The First Venture Into Distressing

One thing you’ll learn about me is that I LOVE LOVE LOVE the distressed look. It’s my most favorite. It’s that shabby, country chic, with some antique French provincial feel that just makes my heart melt. The two pictures I moved to make room for the mirror were both dark brown and that was not going to match, so since I was painting already, I decided why not paint the frames too. And I had a stroke of genius, and said to myself, let’s distress them!! They were already stained, so there’s one step already cut out.

I brought them out with the shelving pieces that I was painting today, and got down to work. The weather was finally nice and not muggy even though we’re now in Carolina Monsoon Season, aka summer. The pictures are really stuck in the frames due to their foam backing so I opted to tape the glass instead of trying to pry them out. I have painted frames before without priming and they turned out fine so I skipped that step.

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These frames were purchased at Walmart for $5 a while back, and I did not anticipate the stain do to what it did…but it didn’t surprise me.

Here's a little comparison to what color it should be (left) and what it was turning out to be.

Here’s a little comparison to what color it should be (left) and what it was turning out to be.

Another example of how bad the one frame was. Each has one coat of paint.

Another example of how bad the one frame was. Each has one coat of paint.

The stain went nuts when it reacted with the paint, and I can’t tell whether priming them would have helped or not. The paint turned pink from the stain – and one frame was SO bad that I just threw it out. I had an extra frame that semi-matches the tabletop so I put the print into that one, and I figure it’ll be ok until it drives me crazy (already happening, by the way). I put 3-4 coats of paint on the frame that turned out ok, and let it dry.

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I have done some very light research on distressing, so I knew enough to make sure the all edges were sanded down. I did this with a medium grit piece of sandpaper that I had. I didn’t want it to look too distressed, just lightly, so I didn’t do too much. I still did my happy dance when I saw the completed look I was going for!

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This took several hours since I had to watch several coats of paint dry, but cost nothing since I used things I had already!

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The Southern Coterie Sweet Tea

I never liked sweet tea until I moved down South, and that’s probably because it tastes totally different up North. I still won’t drink “Yankee” sweet tea. And I’ll be honest, Bojangles sweet tea is a huge weakness of mine. I was perusing one of my favorite sites, Southern Living’s blog “The Daily South” (which if you don’t read you should definitely get on that), and they had a post about sweet tea. I was getting antsy about figuring how to make real Southern sweet tea, and here was my perfect starting point! They even gave the recipe for Southern Coterie’s sweet tea recipe.

Ingredients

– 16 cups of water

– 4 family sized tea bags (Luzianne or Lipton)

– 1 1/2 to 2 cups of sugar

Directions

Boil water in a pot. (My pot didn’t fit all 16 cups, just 12, so I added the extra water post steeping straight into the jug.) Steep tea bags  in water for EXACTLY 6 minutes. Pour sugar into a separate container and then pour in the tea and stir.

I went out and bought a nice jug from Walmart because you know what, for the house wine of the South I want it to go into something special. $10 can go a long way at Walmart, anyways! When I poured in the sugar, it cracked me up. Just look at how much is in there! And I went with the 1 1/2 cups too!

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I set a timer to make sure the tea bags steeped for 6 minutes exactly. Then I used a cup to transfer the tea into the jug so it didn’t pour all over.

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I tasted it once it wasn’t boiling hot, and it was still a little strong for my liking (also keep in mind I am totally judging this against Bojangles tea). I added 4 more cups of water after I took the picture below, and I like it a lot more now that I cut it down. It wasn’t too sweet, just a little too strong. It could also be due to that fact that I am a black tea snob and hate Lipton in general. Should have gone with Luzianne.

tea done

Cheers, y’all!

The Stick Letter

I saw this idea on Pintrest http://hellolittlehouse.com/2012/09/my-boys-love-sticks  and I loved the idea. It goes wonderful with my country chic feel. The only problem was that I couldn’t think of how to get the letter big enough for a big piece of wall-art. I tried free-handing a letter on a moving box but that turned out pretty miserably. I did get this picture, though, and that was worth it.

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My second plan was to use an outline. So I printed out a big letter, cut it out, and traced it onto a piece of scrap wood I have.

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I used my new jigsaw (hehe) and cut around the outline. I was pretty happy with the turn out! Until I realized, “Um, wait Kate. How are you going to cut out the inserts?” I don’t know how to use a jigsaw to get through solid wood with no edge to use, so I decided that since I’m going to cover this with sticks it didn’t matter if I make a cut through the letter to cut out the insert. Well, this was still pretty difficult. Annnnd as I was cutting out the first insert, the letter broke. Ugh. So I decided whatever, roll with it. It actually made things easier anyways. Then when I moved to the second insert I just cut the top in half. Then I sanded it down and made sure everything worked out well when reassembled.

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I used wood glue to put all the pieces back together, let it dry, and then spray painted it black. I wasn’t going to put sticks on the outside or inside because that seems like an extra hassle, and I also figured this might help hide the lines.

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Once the paint dried, I brought it inside. Then I took some sticks from the pile I collected from my best friend’s backyard, and started assigning them spots on the letter.

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I might have brought home too many sticks. I took some of the smaller ones and brought them inside and assembled the sticks in the spots where I wanted them on the letter while I watched silly late-night TV.

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Then I brought the letter over to the hot glue gun and removed the pieces by section. I tried to ensure the pieces stayed in relatively the same layout as I took them off the letter. I hot glued them back on while my sweet tea brewed, and added a few extra pieces here and there when I was finished.stick done

It’ll look perfect on the shelf I’m building for my downstairs! I’m glad I spray painted it black, as well, because I have so much white/off white colors in my house that a little darker colors will be nice. Now I just have to decide how to get rid of the pile of sticks I barely made a dent in!

This cost me nothing since I used scrap wood I had, spray paint I had, free sticks, and hot glue I had. It took half a day to complete since I kept getting distracted with other crafts!

The Upcycled Vase

I’m waiting for another project to dry and decided you know what, let’s do a quick project in the meantime. I have some fake flowers in a glass vase on my fridge, but it’s always bothered me that they look so fake. I don’t have any marbles or rocks in the vase, so it looks pretty ugly. I’ve seen the idea on Pintrest a lot, and I had a TON of extra twine left over from making the curtain tiebacks. So I broke out the glue gun and got to work.

vase beginning

I started at the bottom and kept the vase turned upside down during the work, it made things easier.

vase during

It took very little time. I did consecutive rings of hot glue for the bottom three layers and for the middle just did a spot here and there, making sure the rings remained tight. When I got to the neck I resumed doing full lines of the hot glue.

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All finished! I like it a lot, and quick crafts are the best! This took all of 15-20 minutes and cost nothing since I used things I had around the house.

vase end

The Nice Gesture

My first food post! It’s almost the end of the second financial quarter, and work has been killer for my department. We’re all sorts of slammed, hence why I haven’t been posting. Things have eased up for me a tiny bit, and I wanted to do a little something nice for my colleagues. What better way is there to make everyone happy than by bringing in food? I swear this office is worse than college kids. If there is even a rumor of free food left in the kitchen it’s GONE in seconds. Last summer, the other interns and I would even go into empty conference rooms after morning meetings and scavenge for free food. Friday mornings were always sucessful due to a standing management breakfast meeting.

I went through my Pintrest food boards to find something special I wanted to present to everyone, because I believe the kind of food you make is a representation of you as a person. Not to mention there was a terrible situation this past Christmas where I big time lost the department-wide bake contest, so I also feel like I need to redeem myself. It’s still too painful to recall. Stupid overheated oven!! None of the amazing recipes I have on Pintrest were up to par with what I wanted to make, so I went to my #1 source for recipes – Paula Deen. She’s my girl. I was just browsing her site when I found the “What’s In Season” section featuring raspberries. Now, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like raspberries, so I thought this would be perfect. And it was. I found this recipe for Vanilla Bean Crepes with Marscapone Filling. Easy to make, easy to transport on my 35 minute commute, and delicious to eat. I decided to go ahead and double the recipe since I have just over  a dozen coworkers in my actual department, but we work alongside another dozen or so people who would definitely take advantage of the delectable.

Ingredients

2 (8-ounce) containers mascarpone cheese
6 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar, divided
3 vanilla beans*, split lengthwise and divided
2 eggs
1½ cups milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
Garnish: whipped cream, fresh raspberries

Directions

1. In a medium bowl, combine mascarpone cheese and ¼ cup brown sugar. Scrape seeds from 2 vanilla beans into mascarpone mixture; beat at medium speed with a mixer until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
2. In the container of a blender, combine eggs, milk, flour, salt, and remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Scrape seeds from remaining vanilla bean into egg mixture. Process until mixture is very smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. Refrigerate batter for 1 hour.
3. Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Spray skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Pour about ¼ cup batter into skillet, and quickly swirl to coat bottom of skillet. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until edges start to crisp and brown. Loosen crêpe with a spatula, and carefully turn over; cook for 30 seconds longer. Repeat procedure with remaining batter, stacking crêpes on a plate. Cover with a damp paper towel until ready to assemble.
4. Spread about 3 tablespoons mascarpone filling over each crêpe. Fold each crêpe in half twice to form a wedge. Serve with whipped cream and raspberries, if desired.
*You can substitute 2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste, divided, for the 3 vanilla beans. Use 1½ tablespoons vanilla bean paste in mascarpone mixture and ½ tablespoon vanilla bean paste in crêpe batter. Recipe courtsey of Paula Deen.

I had never made crepes before and I knew they can be kind of tricky, so I looked up some tips beforehand. One recurring tip I saw was to make the batter in advance, 8 hours or so. I decided to make everything the night before I wanted to bring it in, but I got a little nervous of wasting the time and money by making my crepes so far in advance. What if they got soggy?! I made the batter the night before and woke up early to make the crepes before work. I’m that weird. Whatever, I had to go in early, anyways.

I had to go to a nicer super market to find the actual vanilla bean and marscapone cheese, and they’re both pretty pricey, but oh my is it delicious. I licked the spatula after I was done transferring it. I noticed a lot of bigger chunks of brown sugar in the mixture, so I used a spoon to crush them as I transferred.

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The crepes themselves….they look like tortillas. I think i needed to spread the batter out more and use a little less of it, then they would have been more airy and look like normal crepes. They taste fine, and I cut them up into quarters since it would be easier with many people eating so they don’t look as bad anymore.

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See, they really do look like tortillas lol

But all together, they taste SO delicious.

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The Smart Way to Hang Pictures

I am notorious for hanging pictures and then realizing, “Crap. That’s not where I want it to go.” I end up with extra holes that are generally visible. In my last apartment I had so many extra holes on the wall where I hung my picture collection that I tried to sneak by the community by covering them with toothpaste, but they definitely noticed during the final inspection. This time around, I found this super, super smart way during one of my Pintrest browsing sessions. Trace the frame onto some paper, cut it out, hang with tape, and move them around until they’re in the right spot. Who thinks of these things?! I would never in a million years have come up with that idea. Thank you, Pintrest gods, for saving the wall in my stairwell from poorly planned picture holes.

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I put this off for weeks because I’m super OCD about this stuff, but I really want to finish the decor in my downstairs so I forced myself to get it done and catch up on Game of Thrones simultaneously. It took a couple hours to move everything around into the right spots. I started with the biggest picture as the centerpiece and branched out around it. Once I hung all the cut-outs I had to match them up to the corresponding sized frame. Since I was using a mish-mosh of different colored frames I also had to make sure the colors were the right mix of colors. It was worth the time!

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The Shotgun Shell Wreath

I did this project as a Christmas present for a male friend of mine, and I’m still so happy with it. One of my friends just moved out to the sticks and I’m itching to get out to his place to shoot some skeet, in part so I can make one of these for myself!!

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I had seen a link for a shotgun shell wreath on Pintrest but it was one of those, “I’ll pin this now and read it later” deals. When I did try to do get the directions from the Pin, it was a broken link. Ugh. I did a google search and finally found a site with good directions for the kind of wreath I wanted to make. This is the site I found:  http://thesweetvirginiabreeze.blogspot.com/2012/01/shotgun-shell-wreath.html

Before Christmas I went up to my family’s property in upstate Pennsylvania for our annual big paintball weekend and I made my daddy promise to bring his shotgun and lots of rounds so I could collect the shells for free. You could also post a “Wanted” ad on Craigslist. I did this and got several messages but it turned out I didn’t need them. By the end of our skeet shooting I had a MASSIVE bruise on my shoulder, but not enough shells. Our family tries to keep the place nice, so my uncles always pick up their shells and we would also collect them in the woods as kids. I knew there was bound to be a box of them somewhere and I even braved THE SHED in search of them. I emphasize THE SHED because no one is up there about 45 out of 52 weeks of the year and you don’t know what or who might be living in there. It’s a little scary to go into on your own. It’s also packed full of stuff and old junk, so I stood in the doorway and looked for anything that might remotely make me want to go all the way inside. As luck would have it, I spotted a box with “Remmington” on the side – in the very, very back of course. It turned out to be full of used shells! Score. Back to North Carolina we go, my friend. At home I bought a styrofoam wreath at Joann’s, but I’ve since found this link on Pintrest http://www.thepennyparlor.com/2010/09/coffee-filter-wreath.html   for making your own, cheaper styrofoam wreath! People are so ingenious.

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I asked my friend to send me a picture of the wreath in his house and when I saw the picture above, my perfectionism went nuts and I almost wanted to drive to his house and fix some of the sides that I felt weren’t round enough.

It’s very simple, just a little time consuming, and if you want everything to be perfect like I do – especially a gift – you’re going to want to give yourself several hours to get it done. I hunkered down with a movie and got to hot gluing. I did probably 2-3 layers of shells, so you’ll need quite a few. I tried to get it as perfectly circular as possible, but as you can see in the picture below, depending on how you hold it, one side might not be as well rounded. This cost about $13 because I got the shells for free and had the hot glue gun.

The Western Wear Laptop Case

I had a Dell from freshman year of college until midway through senior year when it decided to crash and burn literally while I was typing a midterm paper due that day. I was hitting the panic button big time. I ended up getting a Mac, which meant my (also homemade) Dell laptop case wasn’t going to fit anymore. I found this one http://sweet-verbena.blogspot.com/2011/07/laptop-sleeve-tutorial.html and knew I wasn’t going to buy one, but make another, more sophisticated looking one.

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I found everything I needed at Joann’s Fabrics and even found that magnificent embossed faux leather on clearance!! I followed the tutorial pretty much verbatim save for a few points. I chose not to do the strap for two reasons: I thought the toggle would get caught on things in my bag constantly and get ripped off, thus ruining the case; and I also misjudged the snugness of the case to where it kind of needs to get shoved in, so it’s not going anywhere. I also didn’t do the side stitching with a sewing machine, but instead chose to do a full basket stitch. I loved the look of it too much.  Note for the basket stitch if you haven’t done it before, watch the video in the tutorial a couple times and do a practice test on some excess felt. If you do choose to do the full stitching make sure you buy more embroidery thread than the tutorial calls for.

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^This is what it will look like prior to cutting off the sides and doing the stitching.

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^And this is what it will look like when your cat decides it’s the new bed. Mommy was clearly not paying her enough attention while she was sewing.

I don’t remember how much this one cost as I did it a while ago, but it shouldn’t be too much. I’d guestimate it was around $50 max. It took a little while, though, probably a few nights in front of the TV after work, since I had to go slower with the stitching to make sure I got it as close to perfect and even as possible. But I get a lot of compliments on it from TSA agents! 🙂

The Basement Beauty

My parents’ basement is like a free antique store. Before I moved out I went shopping down there and outfitted almost my entire apartment with things from down there. One item I had been eyeing up was the table my dad was using as a bench for his circle saw. Dad had started to sand it down but had other more important projects and it sat there sad for years. My parents are now in the process of selling their house and wanted to get rid of as much stuff as possible. My mom even “re-gifted” me things from the basement this past Christmas. Wish I was kidding. The last time I was home my mom had bags of things prepared to give me and forced me to walk around the basement with her and pick out things to take. I had gone home for 3 days with just a weekend bag and came back to North Carolina with 2 more dining room chairs, 2 wooden storage boxes, a huge lamp, a set of bagpipes, an antique typewriter (because “It looks like the kind of thing you can sell for money, Kate!”), but I also snagged the basement beauty. I had to reorganize my tiny storage closet just to fit everything.

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I was torn between using it inside or outside on my patio, but I don’t have enough space for something inside so I decided to re-stain it for outside use. Since Dad had already started on the top I could see how much sanding was going to be needed. I borrowed my friend’s palm sander since I hadn’t bought myself one yet and went to town. This kind of sanding isn’t bad because it’s just this easy flat service and the curvature of the edges wasn’t hard at all.

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I had never stained anything before and somehow I ended up at Lowe’s with no directions since this was my first non-Pintrest project in a looong time! Luckily the men at Lowe’s somehow know when I’m totally lost for what to do and I had the help of nice man who explained to me what kinds of stains I needed and what to do. He directed me out of Lowe’s and over to a wood craft specialty store a street over, saying that the stuff Lowe’s carries isn’t as quality (eh, debatable). Over at the wood craft store I ended up buying at least 3-4X times what I needed because the sizes they carried were much bigger than Lowe’s sizes (see! but due to my inexperience I allowed myself to trust this random stranger’s expertise over my own wallet’s guidance). I spent way more than I needed to. Hindsight is 20/20, right?

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I like dark, warm wood so I went with a red mahogany color and a clear satin exterior polyurethane. I used a normal paint brush for the dark stain and a foam brush for the poly. There were no bolts that came with it so I went to Lowe’s and bought 4 bolts and nuts which I then spray painted black to match the base.

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I love the end result. It looks great on my new patio and is perfect for when I have friends over! This took probably two days because  I had to wait for things to dry, but it was a very easy project. Total cost was about $50 because I was suckered into buying too much stain. Ugh.