn’t terribly careful and he makes me nervous knocking down that big stool in close proximity to his little brother. There must be something we can make!! This was a last minute addition to #makeallthethingsChristmas but turned out so great! My sister traced water towers on some 2×6″ scraps. We cut them on my dad’s bandsaw and then my dad insisted on routing the edges (I get my whole ass tendencies from someone). Far from perfect but just the thing for this small water tower enthusiast. We painted them to match some local water towers that CK loves and had just enough time for the paint to dry before we wrapped them and headed out the door.

Youth Chair

I found this youth chair at a garage sale this summer. The prices was low and some of the joints were wobbly. I pulled the wobbly joints apart, cleaned them out, and reglued and added a few screws. Spray painted it to make it look like a whole new chair. Since his baby brother needs the high chair, this chair will certainly be put to good use immediately.

Blanket

I made my Hobbit baby nephew a blanket. Typically I try to make a blanket when a baby arrives but I was six months late on this one. I used a quilting cotton on one side and a super soft fuzzy fabric on the back. Very cozy.

Jedi Robe

There I was, doing lots of wood working type projects for a bunch of the kids, but I couldn’t figure out what to do for 7 year old Andrew. So I figured I couldn’t go wrong with a Jedi robe. I’ve made a few of these in past years for other people and they are usually a big hit. Not to mention that any kind of snuggly wearable blanket seems like a great idea, right? I was just slightly nervous he’d think he got left out of the big impressive gift bandwagon. No worries! Even too big for him, he loved it! Wore it that day for the remainder of the party and wore it back again the next day for the next party. Glad he’s enjoying it! He also discovered how much faster he can get down the slide at my parent’s house in a jedi robe. You can make it practically to the wall!

There it is! The #makeallthethingsChristmas round up. I’m glad I did it but I make no promises for how next year will look.

The State of the Crazy

You know you might be in overwhelmed-with-everything-in-life mode when you realize you desperately want a puppy and a month off work and to rip the paneling off the dining room walls WHILE there’s a Christmas-project-splosion covering the entire first floor of the house. That is the state of affairs in my head right now and it isn’t pretty.  (Clarification: I don’t actually want a puppy – the one I have is quite enough – but when life is too much, a puppy always seems like a good idea. I DO want a month of work and to rip paneling off my dining room walls just not actually in the middle of a Christmas projectathon).

In the meantime, here’s a trend I can get behind: blanket ladders.

 

Do you know just how many blanket ladder tutorials you can find everywhere?? And how easy they would be to make? Let’s not speak of the aforementioned Christmas-project-splosion, I WANT TO MAKE BLANKET LADDERS! I want one in every room. Well okay, maybe not every room just the living room, sewing room, bathroom, and both bedrooms. MAKE ALL THE BLANKET LADDERS.

 

Yes, it is blanket season in Michigan. Today it was 7 degrees (and feeling much colder) when I went out to feed the chickens and collect their frozen eggs. And I sit in front of the door at work — so whenever someone comes or goes, all the warm air vacates the space around my desk. This is the season of being cold all the time and thus the seasons of blankets.

 

I actually want the blanket ladder in the bathroom to serve as a rustic towel rack. And now that I say that, I’m picturing myself huddled on the toilet under a blanket and amusing myself to no end. Of course, replacing the existing towel rack with a towel blanket ladder is a dangerous project spiral just waiting for a place to happen… because that bathroom…  The toilet is mounted low and crooked (but does have a functional toilet seat now after waiting 3 years to spend a whopping $6 for a new  one). The door swelled or shifted or something and doesn’t close properly anymore. The walls are crooked and the drywall job was terrible and there are cracks to spackle which will mean repainting. The caulk all needs to be redone everywhere… I want to take out the window and turn that into open shelving. Okay, so maybe we should scratch the bathroom blanket ladder off the list because ain’t nobody got time for all that right now!

 

Still, that leaves me desperate to make four blanket ladders. And all the tutorials on Pinterest say they are “easy”. Seriously. Check these things out.  What could go wrong?

 

You should also know that when it is this cold out, none of the blankets will be on the ladders. They will be layered on the bed, and sprawled all over chairs and couches. But there would be some adorable and rustic looking blanket ladders there, if I ever needed a place to sling a blanket or twelve before company came over.

 

There you have it: the state of crazy over here. You’re welcome. I’ll be sure to check back when those blanket ladders materialize.

Fresh Eggs

eggsThis is it, friends. This is why you have a coop full of stanky birds that you faithfully feed, water, and save from the jowls of death to the peril of your own dignity. This is why you spend hours building them a run and letting hooligans make the biggest mess of your life painting it. This is it.

I got home from vacation back at the end of July to find one lone egg in the nesting box, right where it belongs. Amazing.

That next morning I went to Mass and came home and decided to have fried eggs because fresh eggs, friends, fresh eggs. Or egg in my case. It is pretty small (teenage hens). When I cracked it open, it had a double yolk. Double yolk for my first egg! Surely this must mean some stroke of good luck is going to befall me.

For about a week, every day I found one small egg in that nesting box. The next week it increased to two, and the following week we made it up to three. Three white eggs per day (one egg from each of the white hens). Still rather small but getting larger. The black chickens will lay brown eggs so I know they haven’t started laying yet. Hopefully they will soon. Once this thing really gets going, I’m going to have a pretty serious egg problem.

Six weeks in, I’ve now had four double yolk eggs – now I am really looking for some good luck to befall me! In the meantime, I’m over here eating eggs grown in my very own backyard. Living the dream.

Operation Chicken — round 2

Spring2012 012[4]You may remember my last go at chickens in 2012 back in my city backyard with the awful neighbors. Mmm hmm. You may also remember that the only chickens that survived that experiment were the roosters I gave my mom (and I’m pretty sure they were eventually eaten by coyotes). Never one to learn lessons from a gruesome past, this spring I started thinking about chickens again.

Let me be very clear. There are people in this world that love chickens. My mom, for one. I am not such a person. What I love are farm fresh eggs, compost for the garden, and the idea of MAKE ALL THE THINGS. Having chickens means we can make eggs on site– and I like that a lot, even if the actual egg makers are not my favorite kind of critter.

So a few weeks back I started wondering if I should try chickens again. The #1 chicken killer in my life (Maggie) has passed on and this would be a good time to teach the puppy how to NOT kill chickens (gotta start them young). Suzie is certainly very capable of killing things but she’s getting older and tired and maybe, just maybe, we can work on her as well. (We’ll test that old dog, new trick theory). Regardless, there is no way this can be as bad as the in the city experiment with the neighbor situation and the kid next door breaking into my yard and messing with things.

I am also not considering free range chickens but rather chickens that live and graze in a coop. Yup, I am one of those cruel people who think containment is the way to do chickens and I feel pretty good about it (I also think it raises their chance of survival by a huge margin which raises the possibility of getting eggs out of them which is the whole point).

So there I was thinking about getting chicks again and concluding that I should probably get my head checked when my dear friend called “I’m getting chicks!! Is that crazy??” Her kids have longed for pets and raising chicks for a few weeks in the basement felt like a good trial run at pets for them. Awesome. I told her I had been considering trying chickens again and would happily take the chicks when they were too big for the basement. Brilliant.

Her kids told me all about them and their names. Are you ready for this? One of them is named Daisy, after my dog Daisy. That’s right. Suddenly I’m not sure there is any way for this to go well… and yet, we’re going to give it a try. Why not, right??

I’m picking up my old coop (that has been used by two different families in the last two years and is now vacant). We’ll be moving the chicks over this weekend. Stay tuned on this next adventure….

In case you want to read up on my last attempts at chicken keeping:

Dog Crate Table

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DSC_1584This is one of those home projects that is entirely about embracing the reality of my life. It isn’t Pinterest or magazine worthy. It simply accommodates my life, in all of it’s glory (note the sarcasm). I am person that lives with two large dogs. This means dog bowls in the laundry room, dog hair in the corners, dog toys littered on the floor, and dog crates that need to be part of my living space. Big unsightly dog crates are not my favorite part of dog ownership but they are a very real and necessary part of my life.

oldhouseAt my old house, I found an ikea cabinet door in the clearance section that served as a crate table to hold my house plants. It was never perfect but we got by with it.

In this house, I have two crates that are part of my every day living and I’ve found the best way to incorporate them into my living space is to hide them so I don’t feel like I live in a kennel. So the crates are behind the couch in the living room and I put plants on top of them. It works out rather nicely because the doors open and close and there’s space on either side of the couch for the dogs to get in their beds. And best of all they are nearly invisible.

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Crates without table top

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Crates with unfinished boards laying across there

Last fall I bought the 2x10s I needed to create a dog crate table for this space and had them just laying across the crates waiting to be connected and finished. Note: Next time, go ahead and make the table when you buy the lumber. Otherwise you may get really frustrated that they did not warp evenly and make finishing the table much more complicated.

This past Saturday was gorgeous out – mid sixties and sunny. I needed a project that I could work on outside (while the puppy ran around the yard like nuts and the old dog hid under my project for protection). I dragged the boards out to the deck, got out all my tools and finally did the project.

  • Measure boards – Since the dog crates would supply the base for this table, I wanted it to overhang on the sides by at least a half inch. I cut the 2×10 boards 1.5 inches short of the overall length so I could put a 1×2 at the end for a more finished edge.
  • Connect long boards boards with kreg jig pocket holes on the back side (I put pocket holes and screws every 8 inches).  This was my first project using my kreg jig and I love it! Admittedly, I made a couple rookie mistakes but wow, I love it!
  • Nail 1×2 end boards with ryobi nailer to hide rough edge
  • Sand the whole table top down
  • Apply wood putty in the cracks (If I was going to paint this, I would have used caulk to close the seams and hide the imperfections. As it was, I would be staining it and wanted the wood putty to blend in. So I put wood putty in the seams and then sanded again once it was dry).
  • Wipe down table with tack cloth to remove all dust
  • Apply wood conditioner
  • Apply first coat of stain + poly (letting them dry completely between coats)
  • Move inside to avoid the rain
  • Sand lightly, dust with tack cloth
  • Apply second coat of stain + poly and let dry completely (I gave it 24 hours before putting anything on top of the table)
  • Hide the dog crates
  • Add plants
  • Check that one off the list!

IMG_0088 As I mentioned earlier, the boards did warp unevenly over the last six months and the table top is far from perfect but I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.  (And yes I realize I have a houseplant problem).

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Lamp #2

That first lamp, while adorable (in my humble opinion), was too short for that space. So it is going upstairs to the bedside dresser and I am still hunting for the perfect living room lamp for this side table.

 

Lighting in my living room has been an ongoing challenge. I put in a ceiling fan box two years ago this spring but the ceiling fan is still in it’s box in the basement waiting to be installed (perhaps this weekend?). I’ve been using these two Walmart torcheire lamps since I moved in and they are honestly just in the way. The light is nice  but the fact that the puppy and often a visiting toddler knock them over is less than ideal. I have two thrifted lamps that I bought awhile ago and I’m thinking of trading them out for the torch lamps.

That leaves the table next to the couch lamp-less and in need of some lighting. Thus my newly found obsession for upcycling lamps. I think I should start a side business for upcycled lighting called “Lamps after Dark”. Thank you, I think it is brilliant.

Sometimes we crate this adorable and energetic puppy (after attempting to wear her out):
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Then Suzie and I spend a bit of time pursuing our own hobbies in peace:

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DSC_1745I started by taking the lamp apart because that seemed easier than taping off the metal on the top and bottom (I am so very lazy about taping). I just unscrewed the bottom and it all came apart easily.

DSC_1751 I painted it with two coats of homemade chalk paint. Waited for it to (mostly) dry.Traced the stencil with a pencil. Painted the leaves in white acrylic paint and the flowers in leftover latex from painting the front door. Easy peasy.

Voila!

 

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The deets on this reno:
Lamp $5.99 at Goodwill
Lamp shade $6.99 at Goodwill (Naturally now that it is finished I’m not wild about the lamp shade so I’ll be scoping for a cheap replacement)
Homemade Chalk paint (I used a recipe with the baking soda because I couldn’t find my unsanded grout)
Paint Sample – Lowes (used approx 1/4 of a 99 cent sample)
Stencil (from Nu2u thrift store $0.50)IMG_0143

Creative Moments

Over the winter, I’ve had some bigger projects going on (living room trim, sewing room, staying warm, etc) and I’ve made room for some little insignificant projects. I consider these my mental health projects. They help me decompress from stress and do something creative when life is too much. I will say that a couple dollars and a bit of creativity goes a long way toward saving my sanity sometimes.
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DSC_1578This lamp is a perfect example.
Purchased for 2.50 at thrift store (half off)
Painted with a couple coats of MMS milk paint in Luckett’s green with bonding agent (from my stash).
Stenciled the leaves on (stencil was a thrift store find $0.50) with MMS milk paint in Grain Sack.
Sanded to distress a few spots
Finished with Valspar chalk paint sealing wax
Lamp shade from Meijer $10
I got a cute lamp out of the deal for about $14 (if you factor in everything) and spent an hour doing something theraputically creative. Clearly a win. It looks a little short for the table I planned to use it on, so I’m going to use it in the bedroom where I need a bedside table. And it means I can scour the thrift stores for another Ugly Duckling to make over.
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Homemade Christmas coming my way

Pardon while I brag about some of my favorite people… sometimes I can’t help myself.

1419My nephew Geno made me this awesome frame for Christmas. (Well, he bought the frame and then embellished it). He had the idea and gathered the pieces, but admitted that he had Lucy glue everything together because “she’s better with a glue gun.” Not surprising somehow. The frame came with a note in it saying it was for my best camping pictures (of the kids camping at my house). I sure love my camping gang! So I printed up this awesome picture of the camping gang on Stick Day last spring and it is now hanging in the newly painted sewing room. And yes, this was my favorite gift because it comes straight from the heart and crafty little people that I love. DSC_2321

I also got homemade Christmas fudge (ish). It tasted like chocolate chips melted with candy cane bits on top (from Lucy). And Jane made the pups their own baggies of homemade dog treats. Always a favorite at our house.

My other favorite gift was the wise men for my Willow Tree nativity. I LOVE IT. I mean yes, I put it on my Christmas list, but I’m super excited to have gotten it. Now I want to build a stable to go with the whole set… (#ifyougiveamouseacookie)