Tuesday, February 26, 2013

S'mores Cupcakes

Last weekend I made marshmallows. It started as these things usually start - with Pinterest. I found this pin for bourbon-flavored marshmallows, and upon discovering that I had all the ingredients to make said marshmallows, five hours later we were eating marshmallows.

There's only one problem: we don't really like marshmallows. I mean, we do, for hot chocolate and stuff, but we don't just eat them like candy. And because the recipe made about 50 marshmallows, I really didn't have any idea what to do with the rest of them once we'd had the four or five each that we were going to get through. (Plus, the bourbon didn't really flavor the marshmallows very much.)

Then today, I realized I needed to make snack for Doug's class at church tonight. So I thought, well, what can I make that would use some of the marshmallows? At first I thought a big Thermos of hot chocolate might be good, but we don't have a Thermos, and I was going to have to go out and get more milk...that just seemed like a lot of work.

So instead, I whipped out my trusty America's Test Kitchen Cookbook (so I didn't have to interrupt the HGTV Home Rules marathon I currently had running on my computer) and made some S'mores Cupcakes. I combined a graham cracker crust recipe and a chocolate cupcake recipe, and simply melted the marshmallows on top instead of frosting.

Most of the time, I have to make a couple stabs at new recipes that I invent or thoroughly reinvent myself, but this one turned out great the first time!

Keep in mind that you certainly don't have to make your own marshmallows - I'm sure store-bought ones would work just fine. Also, if you don't have a kitchen torch, you can brown the marshmallows under the broiler - that's what I did with the first batch. They got meltier than I was hoping for, though, so if you decide to go that route, you might want to have some forks available for their consumption. In fact, forks would probably be an excellent strategy for these cupcakes no matter what...

S'mores Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes

Graham cracker bottom (adapted from ATK Family Cookbook):
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (it took 6 full cracker sheets for me, but I've found every brand is a bit different)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar

Chocolate cupcake (adapted from ATK Family Cookbook):
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup sour cream

24 marshmallows (either homemade or store-bought)

1. Line two 12-well cupcake tins with paper liners.

2. Adjust rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Toss the graham cracker crumbs, butter, and sugar together thoroughly with a fork.

3. Spoon a tablespoon of crumb mixture into each well and press into the bottom of the liner with a drinking glass (or your fingers if you promise to wash your hands before and after).

4. Bake until crust is fragrant and beginning to brown, about 7 minutes.

5. Microwave the butter, chocolate, and cocoa together, whisking every 30 seconds, until melted and smooth, about 1 to 3 minutes (mine took a minute and a half). Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch.

6. Meanwhile, adjust the oven rack back to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.

7. Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a large bowl (I used my stand mixer). Slowly whisk in sugar until combined. Whisk in the cooled melted chocolate mixture. It's important that it be cooled because you don't want to scramble the eggs with too-hot chocolate.

8. Pour one-third of the flour mixture over the batter, then whisk it in. Whisk in sour cream. Pour the remaining flour mixture over the batter and whisk until completely incorporated (the batter will be thick).

9. Fill the cupcake liners (on top of the crust) about two-thirds full. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out with a few crumbs attached, 18 to 22 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking.

10. Let the cupcakes cool in the pans on wire racks for five minutes. If using a kitchen torch, remove from the pans and place one marshmallow on top of each cupcake, then toast each marshmallow until melted and browned. If using broiler method, cooling the cupcakes prior to placing the marshmallow is still recommended, but you can leave them in their pans. Place each tray under the broiler for 2 to 5 minutes, keeping a close eye, until marshmallows are melted and browned.

Linking up to: Making Home Base | Handy Man, Crafty Woman | New Nostalgia | Give Me the Goods Monday | The Shabby Nest | DIY Showoff |Uncommon Designs | If It's Not Baroque | Liz Marie Blog | Blissfully Ever After | Design, Dining & Diapers | Crafty Scrappy Happy | Craftberry Bush | The Shabby Creek Cottage | Link Party Palooza | The Creative Connection | Serenity Now | Share Your Creativity | Dear Creatives | Simply Create 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Project: Turn a Radio Into a Bar

This project has been going on way too long. I'd say...five years? But now that I have time, the house is all organized and I'm tired of listening to the liquor bottles rattle against each other every time we turn on the bread maker because they're all sitting on the counter, it is SO PAST TIME.

What is this magical project you ask? Well, I bought this radio about five years ago at an auction for around $25. I knew I loved it. I knew I had to have it. I just wasn't sure where I would put it or what I would do with it. I also thought the three inches of accumulated dust on the chassis would be fun to clean off. No, seriously. Three inches. I'm not even exaggerating. This thing must have been in storage since the Eisenhower Administration.

Anyway, I just spent the better part of two weeks taking the chassis apart to get the face off the radio and now I am ready for the next step: painting the interior surfaces, which are old, dinged up and not so pretty. And putting some sort of fabric over a frame to set inside the open part on the bottom of the radio.

After that, I can get to building a couple more shelves for the inside, refastening the face plate to the front of the radio and a few other small improvements that I have in mind.

But first I need color ideas. For the record, the walls are light grey and the other main element in the room is a navy blue sofa.


The left side of the dining room needs a little orange too, huh?

I also kind of want to recover that chair.
So what do you think? Navy? Aqua? Green? Orange? This could really go in so many different directions. Thoughts in the comments please.

Let's talk about Lent bay-bee

If you're a child of the 90s, you'll get that reference. If not, well, Google Salt-N-Pepa.

Female rappers aside, today I'm talking about Lent. Specifically, what I'm giving up for Lent. Last year I gave up stress. I quit my job and said no to a lot of things. That was a pretty good Lent. This year I'm giving up a car.

See, since I quit my job, I just don't drive as much as I used to. I certainly don't commute, which was a huge source of stress. Can you imagine sitting in traffic for 3 to 4 hours every. single. day. Yeah, I can't any more either. And Doug takes the train to work now. The bottom line is that most of the time, there are two cars sitting in the parking lot downstairs not being driven.

And there is nearly always one car sitting in the parking lot downstairs. This has led to a discussion between Doug and I about whether we really need more than one car. Sure, there are times when having one car might be a pain. On Saturdays, I often join a little crafting group I'm a part of at Wegmans while Doug goes and smokes cigars with the boys. That's an activity that will require adjustment. And our mechanic is a few towns over so getting car repairs done could be a bit of a headache.

That said, we get our cars repaired perhaps once a quarter. I think we can comfortably halve that if we cut out a car. And if we alternate Saturday activities, he can take the car one week and I can take the car the other week. Finally, if those are the only two things we can think of that require us to have two cars, no wonder both of them are sitting undriven most of the time.

So this is an audition. We're taking 40 days to audition having only one car. If it goes well, I suspect that we will sell both and purchase one car. It will likely be slightly newer and slightly larger. Slightly newer because if we're buying a car, we want it to last a while. And slightly larger because my little businesses (both vintage and dog treat) could use slightly more space when I'm driving all my junk to shows. It's only been a week, but so far, so good.

What are you doing for Lent? Have you bought or sold a car recently? Are you a one car family?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Shell game or another YHL project from the obsessive fangirl blogger

I have no ideas of my own. Seriously. This is why I read blogs. I love to do projects and love to find creative solutions to the problems that crop up while I'm doing them, but when it comes to creating an idea out of my own head and executing it? Not my strong suit.

The Young House Love book (mentioned previously here) is a wealth of fabulously inexpensive, creative and attractive ideas that I'm having a great deal of fun pulling together. So much fun, in fact, that I have been tempted to turn this into an all-Young-House-Love-all-the-time blog. What can I say? I'm a fangirl.

So when I ran across a pile of shells that Doug had collected on the beach in California over the past few trips to see my parents while I was clearing out the bookcase in preparation to move my newly painted shelves into place, I immediately thought of Sherry's love for shadowboxes and ran to the YHL book to see if there were instructions for making one.

The problem was, there isn't. They suggest framing free things to make cheap art (Project #143), which is exactly what I had in mind, so I totally winged it. Me! Pretty good, huh?

Here's what I did. First, I bought a frame (a 9 3/4" by 9 3/4" Ribba shadow box frame) at IKEA. I went there at 10AM on a Friday because early weekday mornings are absolutely the only sensible time to visit IKEA. Especially if you're going just to buy a single freaking frame.

I knew I would need some sort of background for the shells because our frame hallway could use some additional color. I mean, it's not even painted yet! Luckily, a stash of scrapbook paper provided a handy number of patterns to choose from. Then I arranged the shells on the paper to make sure it would look right.

Reasonably satisfied, I cut the scrapbook paper down to size. First I traced the edge of the back side of the paper against the frame backing.

And used my paper cutter to cut nice straight edges.

I sprayed the whole back side with Easy Tack spray adhesive, applied it to the frame backing and then set some books on it to hold it flat while it dried.

I let it dry for three hours, then pulled out the shells, marking the paper with a little dot exactly where I wanted to put them. Since I was planning on using gel super glue to apply them to the paper, I had to get the placement right the first time.

The Locktite super glue I used was quite nice. Rather than having to squeeze it from a tiny tube like normal super glue, the Locktite glue has handles on each side that you squeeze. It allows for a lot more control than regular super glue.

I left the glue to dry for an hour and added a hanger on the back of the frame. There is a hanger that comes with the frames, but since I wasn't using the provided mat, I didn't like that the hanger would show. So I just used a picture hanger from a kit of several different types of hangers that I bought at Michael's ages ago to change add a claw type hanger to the back of the frame.

And there it is on the frame wall.

A couple of notes:

1) I knew I would need something stiffer than paper to hold the shells up, so that's why I glued the paper to the frame backing. If I'd had a piece of of cardboard the right size I would have used that, but I didn't so frame backing it was.
2) Make sure you get the placement of the shells right the first time. I tried to adjust one and I broke off a little piece - I had to tape it back together before I proceeded. Just get it right the first time.
3) Gluing shells in place without gluing your fingers together is hard. Be careful.

The wall isn't done yet. There is an empty slot there on the right and I'd like to hang an entire row of...something...below that. But Nate Berkus says the best interiors are collected over time so I'm being uncharacteristically patient and waiting for the right things to come along.

That said, I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. YHL FTWA! (that's Young House Love For The Win Again, by the way.)

Oh, and here's the budget breakdown:

Shells picked up off the beach:  free
Scrapbook paper:  free (left over from another project)
IKEA frame:  $10.49
Krylon Easy Tack:  free (left over from another project)
Super glue:  $5.00
Picture hangers:  free (left over from another project)

TOTAL:  $15.49

How about you? Have you hung anything recently? Have a stack of art or shells laying around somewhere?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Poppin tags aka my Goodwill haul from the weekend

It took me a couple of days, but I finally got everything unpacked from my trip to the new Goodwill on Columbia Pike in Annandale this weekend.

As I was cleaning price tags off of brass animals and trying not to take silver foil rims off vintage barware, I thought I might take the opportunity to share a little about how I clean up my finds. I already shared a little about cleaning off wood and frankly, for most other stuff, the extent of my "system" is running the piece under warm water and using a little dish soap on a sponge.

However, occasionally I run across problems that can't be solved with simple soap. Take those brass ducks, for example. For some reason, price tag glue sticks to brass like, well, glue. And anything that that has a foil rim like those drinking glasses on the left needs special care, especially if there is any tape or price tags stuck to the foil. Ceramic dishes with dirty unglazed feet are another issue.

So I've developed an arsenal of sorts fr dealing with the issues that crop up.

Take the brass menagerie, for example. I've never found anything but Goo Gone that will get rid of all the sticky residue that gets left behind. Just put a little on a paper towel and scrub. it comes right off.

For unglazed ceramic pottery feet (like the ones on that Santa Anita Ware serving bowl above), a little Soft Scrub and a soft nylon scrubber does wonders.

Stainless steel gets polished with Bar Keepers Friend. I also use it on my stainless steel sink.

Finally, tarnished silver gets sprayed with that spray polish in the blue can above. Just spray on, let dry for a few minutes, then wipe off with a microfiber cloth when it turns pink.

Everything above was purchased at my local hardware store: Twins Ace Hardware. They're super helpful. In fact, whenever I've had something I wasn't sure how to clean, I just brought it with me and got a recommendation. That's how I found that wonderful spray silver polish above.

As for those silver foil rimmed drinking glasses, the price tags weren't an issue this time, but I have heard that soaking the tags in Zippo lighter fluid will take the tags off while leaving the foil decoration. I haven't tried it yet, but I'll update when I get another stubborn one, which I'm sure will be some time soon.

In the meantime, most of the above is going into my Etsy store. However, I am keeping the globe, which I snapped up for $3.

In fact, it's already in place.

I also have plans for the three brass candlesticks I found for $3. Here they are again with another three that I found a few weeks ago for just $2. But that's for a future project and one I can't do today, sadly. Plus I'd like to collect a few more so I pick them up whenever I can find them for less than $1 each.

And I don't want to go completely without mentioning the Libbey tiki glasses or Alfred Meakin Cosmos pattern Art Deco plate so here they are close up.

Have you found anything great while out thrifting lately? Started picking up bits and pieces of things in preparation for a future project?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

I’m at the Goodwill, you can find me in the bins*

There's a new player in the thrift shop neighborhood. Well, kinda. Goodwill isn't exactly a new player in the thrift shop game. In fact, they may have been some of the first to come up with the concept of selling donated stuff to make money for charitable purposes.

But the latest location in Annandale, Virginia is the newest kid on this thrifter's block!

It's located in the heart of Annandale at 7031 Columbia Pike, right near the corner of Columbia Pike and John Marr. I went for the grand opening this morning and the crowds for the grand opening were admirable.

People were lined up to get in a few minutes before the official opening time of 10 am. They did a ribbon cutting and a few folks made speeches.

You could tell that most of the crowd was there for the shopping though, not the free food (sponsored by Capital One), face painting or speech-making. Speaking of Capital One, did you know that if you have a Capital One credit card, you get 10% off every time you use it at a DC area Goodwill store? Me neither!

Anyway, luckily, the presentation was short and then it was off to the races!

It's a nice big space and because it's brand new, it is sparkling clean and very well organized. Most of the Goodwill stores around here are actually quite clean and well-organized, but this being the first day, everything was evenly spaced on shelves, clothing was perfectly organized by color and displays were carefully curated. It was rather eerie at first actually. Most of the space is dedicated to clothing, which is never my first interest, but for those who are avid thrifty fashionistas, you'll be glad to know that the selection abounds here!

The housewares section is a bit larger than many of the local stores, with six aisles of plates, glasses, planters, small appliances and other household bits and bobs.

The furniture section is a bit small, though there was an annex of sort in the back that may be used for additional furniture later on once they have cleared out some of the donation backlog that was being stored in plastic crates back there. Sorry for the slightly blurry photo. I forgot my camera and took all these pictures with my phone.

This being Northern Virginia, there were a fair number of antiques and other very nice pieces scattered around. This vanity was priced at $85. I doubt it lasted the day. I missed out on a $10 faux bamboo end table in the same style as my new living room shelves, which made me sad. I also passed on a few interesting vintage lamps just because I don't particularly need lamps at the moment. But that doesn't mean I didn't make out with quite a lot of fantastic goodies for my trouble.

I'll take some photos of everything once I've gotten them unpacked and cleaned up. Of course, there's a lot of mid-century ceramic goodness in there. And a veritable brass menagerie. Needless to say, I'll be going back again soon!

But before we leave the new Goodwill, let me just leave you with this.

Cept my gator shoes, those are green

Goodwill Annandale Plaza
7031 Columbia Pike
Annandale, VA 22003

Have you found anything great at the thrift shop lately? Post a link to your latest and greatest in the comments!
*I promise I'll stop making Macklemore references...in about ten years.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Project #214 Paint Almost Any Piece of Furniture

So we're clear, I don't talk about Young House Love every day.

Okay, I totally do. I love their blog, I love their book, I love them. I love everything they do. I met them while they were out on their book tour and they were super nice.

John and Sherry both signed my book and Sherry signed my ceramic Target fox. I'm so cool. #iftodaycoolmeanscrazynerdy

All this is to say that I have marked off like 30 of the projects in their book: Young House Love: 243 Ways to Paint, Craft, Update & Show Your Home Some Love. I have only done one so far, which was to line my dresser drawers with wrapping paper. It went well (thanks to their good instructions) and it's my most viewed post ever.

This time I decided to try project #214, which is instructions for painting furniture. I'm not anti-painted furniture, though with all the wood in my house, you might think that I am. I like painted furniture. It just has to be the right paint and the right furniture. So when I saw this at the Goodwill in Fairfax, I knew it would be a prime painting candidate.

It's not a great piece of furniture. In fact, it's a little rickety. There's nothing that needs tightening or fixing though. It's just not well designed and made of fairly cheap materials. As a result, in my mind, this was totally paintable.

At first, I thought I might spray paint it, which is why I brought it outside. However, even though it's not a lot of surface area to cover, that bottom compartment involves a tambour door and I was having a terrible time getting enough coverage with the primer in between the slats without getting so much on the slats themselves that it got all drippy. And when I decided that I wanted it to be a light aqua with the "bamboo" parts painted gold, that sealed the deal. No aqua spray paint, so it was time to bring it inside and break out the brushes.

I'm not going to detail here how to go about doing the painting. There's a great tutorial on page 278 of the Young House Love book.

But to give you a basic idea of what was involved, first I used a tiny bit of wood filler to fill a couple of dents in the piece. Then I applied one thin coat of stain blocking primer (Zinsser, which is typically what John & Sherry recommend). Then I taped off first around the bamboo in order to get the verticals painted gold (I used three coats of Martha Stewart Living Specialty Finish Paint from Home Depot in Golden Pearl). Finally, I taped around the bamboo so I could paint the shelves Robin's Nest by Benjamin Moore, which I had left over from another project.

So all in all the project budget was pretty slim:

Ugly thrift store furniture:  $23.63
Wood filler left over from another project:  free
Primer left over from another project:  free
Martha Stewart Specialty Finish Paint:  $8.98
Benjamin Moore Paint:  free

TOTAL:  $32.61

Have you been painting anything recently? Did you find something cheap that you knew would be perfect for a project?

Linking up to:

The Koenigs Create

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Guest Post - DJ's Sidecar

My wife's favorite restaurant was the Daily Grill in Tyson's II Galleria. I say "favorite" because it not only served genuine California cuisine like sourdough bread and fresh Cobb salad, but had a bartender who was a wizard at mixing Sidecars just the way Ali loves them. I say "was" because the property managers at Tysons II yanked the lease out from under Daily Grill a few years back, and they had to close shop. In the confusion my wife lost track of the bartender who presided at Daily Grill, and so lost her beloved Sidecars.

After a short period of mourning, she decided we (meaning "I") should try to learn to make our own Sidecars. We ended up purchasing several bartender's guides (including a mid-90s Mr. Boston we picked up in a thrift shop) and after some experimentation, she judged the recipe above (derived from Mittie Hellmich's Ultimate Bar Book) to be the best. In fact, she now says *my* Sidecars are the best in town. Try it yourself - and I dare you to contradict her.

DJ's Sidecar

1 1/2 oz Grand Marnier
3/4 oz Remy Martin brandy
3/4 oz Lemon juice

Rim a cocktail glass with sugar. Put the Grand Marnier, Remy Martin, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, then pour into the cocktail glass. Serve with a smile.

Monday, February 4, 2013

It's not a big a$$ coat but it glows under black lights

Let me be clear: I'm not normally one to go in for rappers. Over the years the only rap that has ever gotten significant play in my house has been Gil Scott-Heron at one end of the spectrum and MC Hammer on the other. So Macklemore? Not my usual fare.

However, I had heard Thrift Shop (NSFW due to filthy language link goes to Youtube) on the radio a few days before Young House Love posted their recent Completely Unofficial Macklemore Thrift Shop Challenge and, um, I kinda liked it. The idea was to #1. take $20 to the thrift shop (like it says in the song), #2. spend that $20 any way you like and photograph the spoils, and #3. find an item mentioned in the song and snap a pic.

Well, you've gotta know I was all for that. So we headed out over the weekend with our $20 to a couple of thrift stores in Alexandria that I don't make it to all that often. And, sadly, found nothing.

But I was not deterred! I decided to make the rounds of a few Fairfax/Annandale favorites later in the week and behold:

I'd never understood the fascination with Depression glass, frankly. I know a lot of people love and collect it, but even when I was in my Art Deco phase, I didn't really care for it. But when I happened upon these pieces at the Salvation Army in Annandale, I knew I had to have them. They look so Anthropologie, don't they? The gold rims are what make it for me. I got six sets for my $20.

And here's the kicker: this is actually uranium glass made in the 1920s or maybe early 1930s. How do I know? They glow under black light:

Awesome, right? So I may not have exactly followed the rules of the challenge because I forgot to bring my camera to the store (and, um, didn't get my entry in on time), but glowing dishes totally make up for that, don't they?

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