DIY Blackboard Kitchen Countertops: An Update

Remember wayyyy back, like over a year now, when I introduced our grand plan to DIY our kitchen countertops? Well, that is still the plan and I am THRILLED to report that we are actually now working on that project.

The house remodel scope significantly morphed, and ended up going far past the kitchen and dining room, so we decided to finish up those other spaces (keeping our kitchen usable) and finally ending with it’s demo…and the long awaited counters!

If you don’t know the story of how we came to choose salvaged solid slate blackboards as our countertops, you can check that out here. These beauties (or rather, diamonds in the rough) have been leaning against our house for the past year, patiently waiting for their turn.

While they have been waiting, so have we. We always a knew that they would work as counters, but were still just assuming that we could successfully get off the old 1940s adhesive that is awkwardly stuck all over the slabs. If we could not get it off cleanly, we were going to have to come up with Plan B for counters…and that was NOT the goal.

After a super rainy start to spring, this week blessed us with some sunshine, and an opening to get outdoors, set up the sawhorses and get to glue removal. I need to keep baby away from all construction fumes, so this is a solo job for my sweet handy husband.

He set out with two main approached: a heat gun (borrowed from our local tool library) and Jasco Premium Paint and Epoxy Remover. Much to our excitement, the heat gun worked like a charm to pull off big blobs of glue and then the residue remaining dissolved with the chemicals…and a significant amount of elbow grease. We are planning to use the “natural” more textured side of these slabs and it is stunning to see them really clean. It is a huge weight off our shoulders to know that we have a solution that works!

Two down, maybe 6 more to go? We have roughly 35 slabs to work with (!) but only need 6 for the kitchen. Extras will be practice for cutting, other projects or maybe passing them along to other inspired DIYers.

The forecast promises more rain this week, but then we hope to get back to our lovely counters, finish glue removal, demo the kitchen and then cut the new counters to fit!

Seaglass for Climate Change Awareness

Last November I launched into a new phase of my artistic career: seaglass mobiles. In January I launched my Etsy shop and in June applied for my first art show.

This past week I was featured in the Museum of Northwest Art’s SURGE Climate Change Awareness show. It was an honor to be a part of this wonderful exhibit both with beauty and a purpose.

My piece was the largest I have made (so far!) 8 feet long and 6 feet tall! That is a lot of glass. For this particular project I crowd sourced seaglass from collectors around the world to further enhance the message of impact. All of us love to collect, and are directly impacted by the rising and changing seas and tides.

Playing in the Dirt

Nothing beats a weekend that feels FULL and rewarding and not rushed! That never seems to happen! After being gone most of the week, I was ready to be home this weekend. Friday night was pretty late for this sleep deprived traveler, but fun none the less. We went to Matt’s parents house for a combined birthday dinner. We had planned to spend the night, but decided that we really just needed to be home and I was pretty excited to sleep in my own bed after a week in hotels.

Saturday morning we slept in till 10:30. As in SLEPT that long! It felt so good to really feel refreshed waking up after a long night at home. We took a quick trip into town for groceries and then came home to cook and clean before our friend’s Benny and Lana arrived for dinner. We had a great meal full of lots of laughter and catching up over rum cake.

Sunday morning we woke up and this time headed to town for birthday treats for Matt. We stopped by Snapdragon for pastries, and then over to the hardware store for the big yellow wheelbarrow his parents got him as a gift. Thank goodness the mini is good at hauling stuff! We had no problem getting our newest homestead addition home on the roof bars.

After breakfast and coffee we trekked out into the yard to finish tearing out the old garden and prep it for winter. We removed at least 10 loads of gravel, a TON of brick boarders, more old plants and FINALLY got it leveled and planted with a winter cover crop. The existing garden layout was so inefficient we just decided to start over. It was a long day of dirty work, but it looks fabulous!

 

I settled in for some homework time while Matt finished in the yard, then we took another break to ease sore muscles in our newly fixed and (thanks to Matt!) immaculately cleaned hot tub!

Ah, what a weekend. Today is Matt’s birthday, and he was hoping to have it off for Veteran’s day but no such luck. I drove him to work this morning (the water taxi does not run on holidays) and so extra time together is at least a small condolence for having to work. It is hard to believe it is almost winter! I feel ready to curl up in the house and snuggle with my little family in front of the fire.

Cat Toilet Training Update: As I mentioned a few weeks back, we are toilet training our cats! This weekend we started the cats on their training potty in the upstairs bathroom and so far so good. We think they were holding it most of Saturday or going outside, but by this morning seem to be pretty comfortable with the new (first step) situation. We will be at this stage for another week or so, but so far no accidents and we still have two happy cats!

Return of the Eggs

I am going to start and end this post with the same statement: I cannot wait to have our own chickens.

I have been on an egg hunt. Organic? Free range? (which is debatable on what that actually means) Vegetarian fed? Normal? White? Brown? Each time I go to the grocery store I am disappointed with what I get. Regardless of the egg I choose, it is usually pretty bland, light colored and just, well, blah.

We had chickens for a few years when I was growing up, and THOSE are the eggs I want. Rich yellow yolks, fresh, multicolored eggs. Just look at this difference!

Farm Fresh vs Conventional Eggs - Side by Side

 We are able to have chickens in the city…our neighbors just got some actually…but Matt and I don’t want to start that project just to move them (hopefully!) later this year to a new house.

So in the meantime I am still on a quest. We needed eggs this week and I choose the organic eggs at Costco. Major disappointment. I will be returning them today. Luckily I do have a friend that brings eggs into the city from her parents farm, so I can pick up 2 dozen this afternoon. Maybe I will start making more of an effort to get to the farmers market too.

I cannot wait to have our own chickens.

What’s Making me Smile

There are a few beautiful things that I have come across recently that I thought I would share.

This great blog, Naturally Ella, elegantly laid out with inviting, healthy recipes.

The Story Company, importing fair trade products from artisans in developing countries. I ordered these two beautiful necklaces this week as my promotion treat 🙂

Amisha Necklace

Joy Necklace

GRIT magazine. I am addicted to the website and just subscribed to the magazine. Matt and I are getting more excited everyday to have our homestead dream on Vashon start! For now, we are doing our homework.

Jazz apples with natural peanut butter. What else needs to be said?

We pay off the car this week. Woot!

Spring is in the air. Not quite here yet, but on the way. You can taste it.

Spring break is in two weeks. TWO WEEKS and I will be 1/3 through my MBA. Although we are not jetting off to Mexico like we planned, but do have some fun dates planned for break…including VIP tickets to see The Kiss during Trader Joe’s Silent Film series at the Paramount. This is one of our favorite annual events and going VIP for free is even better!

Teardrop Camping Trailers

Pinned Image

Thank you, Sunset magazine. You have given me a new obsession: tear drop camping trailers. We love to camp, and love to rough it with backpacks and minimal comforts. However, there are times when we have talked about a longer trip. A trip that would probably require more stuff than we can fit in the mini…not to mention setting up a tent night after night gets old. Hence, my newest obsession: teardrop trailers. These cute, lightweight trailers keep it to the bare essentials…a place to sleep and cook…but take out the mess and hassle of unpacking every night. Plus, for a PNW gal, the idea of waking up in a dry place rather than a rain soaked tent sounds mighty tempting! Plus, you can pull these guys behind a mini! How cute is that!

Yes, we will get one someday…it is on the bucket list.

 

Rendering Leaf Lard

Last week, Matt made a chicken pot pie with some leftover, frozen duck-fat pie crust that he made last fall. The flakey, melt-in-your-mouth crust was amazing, and got us craving pie all over again. We started dreaming of split pea pot pie, strawberry rhubarb…the list goes on. This time we knew that we wanted to try something other than duck fat for the pie crust. It was delectable, but we wanted to see if we could go the extra mile and compare it to leaf lard.

“leaf lard, often called the crème de la crème of animal fats. When properly rendered it rewards with a pure, white lard, perfect for exquisite, delicate and flavorful pastry crusts.”

Now leaf lard is not something you easily find in a grocery store, nor is it something that you can easily buy as a finished, ready-to-bake-with product. We scoured out West Seattle farmers market and found that a local butcher/farmer there that brought it’s raw form to market: leaf fat. Yesterday we picked up b 3 pound package of raw leaf fat ($4/lb) and happily skipped home to start the rendering process. Now I have never rendered anything further than skimming extra fat off drippings from a roasted chicken, but this was not that hard.

Matt chopped the fat into small pieces, and we put it in the crockpot with a ¼ cup of water and left it on low all afternoon until just before bed.

The fat melted down into smaller and smaller bits (we kept the crock on low then eventually just turned it to warm since it was too hot). Just before bed we poured the rendered bits and liquid through two strainers and paper towels (quick cheesecloth!) to produce a perfectly clear, slightly golden syrup. It filled a quart sized mason jar and we popped it in the fridge. What would it look like in the morning? Would it be the perfect, snow-white crème de la crème of fats?

Yes it was. It turned out perfectly. What a satisfying afternoon to produce our own cooking fat at home. It is healthier, local, and will produce wonderful flakey pies and other baked goods. Now bring on the pies!