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.

DIY Slate Blackboard Countertops – Living with Slate

In March 2016 (way way back!) I introduced our plan to make our own kitchen countertops from salvaged slate blackboards. Well, after nearly a year and a half of other projects, we have been living with these counters for nearly 3 months. The verdict: we could not be happier with them.

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The natural grain (we used the natural side up instead of the polished writing surface) is stunning, and is the first thing everyone comments on. We were hesitant about scratches and chips, and so far have had zero issues. And this is in a kitchen that we are using AND continuing to do major renovation projects (ie: tools on the counter etc). We are thrilled.

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The slate wipes off like a dream, and we have not had any issues with water, oil, wine or any other substance leaving a funny residue. We still have plans to finish them with mineral oil, but between other projects, cooking dinner, and wrangling a 4 month old we just have not gotten around to it. And they seem to be fine.

We are currently working on cabinet paint and hanging trim. And oh boy does that pull the kitchen together!!! These countertops are the star though, and truly embody the efforts of this DIY remodel.

Progress updates can be found here, here, and here for more details on this DIY project!

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!

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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