Monday, October 22, 2012

Dining Room Progress

So after I promised more finished and styled photos of both the hutch and the fauxdenza, I just left you hanging. Sorry peeps, there just haven't been many non-work hours that I could put towards project work! But today, I'm back with some progress. I had mentioned that we wanted to put up some shelving over the fauxdenza. We I decided to do this for a couple reasons - we have high ceilings so needed to fill the wall a bit higher so there didn't seem to be endless space above it (which was the same reason we moved the hutch to the opposite wall). I like the versatility of shelves because I can easily change whatever is displayed on them with ease. Over the weekend, I spent a couple days sanding, conditioning, staining and sealing some pine to turn into shelves. In truth, this project has been dragging on for weeks. I ordered the brackets from The Container Store at least a month ago - when they arrived, I decided I wanted to paint them gold. So I did that. Then.... I waited. I'm not sure what I was waiting for. Motivation? Eventually, we picked up a 20" wide x 72" long piece of pine and had the fine folk at Home Depot cut it to the width that we wanted it at (9"). Then I waited some more. Finally, I got down to business this weekend. Here was how I spent my Friday (happy vacation day) and part of my Saturday. 
I started by sanding using fine grit on the palm sander. Once that was done, I wiped them down and let them dry. After that, I applied wood conditioner. As a result of my extreme excitement impatience, I may not have really let it soak in before attacking with stain. Ooops. I used Minwax Dark Walnut and did 2 thin/light coats.  I let it dry 24 hours (trust me, I could barely stand the waiting. Patience is not a virtue that I was blessed with). On Saturday, I put a coat of poly on and called it a day. In terms of staining wood anyway. 

Kris and I started to install the shelves and I am not kidding - it took 3 trips to Home Depot to get 'er done. Ridiculous. I wanted a laser level (I'm lazy) and we needed a new stud finder (not the manly type). We have fire rated walls on that side which means 2 layers of drywall = our cheapie stud finder no likey. We failed to consider that fire rated walls = double thickness = longer screws. Siiiiigh. It went a little like this:
  1. Kris goes to Home Depot and gets stud finder and laser level.
  2. Kris gets home and we open up said new equipment. 
  3. New stud finder does not include a battery and does not mention anything on packaging about what kind of battery you need (irrrrrritating). 
  4. Kris goes back to Home Depot to get a 9v battery, because we obviously do not stock those in house. 
  5. Kris comes home with battery. Yay. 
  6. We use said stud finder to find studs (weird). Studs are incredibly awkwardly placed. In the way that shelf brackets shouldn't be. 
  7. Plan B - we will use toggle bolts. Begin to pre-drill and install. 
  8. Toggle bolts are not long enough to catch behind wall. 
  9. I go to Home Depot for longer toggle bolts so Kris doesn't kill me or the wall. Kris opens a beer. 
  10. I get home with 2 longer lengths of toggle bolts. Brackets installed, shelves on wall. Yay. I open beer. 

Oh, before I sanded and stained, I had Kris cut 2 notches down the length of the wood so that I could lean picture frames. It's like a little ledge to keep them from sliding or falling. Turns out, I probably should have told him exactly where I wanted them. Ooops. They are a bit far out from the edge so the frames actually have to lean quite a bit. Oh well. You can see them well in this shot. 
Notches for leaning my picture frames

Oooooh laser level, you're so fancy.
Shelves on the wall, SHELVES ON THE WALL!!!
Naturally, I have been torturing myself with styling them since the weekend. I am slowly shopping the house to find things. Here's where I started:
The dustbuster is a key design feature
Yes, my greenery is still alive and kicking. Albeit a little droopy. 
Oh, brackets... you are so prettyyyyyy
Here's where I'm at tonight... slowly growing. The sideboard is covered with blank frames, art, photos and images that I'm playing around with. I'm having a really tough time coming up with a way to mix the art in with photos and making the colours work but not match. Some of the art you see includes the diy art I posted about here. Oh, and I am fully aware that big picture frame is too big. Just trying to work with what I got!
I'm sure nothing will stay where it is so I'm just going to have to slowly shuffle things and change frames around. If you have any suggestions on how to mix art, colours, etc to give it less of a matchy-matchy-planned look, I'm all ears. I seem to have a hard time stepping back and thinking of new ideas once I've got stuff up there! I feel like I might need some word or graphic prints to break up the abstracts. I'm really trying to not fill the house with photos of us everywhere you look. Trying.

Oh, and I've filled the hutch up too - so once I get this done and some frames on the walls, I will have some dining room reveal photos to share!!

So.... are you a styling whiz, or do you struggle with it a little like I do? Spill. Tips and tricks wanted. 


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thanksgiving Turkey Madness

I thought I would dive in head first and cook my first turkey for Thanksgiving. We don't really have a house big enough to host dinner so the plan was to do the turkey (plus stuffing and gravy, of course), carve it and take it over to my parent's house. All I can say is that I gained a huge appreciation for the stress involved in getting the main course done right!!

I researched it like crazy online and decided to brine it with this recipe that I adapted and changed based on a few that I read. This is what I ended up with:
2 liters of vegetable broth
2 liters of apple juice
About 1-2 tablespoons each Sage (dried), Thyme (dried) and Rosemary (fresh)
Black Pepper
1 cup sea salt

Next year, I think I will make a point of using all fresh herbs. Just seems more authentic. I boiled the brine, then cooled it before adding it to the turkey. When we added it to the turkey, we also added 4 liters of COLD water.
Our fresh, garden grown Rosemary ready to be chopped and turkefied
We had an 18/19lb turkey so brined it for almost 24 hours (in a turkey bag, being extra safe to ensure the bag was food grade) on ice in a cooler on the deck. One that was done, we rinsed it off with cold water and patted it dry with papertowels. We stuffed it and threw it in the roasting pan into the oven with the lid on.

There is a brining turkey hiding in there...
I made the stuffing just before we pulled the turkey out of the brine. I didn't follow a recipe, just guessed as I went along. We needed lots, so I made LOTS. Here  it is:
2 bags of whole wheat bread crumbs
1 frozen butterball stuffing mix (shhhhh)
Lots of celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 apples, skin off, cored and chopped
Dried Cranberries
4 cups Chicken broth (watered down)

So I started by chopping the celery and onion and sauteed it with garlic and butter. After they softened, I added the apple (probably not really necessary, but whatever. I was winging it!). I took them off the burner and then put the bread crumbs into a bowl and started mixing the chicken broth in slowly. I actually cut the broth - I used 2 packages and each called for one cup of water but because we had brined the turkey I didn't want it to be too salty so I doubled the water. I mixed it in until the bread crumbs were moist. I added the butterball mix (which I think I would skip next time - didn't need it and it didn't add anything) and then the celery/onion/apples plus a few handfuls of raisins and cranberries. Once it was mixed, we stuffed about half of it into the turkey, the rest stayed out. I have to say, the stuffing was a hit. Soooo good. Next time, I would try adding a bit of white wine in place some of the stock maybe?

The beginnings of stuffing
Back to the turkey. The plan was to cook it at 325 for about 4.5 hours and then brown it lid off for 30 minutes. Rather than trusting the clock, I decided a meat thermometer was necessary and ran out to get one. Here began the mess. We had elected to cook the turkey breast down (wouldn't do it again, don't think you need to when you brine) so it was hard to find a good spot to put the meat thermometer into. We tried twice and got readings that were too hot, so figured we better take it out, which was just shy of 4 hours. I browned it and then pulled it out and let it sit for 20-30 minutes to seal in the juices. When I looked at it, I didn't think it looked that brown (foreshadowing much?!) but decided to go with it. We got about 3/4 of the way through carving the first breast and dun, dun, dunnnn... undercooked. Through our cursing, panic and stress, we decided to continue carving and put the underdone (or even remotely questionable meat) into foil packets and back in the oven.

Yeah, that turkey doesn't look brown to me either. 
After the turkey was "done" (ha), we pulled out the stuffing (before carving) and mixed it with the other stuffing again (we wanted to share the flavour that the turkey provided with all the stuffing). Then we split it back into 2 dishes and baked it (lid on) for about an hour.

In the end, it turned out fine. The brine made the turkey SO flavourful, definitely doing that again. I think the white meat would have been a lot juicier if we didn't have to put it back in the oven (it kind of steamed itself which pulled out some juice) but everyone thought it was good. I did use the drippings for gravy, with flour and water (little trick - pre mix the flour and water so you don't get lumps!) and a little red wine. It was good (a bit thick by the time we transported it and re-heated it).

SO, my final review is that I will definitely brine again (and with all fresh herbs), plan the meat thermometer from the beginning lol, stuffing was delish and gravy could have been re-heated and thinned on the stove if not served fresh. All in all, good practice for hosting at our house :) Oh yes - we packed up everything, left our kitchen in a complete disaster and took it to my parents. Now, that was a bit of a challenge! So, have you done your first turkey yet? Any crazy disasters to share?


Monday, October 08, 2012

Instagram Lately...

Snippets of life via Instagram. We are enjoying spectacular summer weather so I haven't been able to motivate myself to blog lately - I have to soak it up while it's here :)

Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends!!


Tuesday, October 02, 2012

I will never be an artist.

Because it's a disaster. For reals. Allow me to elaborate (... but do I really need to? Probably not. I will anyway, as per usual).

I wanted some art for the house to fill frames that was not photos, but abstract art. So I picked up a watercolour kit and an acrylic kit (both Reeve's) from Michael's, as well as some flat canvasses and watercolour paper. Don't worry, I used my Michael's app and scooped up every coupon code known to man. Or to Michael's. I have actually made a large scale painting before (and it actually made it to my walls for Christmas, though I change it every year lol) using oils but I wanted to try out some other mediums.

Here goes nothin.

I started out with these... ummm.... creations?

Otherwise identified as unknown kindergarden child art. Yikes.

I messed around for a couple hours over a few nights and made a little progress. I feebly tried to pick up some techniques on watercolour painting and it got a bit better after I let it dry and used water the next day.

 I stopped here with the acrylic after maaaaany in between stages.

I added these guys in (along with a couple more I didn't take photos of). For some reason the photos won't flip so these are actually sideways:

I think I'm done with this one - I actually liked it a lot more once I put it in a frame. This probably won't be it's home but I just needed to see what it looked like.

So I'm obviously still learning and artistry really isn't my talent. But hopefully I get to the point where I'm happy enough with it to put it up on my walls!! I'll keep you posted when I finally get the dining room together. Have you diy-ed any art lately, or gotten a little beyond your area of "expertise"? ;)