Adventures in Free – as in dairy, gluten, soy, chocolate, coconut (sigh)

Breastfeeding has made my daily diet a bit wonky…I am currently doing an elimination diet to see what is making poor Oakleigh have tummy troubles. Without our go-to no knead bread (oh how I miss it!) I wanted a cornbread that I could eat with soup. So many recipes are gluten free, some are dairy free but use a dairy substitute. So I decided to give it a go with just water and see what happened.

AMAZING cornbread!!! We may not even go back…

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Perfect Cornbread

  • 2 cups stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ¾ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tsp white vinegar
  • 2 Tbs molasses or honey
  • 4 Tbs bacon fat, coconut oil or butter

+

Fat for greasing pan

  1. In a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. Add the water, molasses and eggs to the dry ingredients, and mix until blended.
  3. Let corn mixture sit for a half hour, stirring occasionally if you remember.
  4. Place a cast iron skillet or cast iron muffin pan in oven, and preheat to 400 (for about 30 minutes while the cornmeal continues to soak, 1 hour total)
  5. When oven is hot, mix in vinegar to the corn mix.
  6. Remove the skillet from the oven, and melt 2-3 Tbs butter/oil/fat to coat the pan. (or drop a large pea size chunk of butter or fat/oil in each muffin hole) and immediately pour in the batter. Return the skillet to the oven, and bake at 375 for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden and the center is just cooked through. Check a few minutes early as all ovens vary and add a few extra minutes if needed. Taking care not to over-bake will ensure moist cornbread.
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DIY Slate Blackboard Countertops – Install

When we embarked on the DIY blackboard slate countertop project we had a general idea of how to do it, but in the end had to make a bunch of decisions, trial and error, research and pure guts.

Step 1: Cleaning the slate

These blackboards were from the 1940s, and had been glued to the wall with who-knows-what adhesive back in the day. Then at some point they had white boards glued on top of them! In other words, a TON of stuff to remove. You can read more about that process here

Step 2: Building the understructure

Just like a tile countertop, we needed to build up a structure for the slate to attach to. This was pretty straightforward (especially after doing the brick fireplace the same way). A sandwich of ¾” plywood, backerboard attached with thinset and screws, and then taping any seams. This flat, level surface then gave us the template for the slate. We took the opportunity to make the new surfaces a half inch further offset from the cabinets below giving the counters a bit more surface area and a more attractive overhang.

The best part of making our our counters is we could experiment as we went, and truly get it exactly how we wanted. If we had ordered them, we may not have been able to look ahead as far to see how we wanted it.

Step 3: Cutting and Installation

We used a borrowed diamond stone cutting saw (like a mini circular saw with a water attachment) to cut the slate. Matt would measure out the pieces we needed, set them up on sawhorses in the driveway and cut away. He scored guide lines with a metal scraper since drawing them on would wash off with the hose water from the saw. He also learned that using a guide was critical. We used a combination of a standard clamp guide from Harbor Freight, and some old trim clamped on with c-clamps to ensure a straight cut. This step required LOTS of patience and attention to detail. There were certain pieces we had picked out for particular areas due to the grain in the stone, so we only had one shot.

Installing the slate was just like large format tile. We used large format thinset and a wide notched trowel. There were some great resources online demonstrating the importance of how you  lay down the thinset and how it impacts the strength of your floor/counters etc.

We set the slate with as minimal of grout lines as possible, starting with the edge pieces. This would ensure that the top pieces would overlap perfectly to create the counter edge. Clamping them in place was critical to ensure they would not slide as the thinset set up.

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Look of pure relief when the island piece was finally  installed. This one had a super unique grain patter  and was a complex series of angles to get it cut just right.

 

Once the sides were installed and cured, we could move on to the top pieces.

Step 4: Finishing

After experimenting with some trial pieces, we decided to slightly sand a bevel into the leading edge of the counters. This smoothed out the look of the stone and also should reduce chipping in the future. To achieve this, we used a belt sander to take off a fine bit of slate. It made all the difference in taking this project to a pro level. Some we sanded once they were set, some we did before.

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Step 5: Sealing

After reading up on options, we decided to just finish our counters with mineral oil. And well, honestly have not done that yet. We still plan to, but they are performing so well just as they are.

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By doing this project ourselves we save a TON of money, got the material we wanted (dark, solid, natural stone), saved materials from the landfill and truly achieved a unique one of a kind feature for our home. We still have a pile of leftover slate so we may do this again for an outdoor kitchen…

Questions? We would be happy to answer them!

Week 13: Transition Back to Work

Holy cow…our little Oak is already 13 weeks old! We have had some great adventures (first trip to grandparents, week at the WA coast), survived the first 8 weeks of her life without a functional kitchen (!), harvested nearly 100 pounds of tomatoes from the garden, attended two weddings, cleaned up the remodel multiple times, and had countless afternoons filled with tears, smiles, and everything in between. So where are we now?

This is a big transition period for our little family. I am back at work and Matt is home full time juggling baby and remodel. We have tweaked our routine daily and are still settling on what works the best. So far nothing has been missed, everyone is getting a decent amount of sleep, and we are generally pretty happy. The 5:30 alarm clock has been a shock to my system after three months of sleeping as long as Oakleigh and I wanted to, but we have developed a good bedtime routine where we are all (usually) in bed by 9:00. We set up our guest room and cleaned the main floor bathroom so I have space to get ready in and let the rest of the house sleep. I get up, shower, dress, pump and then get out the door.

We also have been focusing our energy on SPECIFIC projects and steps for getting the house wrapped up. Generally speaking, we are at finishes: trim, paint and tile. Huge right? Countertops are on, demo is done, the heavy “construction” is behind us. We did a massive dump run a few weeks back that gave us a TON of floorspace back, as well as a sense of normalcy that things are getting done. On Saturday morning, Matt and I sat down to talk through each remaining step to totally get the kitchen done. We don’t have time to waste repeating steps or doing the same thing multiple times, so this plan helps us focus. We are also calling in some backup from grandmas to watch Oakleigh so we can tag team the house.

Speaking of our little love, she is AMAZING. We are totally smitten with her, and love watching her grow and change everyday. Her main tricks these days are looking at her right hand/arm (she has not figured out she has a left one yet…), ahh—goo coos, big gummy grins and lots of feet kicking. She loves to look at trees and the cats, and standing is WAY cooler than sitting or laying down. This lady has places to go! (ahem…remodel needs to get done before the moving is actually happening!!!)

Going back to work has been hard…and good…and a lot of logistics. I am beyond grateful that Matt can be home to take care of Oakleigh. He has the best time just being daddy. And I enjoy my job and feel very supported and appreciated with my returning role. Early mornings, pumping, milk management, more pumping, not forgetting stuff, reengaging my work brain, pumping, catching the ferry on time, and still more pumping are just the pieces that will take some time to adjust to. And I miss my baby! It feels pretty unnatural to be away from her, and I try not to dwell on it or I will end up in tears. Again…so grateful she is home with Matt! I am also only commuting 3 days per week so I still get far more time with her than many working moms do!

Every day is just so different. But those gummy grins make every single hard moment worth it.

A Sewing Project: Maternity Caftan

A few months ago now I ordered a maternity caftan dress. I really liked it, but there was something just “off” about the fabric, and the neckline…concept  was great, but it was not right for me. So I decided to dust off  the sewing machine I have received last Christmas (still in the box) and make my own.

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My friend Jenny was visiting and we scouted the perfect linen/rayon fabric, adorable buttons and I was inspired to start.

Then came the actual starting. I did not have a real pattern, just one I had made (and I have never made a pattern before) and so was a bit lost in what parts to do first. I was thrilled  with my success with threading the machine on my first try, and remembering how to wind a bobbin. YouTube later came in very very handy  as I started putting things together and came across questions. You see, I have sewn in the past, but never on my own. It was always a project with my mom at the ready to step in and help. This was my first true solo project, on a new machine all by myself.

Two weeks ago I finally did make some progress. I had the major parts cut out and pinned…and then I was stuck. Interfacing the neckline was a new concept, and I was not making heads or tails out of the tutorials online. So the project sat.

And sat.

And I kept getting closer to my due date. If this was supposed to be a maternity (and nursing) dress, I had better get it done if I wanted to wear it!!!So this weekend I unpacked all my supplies and really gave it a go.

I conquered the neckline, and pockets, and button loops. I even gave the hemming foot a shot…and ended up making a turned hemline the old fashioned way (or sloppy way?) with my hands, an iron and lots of patience, finished with two rows of top stitching.

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Result? I am beyond pleased! The caftan dress looks great! My nearly 37 week belly JUST fits, but it will be wonderful for nursing. The neckline is exactly what I wanted. It was a learning project, so there are things I would FOR SURE do differently next time, but I am excited to wear this in the coming weeks and years.

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Planting Tomatoes

Saturday was another garden day.

I cut down more cover crop (we really need a scythe next year!), weeded, and then was finally able to get some of our tomato starts in the ground. We have roughly 70 plants that have been hanging out on our deck just waiting for a place in the ground.

I also tackled trimming brambles and weeds on the far back side of the garden fence. There were blackberries coming through the wire and I knew it was now or next year that I would be able to address them. This pregnant body does not work too fast anymore, and I hit a wall before I got as far as I wanted, but listened to baby and called it a day with about 1/3 of the tomatoes in the ground.  Things are looking good!

Beans and corn are up, garlic is starting to turn yellow, peach tree has fruit and has been thinned. Very few apples are out this year. Some of the tomatoes are in. I could call that more of a garden success than I was anticipating the summer our first baby arrives! 4 weeks to go!

Update from Sunday: Matt spent the day in the garden and prepped and planted over 40 more plants! We are set for the year with about 75 in the ground and it looks great!

Picking a Whole House Color Palate

We love color. We also love most of our furniture. In the past, these two things have always come together in a mish-mash of design and decor for our house. Although we like the eclectic feel, for our post-remodel house we are shooting for a cohesive grownup comfortable look that truly looks intentional.

We will be ditching our old couch (well, to be fair, my parent’s old couch…it was around before I was born!) and only keeping pieces that we truly love. The new darker hardwood floors, new fresh trim, and remodeled kitchen deserve a color palate that brings out every bit of beauty possible.

Enter: a whole house color palate!

I started out thinking this would be easy. I have always been good with color, and have picked paint for many spaces. But I realized I had never truly started with a blank canvas, and included so many considerations as I selected paint.

Considerations:

  • wood floors
  • white trim and cabinetry
  • red brick fireplace
  • creamy white/terracotta/black kitchen tile
  • slate black counters
  • mix of white and stainless appliances
  • lots of green foliage through windows
  • very grey weather all winter long
  • antique oak and walnut furniture
  • light and airy feeling of house, but we also like bold color
  • desire to have room color flow from one to the next while being distinct
  • Matt has to like it!

I started where most people start these days: Pinterest. I got some good ideas, but no clear vision that was right for our home. From there I went to our local Benjamin Moore store and started sifting through colors. We have used Behr in the past with descent results, but tried the Aura paint on one room last year and were SOLD! Also, the BM Advance is what people tend to say is best for cabinets so we are going 100% Benjamin Moore on this remodel.

It is pretty overwhelming to look a 10,000 colors all at once. So I borrowed a fan deck and brought it home to look at more closely. I also got a white deck and their Williamsburg collection booklet. The fan deck is over 3″ thick and was also quickly overwhelming, so I stuck with the Historical Colors section and the Williamsburg  collection. We like classic style the best, and our craftsman house really is asking for those tones anyway. Through process of elimination, we were making progress.

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Pulling out tile samples and overlaying them on the colors further helped narrow our choices. Right now we have 4-5 wall colors that we really really like (beachy toned theme), and have narrowed down the whites (trim and cabinets) to a small handful. We keep revisiting them as the light changes throughout the day.

This weekend we plan to paint the interior of the two new kitchen cabinets Matt built (existing cabinets will not get painted interiors, but the new ones need a protective layer) so we will be picking a color and giving it a try!

Kitchen Demo

Memorial Day weekend Monday the first bit of granite tile was smashed in our kitchen. By Wednesday afternoon, demo was done! There were a few (very frustrating) snags, but overall it was quick and successful!

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The biggest snags were what were supposed to be the easy quick parts: taking out the gas stove and sink. Disconnect, lift up and out. Right? RIGHT? Wrong.

For both of these, the attachments were in too cramped of a location to utilize tools to loosen connections. Both ended up being cut and will be a repair job later. Not ideal, but that is what you deal with when you remodel (and want to save things!). We really like our stove, and ADORE the wall mount farmhouse sink and did not want to repurchase either of them…never mind that replacement was not in the budget!

The sink was also grouted in place rather than calked, which was a large concern for additional chip/cracking damage. It is successfully out in one piece though and waiting to be reinstalled.

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Backsplash and counter came off pretty easily and cleanly. The plywood is still in good shape so that is some time and cost savings.

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Now we are on to the rebuilding phase. New drywall and backerboard, then we can lay the counters and tile backsplash. Cabinets are ready to be sanded and painted. The end is nearer than it has ever felt!