The Skillet Caprese Pizza

We typically do pizza on Friday night since that’s how I grew up (holla pizza and movie night! Does your family do that?) but this week I wanted to actually make our pizza. First, I utilized my people resources via Facebook and got two good options: a recipe from a friend and the suggestion to by the raw pizza dough from my local pizzeria. But then I found a recipe on Pinterest (duh) that would allow me to cook the pizza in a cast iron skillet in under ten minutes! Well, I followed their dough recipe and even though it was supposed to rise by double its size….needless to say, it didn’t. By Saturday morning it had risen but it smelled very odd so I said, screw it and we went to our local pizzeria and got the dough for a large pie.

Ingredients
– Pizza dough (whether you use your own recipe of by some)
– Pizza sauce (we used Ragu)

Toppings – since I wanted to do a beautiful caprese pizza I used the toppings below. But you can do whatever you want!
– Buffalo mozzarella
– Basil
– Prosciutto
Or!
– Shredded mozzarella?
– Pepperoni?
– Whatever you want!

Directions
1. Preheat the broiler on your oven.
2. Lightly grease your skillet. Heat up your skillet for 10 minutes, if it smokes then turn it down.
3. Roll out your dough to the size of your skillet. Mine was being weird so if it’s not perfect, don’t sweat it! I did and it wasn’t worth it.
4. Transfer dough into skillet, and put on sauce and cheese.
5. Let it sit for 3-4 minutes, check the bottom to time. Once it’s getting firmer/more “cooked pizza crust-y” then it’s time to transfer to the oven.
6. In the oven under the broiler leave it for 2-3 minutes on one side, then flip the skillet and do 2-3 minutes on the other side. The cheese should be getting golden brown and bubbly when it’s ready.
7. Take it out and then assemble to toppings, such as bail and prosciutto in my case. It was delicious!

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The First Use of Annie Sloan Chalk Paint

One of my plans to save money for our house was to re-allocate furniture. My boyfriend had a beautiful bedroom set, but it was a black laminate. It went perfectly with his decor, but black just didn’t incorporate into our (read: my ;)) bedroom plans. Since we (I) wanted to use my white dresser and lingerie chest for our bedroom I planned out how to put one of his two dressers and nightstands into each guest room. Since black still wasn’t in the plans I decided to use Annie Sloan chalk paint since it’s supposed to cover laminate surfaces and without any sanding! That’s what sold me, even with the exorbitant price. For the dresser pictured I used French Linen. I aaaaaalmost got everything covered but I only got one coat on one side if the nightstand.

My boyfriend started on one dresser while I was at work one day and the results freaked both of us out as the paint kept beading together. I was worried we were SOL and had wasted money on it, but he kept on and luckily it worked out for us. I was mostly surprised that with all the articles I read I hadn’t come across this in any of them, though! So I decided to depict my process with the chalk paint so people can be prepared.

The start, drawers pulled out
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First coat
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Close-up first coat
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Second coat
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After three coats on the base (mirror has two) plus a few touches here and there
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The pup looking for his kitty sister so he can antagonize her🙂
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Some more examples via the drawers. One coat vs two
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The final product
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The Million Dollar Wreath

I made this wreath simply because it was so beautiful and I just needed it. We don’t necessarily need a wreath for our door, but I used the excuse that we should have one. BUT unless you have a big chunk of extra change to spend or an “in” somewhere with cheap fake apples, I encourage you not to make this. It cost me roughly $150 – and that was $150 I did not really have to put towards this! But I was too deep in and would have wasted the money already spent if I just stopped. My boyfriend is not the hugest fan of this wreath, and he is the one who dubbed it The Million Dollar Wreath since it felt like every two days I would announce that I was out of apples and needed more. HOWEVER it’s absolutely gorgeous and turned out so well we decided to hang it over our TV in the space we’ve been trying to fill! Now we’ll be able to get $150 worth of enjoyment and viewing pleasure🙂

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Things You Need
– 4 bags big apples plus 2 additional singular big apples
– 6 bags small apples
– 11 inch flat foam wreath
– Burlap ribbon
– Fake grass/moss
– Lots of hot glue sticks

Directions
1. Cut some burlap into roughly 8 inch long strips. The length doesn’t matter very much, you just want it have enough to warp around the styrofoam wreath a few times.
2. Glue your burlap onto the wreath. When you wrap make sure it’s tight and flat. The purpose of this is so your apples have something to adhere to when you glue them on. Make sure every spot is covered, I even wrapped it with two layers to be sure it was good to go.
3. Break out your apples! I started with my big ones and placed them around on the wreath first to eyeball how I liked them, then started gluing.

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4. Keep gluing all your big ones, and then start adding your small apples. In the picture below I was 2 big apples short of having the outer ring completed so I started the small ones on the completed side.
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6. Once you’ve covered all the burlap around the wreath start building it up. With some dimension it should look very circular rather than awkwardly wavy.
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6. The last thing you will do is stick the fake grass/moss into the holes. This was pretty tedious and because I’m somewhat of a perfectionist I meticulously went around the wreath and shoved moss in every.single.hole. The way I made sure the moss got attached was pretty simple – I would push or aim the nozzle of my hot glue gun into the hole and then shove the moss down in there. Sometimes I had to use some tools to help me shove it in when the hole was smaller than my finger. Pretty tedious, but the result makes it look much fuller and thoroughly perfected! Plus expensive.
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7. Before we hang it I’m going to blast it with my blow dryer to get some of the loose moss and hot glue, and then I’m going to do a quick spray with some clear spray just to keep everything set!
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The Skinny Orange Chicken

One thing that has taken a dramatic upturn is my cooking. Usually for dinner I ate a head of lettuce with some chicken and balsamic and oil…like almost every night. I love it! But that’s not going to fill a grown man, nor would he appreciate eating every single day. I have been all over Pinterest grabbing recipes, and this one made it to my cookbook for saving! I found it here: http://addapinch.com/cooking/skinny-orange-chicken-recipe/#axzz2pfHUD34V

Skinny Orange Chicken
Ingredients

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil
¼ cup chicken stock
3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon orange zest
¼ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup soy sauce
1½ teaspoons Sriracha sauce
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sesame seeds for garnish, optional
Broccoli

Instructions
1. Melt coconut oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add in chicken pieces and cook until cooked through and browned, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside.
2. While chicken is cooking, stir together chicken stock, honey or maple syrup, garlic, orange zest, orange juice, soy sauce, Sriracha sauce, ginger and red pepper flakes. 3. Pour into heated skillet once chicken has been removed and reduce to low heat.
4. Cook, stirring often, until sauce has been reduced and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and pour over chicken.
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5. To serve, spoon chicken over a bed of broccoli and then spoon on additional sauce. Top with sesame seeds, if desired.
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If your sauce does not thicken as desired, you may add the following to assist in the thickening: mix 1 – 2 teaspoons of cornstarch with the same amount of water to form a paste. Stir into the sauce well to thicken.

The Entertainment Center

We had some very big purchases we had to make for the new place (couches, washer dryer, mattress..) and buying a big entertainment center was not in the budget. We went to the home of some friends one night for some drinks and I lOvEd the way they decorated their home. Their entertainment center was exactly what we needed in our space, and they mentioned they had gotten it at the Habitat for Humanity Restore, which I’d never heard of before! So I looked it up online and there is one not 10 minutes away! I love Raleigh❤. So I popped over and found a big beast that I knew could be turned into a beauty. It was only $35, too! So I hauled it home and it cluttered up my teeny tiny townhouse for weeks until we brought it out to my boyfriend’s house and did the work in his garage.

At the store!

At the store!

1. The first thing I did was cut off the awful turret like stumps. This was difficult because we only had a small jigsaw. A longer blade Sawzall would have been much better, but we don’t have one…yet!😉 I had to cut around the edges and jiggle things along to get in. This resulted in uneven cuts on the stumps.
2. Since the stump tops weren’t level I had to break out the belt sander. I tried with the palm sander but that was VERY slow going. I sanded until it looked level and then my boyfriend’s best friend checked it and it was pretty much spot on. I’m awesome, don’t worry.
3. Then I switched back to the palm sander and got going on the surfaces of the table. It didn’t need to be perfect as I knew my Zinsser 1-2-3 primer/sealer would be great. I used that on the table and chairs I did so I knew it would cover everything. I went through 2 cans of the spray paint cover.

Sanded

Sanded

Primed

Primed

4. I painted it with some leftover paint I had from when I previously refurbished my dresser, I used a small roller I had and some tiny brushes for the crevices.
5. Then I went out and bought some sanding blocks to distress it. I bought medium so I didn’t totally ruin it, but that was a mistake. I should have done more research, maybe I should have used steel wool, because it was super tedious and difficult and I gave up after only distressing the edges.

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6. We needed to poly it since it would have a bunch of equipment on it. Unfortunately, the poly we used turned it yellow in some places! That was a huge bummer after all the work! But it wasn’t bad and we were lucky it was mostly yellow on the back.
 

BONUS PICS!
While I was working on the entertainment center my man was working on the headboard he built for me! He did everything himself!

Sanding!

Sanding!

Stained!

Stained!

Final beautiful product, complete with kitty :)

Final beautiful product, complete with kitty🙂

The Pine Cone Method

Hi everyone! Sorry for the long delay!! It’s been a pretty crazy few months. My Marine is no longer my Marine, he’s now my civilian! And he’s also my roommate! We moved in together a few weeks ago and have been crazy with making the place our own. One of the items on my never-ending list of things to do to get this place complete is to fill a wire basket on a tiered shelf in our hallway with pinecones! I bought some scented ones but 1. They can be expensive and 2. He didn’t want to be living in a house that smelled overbearingly of cinnamon so I decided to mix the scented pinecones with some I found out in the forest near our house and spray paint them gold for a nice effect. Cheap and effective! So we went out with my new fur baby, his little wirey haired dauschund, Alfie. We picked up a bunch of pine cones, but we’ve had a lot of rain over the past week so they were very wet. When I got home I followed the following instructions.

Directions
1. Collect your pine cones.
2. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
3. Arrange the cones on a baking sheet in a single layer, don’t overcrowd if the cones are very wet or tightly closed.

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3. Bake the cones for 20-25 minutes really just bake them until they are open. For me it took like 80 minutes for them to open! The wet-er they are the tighter the pine cones close, so it will take longer.
4. After they’re open and done baking it’s good to spray them with some clear coat spray paint to give them some support as they’re pretty fragile.

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The Pots and Pans!

My boyfriend and I live a little while apart from each other and on the way there is a big red barn with lots of…well really lots of junk out front. It’s an antique store out in the middle of the country, and that is waaaay up my alley. My boyfriend and I went last weekend to do some furniture shopping, mostly browse, but we were blown away with the quality of the stuff they had when we walked in. The inside was way different than what they had sitting out front! Unfortunately we didn’t find any furniture to take with us, but when I went into the knick-knack room I found a cast iron dutch over and then a maaaasive skillet. Both are huge but were in pretty crappy condition. But I was not deterred because I had seen a how-to site recently (http://www.ibelieveicanfry.com/2010/12/reconditioning-re-seasoning-cast-iron.html) and it really didn’t look too hard. I got some flack and skepticism for purchasing them in that state, but I knew I’d show everyone!

Items needed:
– Heavy duty oven cleaner
– Gloves
– Steel wool
– Garbage bags
– White vinegar
– Lard

Directions
1. Take your cast iron items and cover completely in the over cleaner. You definitely need to wear gloves during this part, oven cleaner will burn your skin. I ignored it at the very end because I just wanted to get the bag tied up – oh, man. That was a mistake. I burned the crap out of my hands, they were dried and peeling for days.

How they looked at purchase

How they looked at purchase

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Original inside of the skillet

Original bottom

Original bottom

Dutch oven before - notice the massive discoloration of the lid and pot

Dutch oven before – notice the massive discoloration of the lid and pot

2. Once the item is coated, put it in the garbage bag and seal tightly. The oven cleaner starts working immediately!! I kept them in my dining area because I don’t have a garage and I didn’t want to leave them outside on my balcony for fear of rusting or doing more damage to it in the southern humidity. The site recommends leaving them in the bag for 2-3 or a week for super grimy items.

Oven cleaner doing its job!

Oven cleaner doing its job!

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3. I left them in the bag for 3 days. Then I removed them, cleaned them off with warm water (this was super gross but sooooo awesome seeing the change), and dried off with paper towels. They all needed another couple days of soaking so I reapplied the oven cleaner, put them back in the garbage bags, and let them sit for another 2 days.

The difference on the pot after the first round, halfway cleaned.

The difference on the pot after the first round, halfway cleaned.

Lid after the first round, still some rust. About to be coated again.

Lid after the first round, still some rust. About to be coated again.

4. Once they were ready I took them out again, cleaned them off with warm water, wiped them off with paper towels, and put them in a bin to soak in a bath of water and white distilled vinegar, 2:1 water to vinegar. The site recommends leaving them in for 30-60 minutes and I left each in for 60 minutes.
5. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F so it’s ready to go immediately.

This is the skillet, I wrapped the handle in wet paper towels so it wouldn't rust.

This is the skillet, I wrapped the handle in wet paper towels so it wouldn’t rust.

6. This is the hard but fun part. When you take it out of the soak, it’s time to scrub with the steel wool. Scrub every inch of it! This takes some time and isn’t very easy to do. I tried to keep it wet at all times because I could see some rust beginning. Once you’re sure you’ve scrubbed it perfectly then clean it with soap and water, dry it off, and transfer immediately to the pre-heated oven. Make sure it’s upside down!

After the steel wool scrub down. I cannot emphasize how annoying those spikes were to clean.

After the steel wool scrub down. I cannot emphasize how annoying those spikes were to clean.

After the steel wool scrub down.

After the steel wool scrub down.

7. Bake the item at 250 for 15 minutes then increase to 500 and bake for 45 minutes more. Then turn off the oven and remove the item. Coat with lard, I dipped a paper towel into the lard and then coated it on. It’s ok if smokes a little when you do it the first time. With a clean paper towel wipe off any excess. This step smells super bad. As my boyfriend put it “vomit inducing bad.” I don’t think it was thaaaat bad, but it’s sure not pleasant.

First coating of lard.

First coating of lard.

Now return to the oven, always upside-down so the lard doesn’t pool in the bottom. Every 10-15 minutes wipe off excess, and every 30 minutes do a new coating of lard. After an hour open the door for a few minutes to finish cooling the oven.
8. Now it should be done!!

Done!

Done!

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I couldn’t get a few flecks off no matter how hard I scrubbed, but it’s the bottom so I wasn’t too bothered.

14-1I did make one major mistake and that was try to do two pieces at the same time without realizing the baking steps. Since the oven needs to cool with the cast iron item, you can’t do the second with a cold oven and can’t cool the first with a hot one! But I was stuck since the second was already soaking, so I decided I’d have to wing it. I did the skillet first, and as you can see there is some color variation on the bottom and on the inside. It’s not much of a problem for me really since it’s not super bad, but it’s a lesson to learn from!

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Added this one to show the color without any reflection from the table.

Added this one to show the color without any reflection from the table.

The Best Muffins Ever

I have been in a weird frame of mind where I just want it to be fall. I don’t know why! I think I just miss leggings and boots. And because fall in North Carolina is just the best! My friend and I were watching Farmhouse Rules this past weekend, as us old people do on a Saturday morning, and watching Nancy in her faaabulous historic home make mulled wine compelled me to bake something fall related. So I turned to a trusted recipe, http://www.cookingclassy.com/2013/10/gingerbread-doughnut-muffins/, that I knew would satisfy my unseasonable desire, at least for the day. PS – still want fall.

The Gingerbread Donut Muffins
Ingredients
Batter

– 3 cups all-purpose flour
– 2 tsp baking powder
– 1/4 tsp baking soda
– 3/4 tsp salt
– 1 tbsp ground ginger
– 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
– 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
– 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
– 1/4 cup vegetable oil, divided
– 1 tsp orange zest
– 2 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
– 2 large eggs
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp molasses
– 1 1/4 cups milk
Glaze
– 2 cups powdered sugar
– 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 Tbsp fresh orange juice or milk KB Note: I recommend milk. With the orange zest it gets to be too orange-y.
– 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and butter a 12-hole muffin tin.
2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg for 30 seconds, set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip brown sugar with butter, 1 Tbsp vegetable oil and the orange zest on medium-high speed until mixture becomes pale and fluffy.
4. Blend in remaining 3 tbsp vegetable oil and the applesauce. Add in eggs one at a time and mix just until combined after each addition while adding in 1 tsp vanilla with second egg. Stir in molasses.
5. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and fold into batter with a rubber spatula, while scraping sides and bottom of bowl (don’t over-mix, batter should be lumpy and a few streaks of flour are fine before going on to next addition) then add 1/2 of the milk and fold just until nearly combined, then repeat process and end mixing in last 1/3 of the flour mixture and fold just until until combined (batter should be lumpy).
6. Divide batter among greased muffin cups, filling each well nearly full.
7. Bake in preheated oven 8 minutes then reduce oven temperture to 375 and continue to bake 8 – 11 minutes longer until toothpick inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached.
8. Remove from oven and run a knife around muffins (if you greased properly they should just slide out) to remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly.
9.When muffins are slightly warm, dip into glaze or spread over tops (I have tried both and I prefer spreading with a spoon by pouring the glaze on top. If you dip you run the risk of pieces breaking off), then return to cooling rack and allow glaze to set at room temperature.
10. Store in an airtight container.
For the glaze:
1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, vanilla and enough orange juice/milk to make a smooth glaze.

I apologize for only one picture, I was too involved in the baking to think about my phone! They also look better once removed from the dripping plate.

I apologize for only one picture, I was too involved in the baking to think about my phone! They also look better once removed from the dripping plate.

The First Expedition with Kale

I have to admit, as much as I love lettuce and salads, I don’t really enjoy kale. I find it to be just too much – too big, too bitter, too trendy! But I want to love it for its health benefits, and since I’m trying to be really good with my diet, I bought it in a fit of “I need to buy as much healthy foods as possible!” shopping one day. And then it sat in my refrigerator. Thank God it took forever to get wilt-y. I finally found a kale chip recipe I was excited to try, and truthfully it was a great success. They were delicious and honestly filling enough as a meal! Salad on the go? But it also introduced me to SMOKED PAPRIKA. How do I love thee, smoked paprika? Let me count the ways! I LOOOOOVE this spice now, and I am Googling recipes with it just so I can use it more. It’s for sure going into my chili recipe from here on out.

Zesty Kale Chips
Ingredients

– 1 large bunch of kale
– 1/4 cup tahini KB Note: I shop at Food Lion that straddles suburban and country areas so if I can find tahini, so can you! Just look over in the Asian/Indian/international foods section where you might find soy sauce or the Patak’s Indian jarred sauces.
– 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
– 1/4 cup nutritional yeast KB Note: I made a second batch without the yeast (since I used it all!) and they came out just as well albeit less crispy.
– 1 tsp cumin
– 1/4 tsp smoked paprika KB Note: I LOVE THIS SPICE
– 1/2 tsp chili powder
– 1 tsp roasted garlic powder
– 1/2 tsp sea salt

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 300F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Remove the leaves from the stems of the kale (using the same method you would if you were de-stemming collard greens) and tear the leaves into large pieces. I unfortunately made mine too small and thus when they got too much sauce on them they were still wet coming out of the oven. Make sure the kale is dry before applying the sauce.
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4. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
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5. Pour sauce over kale and mix until evenly coated, you’ll probably need to use your hands to get it all over.
6. Spread the kale out evenly onto the prepared baking sheet into a single layer trying not to overlap (or else it won’t crisp!)
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7. Bake for roughly 10 minutes, rotate the pan, and bake for another 12 minutes more until the kale begins to crisp up.
8. Remove from oven and let the chips cool slightly before enjoying. Just a warning, these don’t store well. They lose their crispness.

The Mother’s Day Gift

I’ve been really wanting to get back into some projects rather than just recipes (btw, made a baller cilantro citrus BBQ pork chop dinner recently!) but haven’t had the need to actually make anything. And I sure don’t have the room to keep unnecessary items in my home! But I came across something that seemed perfect, a hanging basket made by one of the DIY bloggers I follow on Facebook, http://www.addicted2decorating.com/easy-inexpensive-diy-pieced-wood-hanging-flower-basket.html. It would make the perfect Mother’s Day gift! I kind of want to make one for myself, this was super fun to do!! And it only came out to be around $20 and only 3 hours of time total.

Materials Needed:
• 8 or 10 ft 2×4 KB Note: depending on how big you want to make the diameter you will need more pieces
• 3/4″ or 1″ brad nails (depending on the gauge of your nail gun)
• Wood glue
• 2 Screw eyes
• 2 S hooks
• Chain (I got 2 ft)
• Coco liner
• Circle saw
• Nail gun
• Palm sander
Optional
• Spray paint (2 cans)
• Sealant

Instructions
1. If you are using an 8 ft 2×4 cut the entire piece into 1/2 inch thick pieces.

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The contraption my friend rigged up to keep things moving fast.

The directions I used said she used 137 pieces, but I used more than that due to my diameter.
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If you’re using a 10 ft then go with probably 160 pieces. I don’t know how many I ended up with as my friend who did the cutting just went for it after we hit 140. I’m glad he did, though, because I only had 2 pieces left over!
2. Lightly sand all the edges of the 1/2 pieces. I used my palm sander and thank goodness I did because this was super tedious.

This part was not fun.

This part was not fun.


3. This is where it got kind of tricky for me. I didn’t have any kind of radius to trace, nor any kind of platform to use. SO I used some redneck logic. I used my patio, created a center point, and instead of going with the original direction’s radius 19 inches I went with 20 so that it would be 10 on each side of my center point. I then placed a “wood chip” on the ground 10 inches on either side of the center point, and then did the same thing on the other side forming a compass like shape and repeated between those 4 pieces. I eyeballed it for the most part honestly. I used 12 on the first row.
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4. On the second row I used 11 wood chips since you’re creating a step effect. I first checked and did a dry run of the placement by placing them evenly on top of the first row. Once I had the right idea I put wood glue on each edge and then used my nail gun and 1 inch brad nails and nailed each side as well.
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5. Even though I used more wood chips than Kristi did on hers I followed her plan and did the same method and covered the levels evenly until the fifth row, using 1 less wood chip on each level. Always using wood glue and brad nails on each side.
6. On the fifth row I followed her directions and started to create the basket by moving the bottom wood chips so that they covered only half the wood chip below it. On the fifth row I only did this with three of the wood chips, the bottom center piece and the piece on either side of it. On the sixth row I then moved it up so that it was the center piece and two pieces on either side.
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7. I continued to do the half-cover method until I realized my wood chips were dwindling fast and I still had another half side to do! Conveniently my wood chips were starting to touch at the corners as the angle was getting smaller and I thought it was a good spot to stop the basket effect. At the end I did 8 levels on each side.
8. I then flipped it over and started on the other side, following the same methods as the first side. I put some extra 2x4s I had under the top of the basket handle to add some stability. Be careful if your surface isn’t level when nailing the pieces at the bottom of the basket as it might rock and mess up your shot with the nail gun.
9. Once that’s done, marvel at it for a while! It’s pretty cool!
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10. Then drill some pilot holes at the top for the eye hooks, and screw them in and attach the chain with the S hooks.
11. I wanted to add some color and cover the weird yellow tint of the 2×4 and spray painted a color that would go with my parents’ house. I didn’t seal it because…I’m cheap and this needed to stay under $20. I sprayed the crap out of this thing to make sure all the nooks and crannies were covered. Place your coco liner in the bottom of the basket (you may have to cut it to size like I did).
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