A Strawberry Rhubarb Bunting First Birthday!

Our little Oakleigh Elaine turned ONE!

I had been sewing bunting for weeks in preparation, and on her birthday morning she woke up to a flag filled dining room like I had envisioned. A family tradition started this year that will live on for all family birthdays to come.

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We celebrated on her actual birthday just the three of us. We danced for her birth minute at 4:14 and watched her tear into a cake that evening. Of course she was more excited about kicking it than eating but I was ok with that!

The next day we celebrated in a big way with an open house BBQ party filled with family and friends. The house was cleaned up (as much as an in-construction house can be at least!) and the back yard decorated with bunting and lights. We had hot dogs and burgers, and cut into a huge strawberry rhubarb curb filled chiffon cake after a chorus of “happy birthday”.

It was a very special day.

 

Six Layer Chiffon Curd Cake

I have made this cake with lemon curd and raspberry curd, but for Oakleigh’s first birthday it was strawberry rhubarb filled. The original recipe directions are for a tube pan, but I have had success dividing it into three standard round pans, or one 12x18x2″ half sheet pan. Slice the individual cakes in half and you have the base for a lovely, light, filled cake.

Chiffon Cake

For a 12×12″ 6 layer cake I baked two of these in a 12×18 pan, sliced in half and stacked into 6 layers.

  • 2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 7 egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Wash a 10 inch angel food tube pan in hot soapy water to ensure it is totally grease free. Or 3 9″ round pans, or 12×18 sheet pan.
  2. Measure flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into sifter. Sift into bowl. Make a well; add oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla, and lemon flavoring to the well in the order that is given. Set aside. Don’t beat.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until very stiff. Set aside.
  4. Using same beaters, beat egg yolk batter until smooth and light. Pour gradually over egg whites, folding in with rubber spatula. Do not stir. Pour batter into angel food tube pan.
  5. Baking options:
    1. Angel food pan: bake 55 minutes. Increase heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), and bake 10 to 15 minutes until done. Invert pan until cool.
    2. Round pans: bake 15-20 minutes, check and add 5 minutes at at time until done. Cool in pan.
    3. Sheet pan: bake 20 minutes, then add 5 minutes at a time until done. Cool in pan.

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Curd

Keeps stored in the fridge for up to two weeks.

  • 1 quart bag of rhubarb
  • 1 pint strawberries (the fresher the better!)
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • pinch salt
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1/2 lb unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs + 4 egg yolks

Cream butter and sugar until thick and pale. Put into saucepan with strawberries, rhubarb, salt and lime juice. Slowly cook until thick, stirring. Strain into bowl and set in fridge. (I did not cook mine long enough and it did not set fully, so I reheated and added two sheets of gelatin and it saved it.)

Whipped Cream Frosting

This was a great find (original recipe here). Not too sweet, easy and holds up well. For layering with fruit curd it make clean lines between each chiffon layer.

Ingredients

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups whipping cream

Directions

  1. Combine the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on medium speed until smooth. While the mixture is still whipping, slowly pour in the heavy cream. Stop and scrape the bottom of the bowl a couple of times while you continue whipping until the cream can hold a stiff peak.
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Kitchen Punchlist…and a Deadline

We are feeling SO. CLOSE on the kitchen. And we have been saying that for months now. There are so many steps when you are really DIYing every inch of a project.

Matt built cabinet doors for three pantries (13 doors total), routed out the centers of four upper doors, and built three new drawers, which after lots of patching and sanding, I was finally able to prime Memorial day weekend. I did a morning session to prime the backs, then came back for two hours in the evening to do the fronts. Now the cure this week and go in for sanding and paint next weekend.

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painting final batch of cabinet doors in the living room…once this is done we clean out this room and finish working in here! (time to start picking a paint color…)

So what is left?

  • swap out a few outlets and switches in the kitchen
  • cut glass for cabinet doors (salvaged from old windows)
  • hang doors, add hardware
  • final touch up paint
  • rehang glass light shades

-MOVE IN!!!!

And with that, the dining and kitchen will be DONE.

We are still a few weeks out (that happens when you only have 3 days a week to work on the project, are living in it, and have a baby…who is 11 months old today!!!) but the end is in sight! We celebrated some hard work with a pause Sunday evening with pizza in the backyard.

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A deadline for these rooms is upon us too: Oakleigh’s first birthday party! We are doing an open house BBQ day and I cannot wait to button things up and show them off. Then we are into finishing the living room and hallway. Onwards and upwards!

Kitchen Remodel: Cabinet Makeover

When we embarked on our kitchen remodel, one of our primary goals was to complete the project with a low environmental impact. So much material is ripped out of homes, sent to the landfill (though sometimes upcycled) and replaced with new products. Since our cabinets were in decent shape, we decided to reuse them in the space, and just add to them to boost up the custom layout.

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Just the shell of the old kitchen. Hard to imagine it with a wall cutting through it.

Most of our cabinets were left in place, just removing doors for painting and repair. Matt built new cabinet sections to match the existing boxes for the new 4ish feet we added to the east end where the wall came down. That 4 feet make SO much difference! We brainstormed options and settled on only adding lower cabinets, resulting in more storage and counter space while keeping all the vertical wall space free and open. The lower boxes he built feature open bookshelves…though our cats think they are custom hangouts just for them.

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We also amped up the existing cabinets with open boxes to fill the space between the cabinets and ceiling, all framed out in wide crown molding. With a fresh coat of paint you can hardly recognize that this is the same space!

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So much more open, lighter and brighter…and the ceilings even feel taller!

Painting cabinets is a project, and one that is usually recommended to be completed in a totally dust free environment. Well, we did the best we could with the limited workspace we have in this house, opting for the “vintage, lived in” look of brushed paint vs spray. I tackled the boxes while Matt prepped the doors. We have a mix of doors from the existing cabinets and four salvaged doors that so nearly match. All white, you would barely notice the eclectic mix. In fact, through this project we realized that the cabinets that we were saving were already “seconds” stock, and had extra quirks and two doors that matched even less than the salvage ones we found!

Sand – repair – prime – sand – prime – sand – paint – sand – paint, then cure. That was the routine for this transformation. We used Benjamin Moore Advance in beautiful Swiss Coffee. This paint looks and performs great once up. It is self leveling and has a beautiful finish, but it is a little finicky to get on. I found that rolling cabinet doors with a small roller, then back brushing the paint left the cleanest result.

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I am pleased to report that half the cabinet doors are reinstalled, waiting for hardware and looking fabulous! The remaining doors are getting extra special treatment with adding salvaged wavy glass panes!

Slate Blackboard Countertops – How Do we Like them?

I have written about our DIY salvaged slate blackboard countertops a few times now. I am thrilled to report that we still love them, even more than I could have hoped.

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They are sturdy and beautiful and super easy to maintain. We actually never even got around to coating them with mineral oil but it does not seem necessary. Pie crust rolls like a dream on the cool surface, and the texture of the subtle grain feels so nice to the touch. Not to mention, they are stunning and unique.

Of all the salvage components of our remodel, this is by far my favorite story. Not only did it save us thousands of dollars (compared to honed, black granite which was our runner up choice), but it is more beautiful, 100% DIY, and kept so much waste out of the landfill. These blackboards will live on for years to come.

Beach Baby

After the holidays we left the wet and windy PNW and took Oakleigh on her first flight…to sunny, sandy Hawaii!

It was two weeks split between the Big Island (visiting my brother) and Maui. Oakleigh did really well on the flights, slept poorly (as did we) but LOVED the beach, pool and sunshine. It was a much needed break and fun chance for her to get some quality time with her grandparents! We explored the property where my brother and his wife live on the Big Island…picking macadamia nuts, sleeping in the old caretakers cabin, and swimming in a wild jungle watering hole. We also celebrated their marriage with many of their friends and family.

Maui was the vacation part: really nice condo right on the water, beaches and surfing, pool time, and lots and lots of whale watching. You literally could not look at the water without seeing a spout, breech or flipper slap! It was incredible!

Traveling with a baby meant we took things at a much slower pace, scheduling in naps and early bedtimes. The quantity of stuff in tow was ridiculous! We planned ahead, and prioritized lodging where we had a washer and dryer and used cloth diapers the entire trip.

While in Hawaii, Oakleigh was clearly ready to start eating…eyeing and reaching for our food the whole time! But we decided to wait to introduce solids when we got home.

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Our favorite moments of the trip were the simple ones at the beach and pool. She loved feeling the sand with her feet. Swimming was a fun experience, and watching us pop out of the water in front of her was met with belly laughs and big gummy smiles.

And the break from work, and the house remodel was much needed.

White Island Christmas

Two days before Christmas, the forecast for snow became clear enough for us to call off all plans where we would leave the island, and made our own plans for a small celebration for our little family of three.

It could not have been more perfect, and exactly what we needed.

We cleaned up the construction debris and decorated the dining room. I wrapped one gift for Oakleigh. Matt and I were not even exchanging gifts this year. Our stockings were hung on the newly installed picture rail in the dining room, empty but festive. Our Christmas tree was a beautiful reminder that someday our house will be back to normal. And we took the opportunity to slow down.

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The Feast of Seven Fishes Christmas Eve tradition was replaced with delicious cioppino (with 7 seafoods but a one pot version!), and we watched snow fall.

By Christmas morning, we had a few inches of snow and we spent a slow morning snuggling Oakleigh in bed, watching the snow fall through the window.

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Then we made buckwheat pancakes. Went on a walk through the snowy woods. Watched Oakleigh “open” her stuffed bunny (or rather, eat the wrapping paper on it). Listened to our favorite album: Louis & Ella Christmas.

It was the perfect first Christmas with Oak.

Adventures in Baby Led Weaning

The concept of introducing food to a baby pulls out LOTS of opinions and different approaches. Make your own baby food, start at 5 months, start at 6 months, add baby cereal to bottles and they will sleep better, eggs are good, eggs are bad….you get the idea.

Honestly, before Oakleigh, I just assumed we would just make all our own baby food at home. Wiz up some peas and sweet potatoes and have a freezer full of yummy things to offer her. Then I learned about the approach of baby led weaning. In contrast to purees, this approach introduced whole foods that the baby takes initiative on trying, and prioritizes learning to chew over just swallowing purees. I have learned that I like rules, and appreciate the guidelines that go with this style of feeding to keep it safe. I won’t detail them all here, but highly recommend checking out other resources dedicated to BLW. In short, the rules are pretty smart and straightforward:

  1. Baby must be at least 6 months old and ready for food (there is a list of criteria)
  2. Baby is given what you eat, and eats alongside you at mealtimes
  3. Baby feeds themselves…even though this may result in not much “eating”
  4. Breastmilk or formula is still their primary source of nutrition till age 1…the food is exploratory and for fun to introduce flavors, textures and positive habits around food. You give a full feeding of formula or breastmilk 30 minutes prior to a meal.
  5. Foods are cut in appropriate sizes to encourage easy holding and minimize choking. Baby is responsible for learning what appropriate sized bites are (aided by their very astute gag reflex!)
  6. Parents and caregivers should know the difference between gagging and choking.
  7. Only foods off limits are honey and added salt.
  8. PS – it is messy!

This approach really resonated with our family, so two days before her 7 month birthday, all three of us sat down for breakfast together. On the menu: scrambled egg, sausage, buckwheat pancakes and banana. This first meal was quite entertaining, and a totally new experience for Oakleigh. She had been reaching for our food and plates for weeks, but this was her first taste. She was curious, and obviously learning what to do with this pile in front of her.

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Day two: whole new story! She knew what to do this time! Meal two was also a breakfast: eggs, sausage, banana, avocado and corn muffins. Corn muffin was the clear favorite.

Day 3: Bring on dinner! Curry coconut rice, grilled zucchini, grilled shrimp, avocado and garnishes of jalapeno, lime and cilantro. Since our jalapeño was diced finely, we gave Oakleigh a long strip (like any other pepper strip) and she loved it! I think the texture felt good in her mouth. The robust flavors did not phase her at all! Only a small % actually makes it into her mouth and then is successfully swallowed, but that is expected at this point.

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Day 4: This girl has figured it OUT! As soon as we started putting food on plates she was making it clear that she was ready to eat! Matt made fried rice with pineapple. Another messy hit.

I am pretty sure that from now on we will be hard pressed to keep her to one meal a day. She sees us eating and wants to try it all! We could not be happier with how this introduction of food is going, and are looking forward to watching her experience so many new flavors over the next few months!