Friday, April 29, 2011

My Zinc Bookcase: A Faux Finishing Tutorial Part 2

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If you remember from the first part of the tutorial, I recently have fallen in love with zinc furniture. My inspiration came from pieces like this from Restoration Hardware. Like this gorgeous nightstand.

Beautiful. But of course I don't have $1000 to throw at a new piece of furniture so I decided to try and create the look myself.

I finished the outside of my bookcase using my faux zinc finishing technique but the inside I had left to look like this.
Yes I know it looks great just the way it is (chuckle) but you know me, I am an overachiever.

It took me a few days to decide how to finish the inside. I kept going back and forth between fabric and the zinc look. All I knew is that I wanted it to have nice clean lines inside and I wanted to hide all the unfinished edges of the tinfoil.

I decided to go with fabric and to make sure my fabric would have clean lines I used poster board and mod podge.

First I had to cover the 2x2s that were in each corner. I cut my fabric to cover the two by two but I added 1 inch to the length. I covered the fabric with mod podge.

I folded each end over 1/2.

I pressed it over the 2x2 and moved it until it fit snugly and smoothed it out.

I did this on all of the 2x2s and then moved on to cover the sides and tops.

I first measured my sides and top and then I cut out my poster boards about 1/4" less. So if I measured 15 1/2 " by 23" I actually cut my poster board to 15 1/4" by 22 3/4".

Next I cut fabric about an inch bigger on all four sides and coated the poster board in a thin layer of mod podge.

I turned it over and smoothed the fabric out. I then wrapped the edges over and glued them down.

I then did another layer of mod podge on the back of the poster board and glued them the the sides of my bookcase until it looked like this.

I really liked how it turned out. It gave me clean lines and it added some interest to the piece. Here is another angle.

Here is a reminder of my inspiration.

I filled my shelves with things to help me get organized.

On the bottom shelf I put two baskets.
 I labeled the baskets with upstairs and downstairs. The kitchen is on the main floor and seems to be the gathering place for EVERYTHING in the house. This way I can throw things into the baskets as the day goes on and then take only one trip up and one trip down to put everything back. The baskets are from Ikea and I am going to do a tutorial on the tags.

On the middle shelf I have file boxes.
One thing I have struggled organizing since I have been married is mail. I have tried SO MANY different storage options but it always piles up on me. I am hoping that this bookcase will make opening my mail and then throwing away, shredding or filing right away more reasonable.These file boxes were also from Ikea.

On the top shelf I have my version of this Ballard Designs Desk Organizer.

This was the first thing I have ever built in my life. It is a little rough but I am like a proud mama when it comes to this organizer. I will share a tutorial soon on how to build one yourself.

You could easily use this technique on a existing piece of furniture but you could also build something new. You can visit Ana White's site for some great plans. You can even check here to see the kitchen furniture we built with her free plans.

I hope everyone had a great week. Did anyone else watch the royal wedding? I got together with a few friends and watched it today (thanks to a DVR). They were so cute and I loved watching them break into huge grins. I thought it was nice to see something so sweet on TV when usually it is just sad. My heart and prayers go out to those living in the areas affected by the crazy tornadoes they have been having down south.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

An Apartment of Our Own

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So we finally got into our apartment. I feel like I am 90% settled in and I had the internet installed and ready to go today. I should be back up and running soon, though I am considering begging the potty training phase with my 2 1/2 year old next week.

We will see.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Zinc Bookcase: A Faux Finishing Tutorial Part 1

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We have had quite an adventure up here. My husbands company finds us housing to live in while we are away for the summer but when we got here the apartments were not ready to move into, so we have been staying at an extended stay.

Oh, the fun you can have in a tiny room with 3 kids all day.... wait...

Well, after looking into the apartments they had for us I found out that they accepted animals and from most of the reviews it sounded like there are a ton of animals there. Well I panicked a little because my oldest has animal allergies, especially to cats, and those allergies induce asthma attacks.

Bad ones. 

I called the housing department at my hubby's work and they were so sweet and understanding and took it upon themselves to find us a new place on almost no notice! We get to move in on Saturday and I get to kiss this extended stay goodbye. Now that is exciting!

In my kitchen at The Starter Home I have an awkward empty space right next to the fridge. I have always wondered why they didn't just put more cabinets there...

Well I decided to build a mail storage/book shelf thing for that wall so increase my storage space and make use of all that empty space.

My husband built the bookcase using mdf, 2x2's, 1x2's and moulding.

Because the main part of this was made from MDF I knew I would have to paint it but I wasn't really sold on a color or even how it would look once it was all done. After scourging the internet I fell in love with zinc wrapped furniture. Zinc furniture is all over the place in super gorgeous/expensive designs right now. I mean just take a look at this piece from Restoration Hardware. I mean it is only a measly $795. Pocket change....right...?

I loved the idea of adding another layer to my kitchen. I had painted wood cabinets, stained wood furniture so I thought a metallic piece would be a great addition but the real questions was how in the world could I create it? I thought about just painting the wood with metallic paint but I was worried that it would look just like that.

Wood painted with metallic paint.

So I decided to get a little creative and pray to the crafting gods that it would all turn out how I wanted.

I used some tinfoil, a ton of mod podge, craft paint (I bought black, cream, gray and brown metallic craft paints) and a foam craft brush.

The very first thing I did was apply the tinfoil. I planned out where I wanted seams and started going for it.

Cut your tinfoil to fit the area you will cover and then use your craft brush to apply a thin layer of mod podge to the wood.

Smooth your tinfoil over the wood being careful to not wrinkle it too much.

Keep up this process until you have completely covered your item. When my hubby walked in at this point you could tell that he hated it but wasn't sure how I felt about it.  He sat there quietly starring and not wanting to hurt my feelings.

I let him struggle for a minute before I told him I wasn't done. Big Huge Sigh of Relief!

Do you see that large container of mod podge! Seriously love that stuff.

Next I used small nails to create the look that the metal was wrapped around the furniture. I used pictures from Restoration Hardware to choose where to place them. Then I started the faux finishing.

I was going to use a glazing medium to create the the faux zinc look but then I decided to use the flat finish mod podge. Not only would it create a protective finish but since it drys clear it would work similar to a glaze.

I poured a bunch of mod podge on a plate and added my colors.

I used mostly the grey metallic color and just added spots of the black, brown and cream. Next I mixed the colors until they were kind of swirly.

Like this.

You don't want to mix it too much because you want there to be variation in the color. I just painted on a layer letting the colors go where they wanted and not trying to be too perfect with it. This was while it was still wet.

Do you see how it is kind of streaky and varied? Let that layer dry and keep layering. I think I ended up with four coats of different mixtures.

This was the side after the first layer had dried. It still looked a little tinfoily.

Now the sides were a little plain so I added metal straps to them. I cut out strips of cardboard and, using mod podge, I covered them in tinfoil.
If you like my granite counters in the background of these photos you can learn how I created them with craft paint here.

I attached the strips to the sides of my bookcase with nails and used my mod podge/paint mix to faux finish them.

I let everything dry thoroughly and then topped it with two coats of satin finish poly-acrylic.

Here is just one side. I decided not to finish the inside of it with the zinc finish so I will show you in the next post how I chose to finish the inside and I will also have the final after pictures!

Thanks to all you who come, read and share your thoughts on the happenings at The Starter Home and hopefully the next time I am posting it will be from an apartment and not a hotel :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Handmade Kitchen Furniture: An Ode to Anna White

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For those of you that don't know who Ana White is, it's okay because I am going to introduce you.

Meet Ana White.

She is beautiful, a wife, a mama, an Alaskan and can build like no ones business.

Not only can she build but she shares all of her plans FOR FREE on her fantastic site that you can find here.
We used three of her plans to make our furniture for our "new kitchen" on the cheapo.

Let's review the extent of my kitchen furniture before.
Yep...that's it in all its glory.

Now this photo does not do justice to the table. My great-grandmother received this as her wedding gift. It was passed down to my grandma and then to my momma. It is a beautiful table but it did not fit the space well not to mention I cringed every time a toy was banged into it. The chairs were hand-me-downs from my mom and then we used folding chairs for the kiddos.

That is how my kitchen looked for the last 4 1/2 years because furniture is expensive!

Our first project was her very popular farmhouse table.

We printed the plans and shortened the measurements for the length of the table and got to work.

We (and by we I mean my hubby) cut all the wood and assembled the table according to Ana's instructions. After the hubster got it all put together I filled the screw holes and sanded it smooth with my new sander. We then brought it inside because it was still too stinkin' cold outside to stain it.

Now here is where the real process started. At first I thought I wanted a lighter "driftwood" look for the table. I used wood conditioner and a water based stain from minwax.

I topped it with minwax finishing paste.
I liked that the wax filled in the little cracks in-between the boards. I let it dry and it sat like that for a day or two. I kept trying to convince myself that I liked the table but I didn't. I don't have a picture of what it looked like but you can see a small corner of it here.

Also, the wax cracked where it had been pushed into the seams between the wood and I knew that I would have take a toothpick after every meal to clean out those little crevices.

So I started over. I sanded it down and scraped the wax out of the seams. I was trying to decide what to use in the seams to keep all those pesky crumbs out and decided to try some wood glue (I still am not sure why I though this was a good idea).


The glue did not work. Surprise. Surprise. So after it was dried I had to scrap all of it out and after talking to some other wood enthusiast and my mama I decided to try would filler. I bought minwax wood putty that was stained to match the stain I would use.
I got all the seams filled and waited for it to dry... and waited, and waited. I finally read the instructions and realized that wood putty does not dry. EVER.

So I scraped that out and bought some wood filler. I filled the seams and let it dry. I then sanded it smooth. I stained the table using a pretty dark stain called Jacobean. I used two coats and then sealed it with 2 coats of satin finish polyurethane.

I needed the tabletop to withstand my kids.
And here she is after the first coat of stain.

And here she is all done.

I love the way the dark stain pops against our blue walls. Our total cost on this table was around $175. I love the table and in increases the room we have for our family. I can actually fit all the food and plates on the table! Plus it would easily accommodate one more kiddo if we so decide. 

The chairs for the table were not made by us but I found them through a local classified website. They were brand new and I paid $60 for all of them. I know I could have found cheaper used ones if I had been patient but I wasn't.

They started out with a cherry wood frame and a white damask fabric. I primed and painted them with a white gloss spray paint. 

I removed the seats and cut Joel Dewberry's Acorn Chain in Pond fabric into large squares and stapled it right over the existing fabric.

I then added the seats back onto my chairs. I am so happy with them! I thought about adding plastic over the top but it was just too cheap/restaurant looking. I decided to scotch guard them and I kept enough fabric in case I need to redo one of the seats.  

Total cost for my brand new chairs was around $80.

Next we tackled the matching farmhouse bench. We also shortened the length to match the table and my husband did the cutting and building and I filled holes, sanded and stained it to match the table.

Because we already had the screws, stain and polyurethane we only had to pay for the wood. I think the total cost came to $15 for the bench. This is where the kids sit and it is a little more hardy then the chairs.

Our last build from Ana's site were bar stools.

The bar stools were for an extra tall bar but I loved that they had backs. We shortened the legs and used 2 2x4's on the back instead of the 2x3's and used 2x6's for the seat. Ana's plans are so versatile and it really is easy to customize the plans to fit your space and needs.

I used the same stain on the bar stools.

I think we spent around $30 total for all 3 stools.This was our first time having bar stools and I love having them! The kids eat breakfast and lunch up there and it keeps me from having to wipe both the counter and table down after every meal.

So we were out around $300 for all our kitchen furniture! Thinking that this table goes for $2600 at Restoration Hardware I think we ended up pretty well.   
 Yeah, we're cheap like that.

So do you guys have any new ideas for kitchen furniture you are going to build? Visit her site and you will find at least a dozen plans that you will want to add to your to-do list for every room in your house.

I know my list is very, very long.

Go check it out and get building!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Blue Screen of Death and the Difference That Spray Paint Can Make

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Well, I am reporting to you live from Anchorage, Alaska. I am so glad to finally be here and to get into a new schedule with the kiddos and hubby!

My kids and I spotted our first live moose yesterday!

It was on the median in the middle of the road, just nibbling some grass, and not even noticing the cars going 40 mph on each side of it.

My kiddos were so excited but my oldest keeps asking me when he is going to see a bear..... Ummm hopefully never. I am more interested in spotting Ana White.

We have been spending the last few days in an extended stay. Now that is really an adventure with 3 little ones. Hopefully we will get to move into our apartments on Monday. That would be so nice!

Some of you who follow me on facebook or twitter know that when I turned my laptop on after we got here I got the "blue screen of death." Luckily, I have a computer tech on speed dial (my little bro). He walked me through some things I could try .... but nothing worked. Booo!

Anyway, I just left it sitting out and went and ran errands yesterday. I said some serious prayers while I was out. I use my computer to budget, pay bills, keep my fam up to date with a personal blog and of course to blog here. I really don't have or want to spend the money to take it to someone to fix.

When I got home I turned the computer on again and it booted up.

Hooray for answered prayers!

Well here is my first tutorial/before and after in Alaska.

Do you remember when I told you that I must have been obsessed with red?

Well I cleaned out and donated a lot of things over the last few weeks and I can't believe all the red in my house. My kitchen had mostly red accesories, the living room had red in the pillows, chair and curtains, the family room had red pillows and accesories, the boys room had red in the blankets and pillow shams and red bed skirts and red curtains, our master had red pillows and both bathrooms had red towels. Wow.

A lot of this red stuff was in good condition and I decided to try and re-purpose some of it instead of buying all new stuff.

The first thing on my re-purpose list was my paper towel holder and cookbook holder for my kitchen. I really like them but they no longer went with the kitchen. Unless you ask my 4-year-old, he thought the matched perfectly.

I actually got these for my wedding. I just took them outside and primed them with spray paint and then used two coats of a glossy navy spray paint.

Ahhh, much better.

And here they are in use.
I actually got that cookbook for my wedding, too.  It is a cookbook dedicated to nothing but chocolate.

I. Love. It. 

I had to laugh a little when I opened it because the hubby hates chocolate.

So what about you guys? Have you ever gone through a color obsession? Either in your house or your wardrobe? Did you chuck it all or did you try to work with it?

It is great to back and can't wait to blog some more!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The BIG Move: How to tackle a big project.

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Have you ever had something huge you had to tackle and you know what the end goal is but all the steps to get there are all mushed in your brain?

Well that was me today. I knew I needed to get my home packed for the big move but I just could not decide what I needed to do first. So there I stood, in my kitchen, just staring at my cupboards and trying to remember if you were supposed to breath through your nose or your mouth to calm yourself down.

Or is it place your head between your knees? I forget. 

It took me about all day to finally get myself in gear and get packed. I finally remembered that the easiest way to tackle a big project is to break it down into smaller ones. Instead of thinking about all the packing I had to do I started going from room to room. Pack the kitchen, the boys room, baby girls room, our room, toy room, bathrooms, laundry etc. I am almost done but the last thing on my list to pack is my dear old laptop.

Do you know what that means? It means I will be off line, cut off, removed from the world wide web for the next week-and-a-half! The hubby drives out today (with laptop in hand) and I will be hopping on a plane with the kiddos on the 13th.

I will have my handy dandy iPhone so I will be updating facebook and twitter during the week so you can follow me there.

I think I have everything ready to go and I just keep telling myself if I forget something I can always buy it in Alaska.

I mean it's not like Anchorage is in the wilderness. They have stores and stuff...right? Right?

I can't wait to keep you guys posted on the goings on and changes at The Starter Home and especially this new adventure into America's last frontier.

See you in a couple of weeks!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Aquarium or Ocean Cake Tutorial

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One of those crazy things in life hit me square between the eyes a few days ago, my oldest is turning FIVE this summer! There is just no way he could already be that old.

I really would like to put it off and not face the fact that my babies are growing up but the thing is, his birthday is in the summer and we will be in the last frontier, away from family and friends, so I decided to have an early birthday party.

The poor boy is really confused as to when his birthday really is but I don't think any kid would complain about having two parties.

A few weeks ago my oldest Mr. P watched an episode of cake boss with me on Netflix. I am not a professional cake decorator in any way but I really enjoy making my kids birthday cakes. One because I get to try out new things and two I hate store bought cake frosting. I am using the word HATE here.

Out of 7 birthdays so far I have made all but one because we decided to tile our kitchen the morning of the birthday party so he got an ice cream cake instead. It's okay I made it up to him with an awesome smoking volcano cake the next year.

Any who... the episode we watched was the one where Buddy makes an aquarium cake.
 Umm... wow.

A few weeks later I ask Mr. P what cake he wanted for his birthday and you better believe he said "An aquarium or ocean cake with fish and crabs and shells and coral."

He also requested a tank with live fish but I had to draw a line.

Well I decided I could create something fun for him even if it wasn't exactly up to par with Buddy's cake.

First I baked one of my favorite yellow cake recipes that my sister-in-law Lauren shared with me. It was originally from Smitten Kitchen

Chiffon Cake
2 cups sifted flour
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large egg yolks at room temperature
8 large egg whites at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1. Make cake layers: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Have two 9-inch round cake pans ready, bottom lined with wax or parchment paper that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray, but otherwise ungreased.
2. Sift the flour, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking powder and salt together twice into a large bowl.
3. In another bowl, beat the yolks, water, oil, zest and vanilla on high speed until smooth. Stir into the flour mixture until smooth. In another large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks are formed. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and beat on high speed until the peaks are stiff but not dry.
4. Use a rubber spatula to fold one-quarter of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remaining whites. Do so gently, only until the egg whites are no longer visible. Overdoing it will deflate the egg whites, and yield a denser, shorter cake.
5. Scrape the batter into the two prepared pans and spread evenly. Bake them until the top springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean about 30 minutes.
6. Let cakes cool on a cooling rack for at least an hour. When completely cool, run a knife around the sides to release, then flip out onto a plate (or your hand, if you’re daring) and then another plate. 
I baked my cake in one 8 inch round and two 6 inch rounds for 30 minutes. 

I also whipped up some of my favorite frosting. It is seriously called That's The Best Frosting I've Ever Had and I got it from the Pioneer Woman.

That's The Best Frosting I've Ever Had
5 Tablespoons Flour 
1 cup Milk 
1 teaspoon Vanilla 
1 cup Butter 
1 cup Granulated Sugar (not Powdered Sugar!)

1. In a small saucepan, whisk flour into milk and heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. You want it to be very thick, thicker than cake mix, more like a brownie mix is.
2. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. (If I’m in a hurry, I place the saucepan over ice in the sink for about 10 minutes or so until the mixture cools.) It must be completely cool before you use it in the next step. Stir in vanilla.
3. While the mixture is cooling, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. You don’t want any sugar graininess left.
4. Add the completely cooled milk/flour/vanilla mixture and beat the living daylights out of it. If it looks separated, you haven’t beaten it enough! Beat it until it all combines and resembles whipped cream.

I let my cakes cool completely. I cut the 8 inch one in half so I could fill it. I used chocolate ganache and fresh strawberries to fill it. To make chocolate ganache, mix 1 cup heavy cream and 9 ounces of bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate in a sauce pan over medium heat until the chocolate melts completely. You can then pour it over as a topping on a cake or you can let it cool and use your mixer to whip it for a delish melt-in-your-mouth filling. 

I filled and frosted the 8 inch and then filled the 2 6inch rounds and frosted them. I then stacked them on the 8 inch. I used a few dowel supports because the cake is so light and soft.

Next I made my sea creatures. I purchased a few different chocolate molds.
I found mine at a local candy and cake making store. They were about 2 bucks a pop and they had several different sea creatures to choose from.

I also bought some candy melts. I purchased Guittard white vanilla melting chocolate but you could also buy the candy melts you see at the grocery store. If you do buy chocolate you need to make sure it is melting or molding chocolate. Normal chocolate needs to be tempered after it is melted and takes more work.
I melted my melting chocolate in a glass measuring cup in the microwave. Whatever you purchase will have instructions on the best way to melt it. After it was melted, I poured it into each of my molds. You can color melting chocolate but you have to buy special food coloring because normal food coloring will not work with melting chocolate. The special food coloring was expensive for someone like me who would only use it once so I opted not to use it.

Instead, after my molds had cooled and hardened. I used a product called luster dust. This is an edible, orderless, tasteless and sparkly colored dust that you can use on cakes and candies. I just used a normal cheap watercolor brush and brushed on different colors onto my sea creatures. I also used food markers to color their eyes.

To make the coral I crushed up some ice and placed 1/3 in a bowl. I then melted my melting chocolate and poured it over the ice. I then layered a few more pieces of ice and poured more melting chocolate and then I covered it with the remaining ice. I waited for the melting chocolate to set and then placed in on a backing sheet lined with paper towels and let the ice melt out of all the holes and crevices.

Then you just have to put your cake together.

I colored the frosting blue and used brown sugar to create the sand.  Here is the front.

Here is the side. I used fruit by the foot to create the seaweed. I just arranged on a cookie sheet in a wavey pattern and let it dry.

Here is the back. Mr. U (my two year old) helped me arrange the creatures on the back.

That is how easy it is.

My favorite part of the cake was the coral. I loved how it turned out.

All of the kids got a piece of cake and of course and edible sea creature.

Now I know my cake is not as stunning as the cake boss but I was proud and my Mr. P was so excited when he saw it. He just loved it.

So how about you guys? Do you make your kids cakes or do you order them? Have you ever taken on a crazy cake like this?
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