We’ve Been Ship-Lapped!

Sigh…Chip and Joanna, you made it look soooo easy. Joanna would say “Chip, I would like this room to be covered in shiplap”, and then the next thing you know, it was done! Ever since I saw the very first episode of Fixer-Upper, shiplap has been on my radar. If only I could find someone to install it…but I don’t have a Chip at the ready to fulfill my shiplap dreams.  So I waited and debated and thought about it a lot, then procrastinated some more, then finally decided that if Chip can do it, then so can I!

Thus began my ship-lapping journey, searching through countless samples and designs from many different companies. Many were too heavy and difficult to install, many were just too darn expensive…so I was beginning to abandon the idea altogether. Until I discovered this shiplap brand at Lowes!

A1E938B7-6E98-4A3A-9810-BA1D297AF00C

Real reclaimed, pre-finished wood planking from GPS Design Innovations, quite light and easy to work with, a fraction of the cost of many self-sticking brands…a no-brainer. What would have normally taken Chip (or any seasoned carpenter, for that matter) a day or two, ended up taking me about 3 weeks to install in my farmhouse family room. Now, this is not a tutorial on how to install shiplap…I will leave that to the pros. This is just my own personal observations about the process and the finished product.

  1. Buy the product that matches your skill level. If you’ve never used power tools (or any tools), stick to the pre-cut planks with the self-sticking tape.
  2. Use a level. CAE80420-4BDB-48E5-A6B2-297198A5A30AThis is important! Visually, shiplap is long lengths of boards attached to the wall in a straight row. Leveling as you go will ensure a clean, unwavy (is that a word??) sight line.
  3. For my particular brand of shiplap, I utilized a miter saw, a jigsaw, a utility knife and my Ryobi Airstrike Brad NailerF0BFCB6C-086D-418D-A03A-4796DDF3D867 (I would not have attempted to do this installation without one.)
  4. Choose the correct glue and use PLENTY of it. I started out trying to use small dabs and ended up with some planks with edges that curled up because I hadn’t glued down them down. Fortunately, this ship-lap, even glued and nailed, is pretty easy to pull off to start over. 0F58323A-224A-49FC-BC68-066D6AB1392EI used Loc-Tite Power Grab adhesive in a tube that required a caulking gun. The planking instructions stated that I could have chosen double-sided mounting tape, but I found that the plank edges tended to curl and warp if they were not glued down.
  5. Figure out the design configuration before you begin. 8780D22A-B590-46C5-B5EE-36FB299919FDThis particular brand of shiplap had an assortment of lengths in each box, so it was important for me to decided which pieces would go in which order for each row. I was working around a fireplace and ceiling and baseboard moldings, so I had to figure those into the equation. It would have been so much easier if I was working on a simple blank wall, but that wasn’t the case. I taped these on to the wall to visualize how it was going to work before I started the actual nailing and gluing.
  6. This shaping contour gauge tool saves a lot of time- C2B93AB7-E058-402C-BD35-5F3BEC203456you push it into an area and it forms into the shape that you need to cut around. C502B4C3-7D8E-413D-851D-2542F87A4140Otherwise you’ll need some paper and tape to create a pattern to cut around. 94872423-F8D8-4968-B1A8-DC266ED187A5
  7. Work stacking up or down in rows but do not try to work sideways and slide pieces into place in between 2 glued and nailed pieces. 7B747A1B-A20C-461D-9B5E-90C4CA64CEBBIt just doesn’t end up well. Fortunately for me, this particular brand is pretty rustic, so a few cracks and holes blends in quite well!
  8. Don’t try to skimp and use leftover pieces. Well, I did, but don’t you do that. BD6F4FCF-DCD9-4176-A4EB-F189BA338355It made it so much more tedious than if I had just kept using the larger pieces instead of trying to save them…for what, I have no idea….but I’ll figure something out.
  9. My ship-lap was already finished with a white wash called Sun Bleached- but I am debating whether to add another coat of white paint to it. What do you think?!?6F42FDB2-6853-4E99-9176-90A0DE95CFA1For now, I am leaving it as is and enjoying the fruits of my labor.
  10. If Coach wanders in and says “how much is this costing?” after you’re already 1/2 way done, just grit your teeth and keep plodding along. For the record, the total cost for this one wall was a little over $300 for the planks and the adhesive (and free sweat equity from moi, don’t forget). Again, a fraction of the cost of some of the pre-stick brands, which can run upwards of $1400 for a 10 x 12 space!
  11. Make sure you have all the materials you need for the entire project. I had to stop twice because I had underestimated the amount of shiplap I would need. 79F41971-A60A-4BA4-938F-4670250A4AA0Each time I returned to the store to purchase more, it had to be seasoned in the house for 36 hours before I could install it. Which meant more messy days in our family room.
  12. When I put the final board into place, I honestly wanted to cry…from sheer exhaustion, but also because it makes me soooo happy to finally have the shiplap feature I have wanted for such a long time. The room isn’t finished or styled yet, but I will share the final pics once its done. BA734292-C559-469A-BAA5-92C5086479D4As an aside, I have a much deeper appreciation and newfound admiration for carpenters and contractors-actually, anyone who labors for a living-especially older folks, like me. The work is fulfilling, but it is not easy-the difference is, I did this for fun, they do it for a living. So my work here is done…for now…and I am shiplapped out… until my next project comes along. Have a terrific Thursday, everyone! And if you decide you need some shiplap in your life, I know the name of a great contractor I can share with you…and its not me : ) xoxo Susan

Our Awesome Junk Can Be Your Awesome Junk!

Have you seen this cartoon that showed up on my FB feed a few weeks back?

Well, my kids have, and they were not amused, fearing that they will be stuck with so much stuff upon our ultimate demise. So, the time has come to start clearing out the barn, the shed, the porch, the basement and the house. As we have been slowly acquiring furnishings and necessities for our new cottage, and deciding what to bring up from our home, we are feeling a bit overrun and filled to the brim with WAY too much stuff that needs to be purged. The general rule of thumb now: if we can’t use it here, and we don’t want it in the Maine cottage, it goes. So, tomorrow, Saturday, June 15th is your lucky day!! Because all of the awesomeness that we (well, mainly Coach) have collected over the years is now yours for the purchasing. I have a few signs ready to go, and Coach has these great roll-down maps of the US and Alaska. And maps, loads of maps. And books…

Mill Shop Wall

No reasonable offers refused, I promise! Here is the yard sale listing that Coach has posted with lots of pics- but I assure you there is PLENTY more where that came from!! If you need it, we probably have one- or more.

https://www.yardsalesearch.com/yss-garage-sale.jsp?id=192013209

Except for the whale coffee table- he is one of a kind : )

Whale Table Tail CloseupStarts at 8 and goes until…if there’s a customer, Coach will stay!  See you tomorrow, bring lots of $$$ : )

xoxo Susan



 

Things I Learned From Hosting Easter Dinner

With another Easter now done and gone, I am reflecting back on a few things that I could have done a little differently so that everyone would have had a safe and happy holiday! Such as:

1.  Use cheese in the garlic smashed potatoes-lots of cheese. This year I attempted to make things that were a little healthier and not so creamy and cheesy, so I omitted the cream and cheddar cheeses in the smashed red potatoes recipe…MY BAD. So instead of being yummy and gooey, they were kind of dry and chunky…even with the added melted butter. Use cheese, people!

Easter Dinner Roasted Potatoes2. On that same note, DO NOT USE FAT FREE CREAM CHEESE WHEN YOU ARE MAKING CREAM CHEESE FROSTING for the carrot cake. Did you read that? Well, remember it. Because otherwise, your carrot cake will have a oozy, bulgy middle and weird consistency and everyone will be saying “yeah, what happened to that cake- you usually make such good cakes!”

Easter Dinner Cream Cheese Disaster3. Secure the paintings to the wall with heavy duty screws, or else it may fall off and hit your mother and brother in the back of the head on its way to the floor. Heavy, framed pictures and little nail hangers from the dollar store do not go well together.

Easter Dinner Brackets PictureMake sure you use bolts to secure it to the wall or your dog will take a fall…fortunately it hit the chair rail before it hit them…

Easter Dinner Disasters Dog Pictre4. When you are done dusting the wine bottles on the cupboard shelves in the dining room while making the room pretty, make sure you push them all the way back into the rack so they don’t fall out during dinner and nearly take out your niece and your future daughter-in-law!

Easter Dinner Wine Bottles5. Make the damn green bean casserole. It has been a family tradition over the years to have green bean casserole on Easter, but I had been noticing that I was throwing more away than people were consuming. So I sent out a group text asking for a show of hands on who actually LIKED green bean casserole. The only yays were from my two kids. The remaining conversation looked like this:

Easter Dinner TextsClearly my family has a sense of humor…so I made lemon- roasted green beans with garlic, mushrooms and onions. I am throwing away most of that dish too.

Easter Dinner Roasted Green BeansI am thinking we need a new vegetable.

6. Ham has always been the go-to meat for this particular holiday, and as usual, I had Coach purchase one that was the “size of a basketball”.  This year, I also made some roasted turkey tenderloins for the guests who do not particularly care for ham. What I have noted is that, while the turkey is long gone, we still have a large platter of ham left over that Coach and I now have to eat.

Easter Dinner Leftover hamSo, for future Easters, we will be serving turkey or some other meat that is not pink and basketball-shaped.

Other than that, it was a wonderful holiday filled with fun and laughter…and thankfully, no fatalities. I hope yours was as well! Now, I need to find some recipes to use up the rest of that ham…any suggestions?? (Please do not say pea soup. I do not make, or eat, pea soup…) Susan

 

DIY Country Door Chalkboard

Country Door Chalkboard Country Design HomeOver the holidays, I was working on quite a few projects simultaneously, neglecting to take either before or after pics or even no pics-my bad. Which makes for not very good DIY instruction-giving. But, I have managed to piece together enough photos of a couple of chalkboards I created so I could share them with you. Both of these chalkboards were originally vintage doors-the cupboards long gone, but the doors rescued for another purpose. One was very old pine

Country Door Chalkboard Before reversethat I painted and one was a beautiful cherry that I revived with stain and poly. The centers of both doors were painted with Benjamin Moore Chalkboard Paint (my personal favorite),

Ben Moore Chalkboard paintthen the hardware was added. In both cases, I used cup pulls, attached upside down, to create chalk holders (because what’s a chalkboard without some handy chalk?!). After much trial and error and incorrect measuring, I discovered that the simplest way to mark the drill holes for the handles is…paint. Place a tiny dab of paint on the edges of the posts…

Country Door Chalkboard Marked Holes…flip it over and press down on the surface of the wood. Lift up and voila, two holes spaced perfectly apart and ready for drilling.

Country Door Painted HolesFor the wood door, I used a copper cup pull, then added a matching copper knob for an interesting, more elegant detail.

Country Door Chalkboard Mahogany and CopperAwhile ago, Coach and I had been fortunate enough to find a bunch of old metal “stuff” at a yard sale- clamps and bolts and covers and registers and what not- which I have been using as needed for building and creating. When I first spotted this metal Country emblem,

Ford Country Squire Emblemit immediately brought back memories of all of us kids in the back of our Ford Country Squire station wagon (no seat belts or car seats back then, folks, just pile in and off you went!)

Ford Country Squire via Fordaddict.comSo I saved it until I could find just the right piece to use it on…and this is it! An old country pine door that was painted with a few coats of greens and blues and then waxed. (Sorry, I have no clue what colors these are- I just kept adding colors and sanding and then adding more colors til I got the desired effect.)

Country Door Chalkboard Detail CloseupI have about 100 of those little Behr paint pots in all different colors.

Behar Lavender Paint SamplesA little goes a longgggg way, so they just keep accumulating as I need another color for a project.

Once dried, I drilled a couple of holes at the top of my old door and tapped the “country” emblem into place.

Country Door Chalkboard Emblem in PlaceOf course, both of these pieces were intended for our shop in the Barn at Todd Farm, but I just couldn’t part with my Country Door Chalkboard. It now hangs proudly in our family room…for the holidays I used some children’s coloring page graphics for my message. This is so simple…reverse chalking for perfect chalkboard graphics! Print out your graphic on any paper,

Country Door Chalkboard Merry Christmas Graphicthen flip it over and rub chalk all over it.

Country Door Panel Reverse Chalking GraphicTape it into place on the chalkboard, then use a pencil and lightly trace the lettering (try not to press down with your whole hand, as any pressure on the chalk outside the lines will result in lots of smudginess.

Country Door ChalkboardWhich you will then clean off with a damp Q-tip.)

Country Door Chalkboard Q-Tip eraserOnce its time for a new graphic, simply wipe off with a damp cloth and say what you want to say! Which is:

Country Door Chalkboard Country Design HomeA gentle reminder to keep working towards my goals, not just keep thinking about them. So my goal for 2016 is to remember to take photos of my work to share, and my wish if for all of you to have a great weekend! Susan

The Wedding…Party Time!

If you didn’t have a chance to view part one, check it out here:Bride and Dad UmbrellaOnce we had dried off our clothing…and our tears…it was party time! Heading into the cocktail area, our guests finally had a first glimpse of what we had been working on over the course of the previous year leading up to the big event.

Candle Light DecorWe had devoted quite a bit of time to the DIY decor representing international travel as the theme…since many of our guests…including the groom’s family, who hail from Northern Ireland, were traveling to the US to attend the wedding. Throughout the year we had gathered our supplies, creating centerpieces of painted globes (remember the global love project?)

Globe Pilephotographs of the bride and groom with their various travel selfies

wedding globesand vintage windows featuring little teeny, tiny airplanes holding the escort cards.

Airplane Escort CardsA mile marker was also constructed representing the 19 different cities and countries that our guests had traveled from to help our families celebrate this special union.

mile marker sign(A special thanks to our son’s lovely fiance, Ashley

#Crashley 1for all of the hand-painted signs…a tedious labor of love…) As a special surprise to the bride and groom, I had ordered a cupcake tower from Let Them Eat Cake featuring their little Frenchie Bartlet perched on top of the world.

Let Them Eat Cake Cupcake TowerSo sweet!

Let Them Eat Cake Bartlet FigureAlthough he’s not quite as sweet in real life…

#bartletthefrenchiebut we do love our little guy anyway…Once the speeches were completed and dinner consumed, the party really got started. Honoring the groom’s Irish heritage, the night lead off with a troupe of incredible Irish Dancers from the Stillson School of Irish Dance,

Carlene Stilson Irish Dancerswho soared and shook the old inn to the rafters

Irish Dancers Shoesin their colorful costumes,

Carlene Stilson Irish Dancersand had our guests at the ready to jump in and dance as well!

Carlene Stilson Irish DancersA difficult act to follow for sure, but no problem for our band Bearfight,

Bearfight and Crowdwho rocked the night away and had the guests on their feet until closing time! Add in a couple more tunes from Andrea and Ben of BeatRoot

Beat Root At the Partyand a bridal rap with her brother, Bearfight’s lead singer Chris…and the night played on.

yo DiggityAt the evening’s close, the crowd joined forces with the band for a rousing rendition of Piano Man

Piano Man Crowd Sings(an “end-of-the-night” classic by Billy Joel). Once outside in the cool (now dry) night air, the guests had a perfect view of the wedding-yup, even the bride in her gown-party’s Ice Bucket Challenge (in honor of their friend, Pete Frates, who leads the fight against ALS)

Ice Bucket Challenge Bridal Party…from the In Town Trolley, who would take them to the “after party” at a downtown pub.

In Town Trolley(Now I don’t know about you, but after being up at the crack of dawn and partying all night, attending another party was the last thing on my mind. Off to sleep for this exhausted MOB!)  An incredible (albeit wet) ending to a perfect (albeit wet) day and night that most of our guests will not soon forget.

Slainte SignLooks like it’s gonna be another warm (albeit wet) day in the Northeast! Slainte, everyone!  Susan

 

Paint By Number…Vintage Sideboard Makeover

Today’s Vintage Sideboard Makeover brought to you by DecoArt’s Americana Paints and the numbers 1 through 7 : )

Americana Sideboard Makeover on Country Design HomeI’m so pleased to announce that I am now a contributing blogger to the Deco Art Blogger Outreach Program!

DecoArt Blogger Outreach ProgramI use their line of Americana chalky paints and finishes quite frequently and am happy to share my latest furniture makeover featuring their great products with you! This vintage sideboard has been in our family room since we purchased it at a second-hand shop a few years back. Every time I walked in the back door, I was greeted by this drab brown large block of wood.

Americana SideBoard BeforeNo matter how I styled the top, the fact was that it was dark and sucked up all the light in the space. I have been on a painting and DIY overdrive since all of the snow started piling up, and I figured it was high time to take this old wood-paneled station wagon and transform it into a bright, shiny red cadillac. Here is the how-to:

1. Cleaned the wood surfaces. The top was not part of the original piece, it was constructed with reclaimed wood, attached and sanded down to a clean blonde wood (but not by me-thanks to whomever did this step for me : ) Which is how has remained until I got inspired. Because the plank wood was quite pretty in its raw state, I knew I did not want to paint it, so decided to wax/stain it instead.

Americana Vintage Sideboard Top Before Unfinished2. So I finished the top with two coats of Americana Crème Wax in Golden Brown, allowing time to dry between the coats, which enhances the color and grain of the wood while providing a beautiful glowing finish.

Americana Creme Wax Golden Brown RagThese waxes are water based, have no odor, are very easy to apply and clean up. You paint on or wipe on with a soft rag,

Vintage Sideboard Wiping on Golden Brown Wax on Topthen wipe off the excess. If it gets too tacky while you are working, you can dampen the rag to soften the wax and smooth the edges. Allow to dry, then buff with a soft cloth.

3. I was on the fence about the wood knobs-whether to replace them or not-when I realized they were screwed and glued into place. Decision made. I taped them and painted around them to keep the wood knobs to match the wood top.

Americana Painted Sideboard Taped Off KnobsFor the doors and drawers, I painted them with two coats of Americana Chalky Paint called Primitive, which is a creamy greige (that’s a gray and beige combined). Using Americana stencils and Chalky Paint called Relic (a deep charcoal gray) per my No-Fail Stenciling Techniques, I added the numbers to the drawers and doors for a touch of whimsy, then sanded the edges and finished with a coat of Americana Clear Creme Wax. 

Americana Vintage Door Panel Antiqued4. I decided to antique the doors’ center panels for a little bit of color and contrast, so I taped them off, then painted with two coats of Americana Serene Blue Chalky Paint.

Americana Painted Sideboard Serene Blue Chalky Paint5. Allowed to dry, then painted with a coat of Americana Crackle Medium. This is a clear finish that you paint on to a sealed or painted surface, then allow to dry. As it dries, it crackles the paint underneath it and antiques it at the same time. If I had the time-lapse option on my camera, I could’ve shared this process. But trust me when I tell you it looks like a science experiment! The thicker you paint it on, the more crackling appears. In this case, I put it on really thick and most of the blue paint actually crackled off.

Americana Vintage Sideboard Door Panel FinishedWhoops. But I was OK with that, as it gave the panels the appearance of old paint that had been worn away by time and use.

6. For the body of the piece, I had decided to paint it an antique red to co-ordinate with the rug that sits directly in front of it. The plan was to paint with two coats, then add the darker wax finish. But, when I started painting the Americana Chalky Paint in Romance Red

Americana Chalky Paint Romance Redover the dark brown finished wood (remember, with these paints you do not need to prep or sand…just paint away!)

Vintage Brown Sideboard Panel BeforeI got a little panicky because it was really, really bright!

Americana Painted Sideboard Romance Red Chalky PaintBUT, then a miracle happened (not unlike that end zone interception with 30 seconds left in the game last night…) it basically antiqued itself! I painted it on, then wiped off the excess with a rag,

Americana Chalky Paint Romance Red Wiping Offessentially staining it red while allowing the brown tone and grain of the wood to show through! The chalky paint acted like a stain, allowing me to leave on as much or little as I preferred to get the perfect shade of antique red. I love it when the unexpected happens…in a good way : ) Had I preferred, I could have painted the entire piece with the two coats of red and then waxed with the darker finish. But this was so much easier! So all it took was one quick coat of paint on the wood, wiping it off, allowing it to dry, then coating with the Americana Clear Crème Wax, which gives the entire piece a bright, glowing finish.

Americana Painted Sideboard Closeup TM7. After I re-affixed the doors back onto the sideboard, I then re-staged it with some of my favorite things. And although much of those are the same, the entire wall takes on a whole new look with this bright, fun Americana Vintage Sideboard Makeover. This sideboard is a very functional piece of furniture in our home, holding a variety of household items like glasses, batteries, candles and more-essentially one large junk drawer…now when Coach asks me where I can find the IPhone chargers and cases, I can direct him to drawer #5!

Americana Sideboard Drawer #5Thanks to Deco-Art for supplying the Americana Chalky Paints and finishes but allowing me to use my own DIY imagination. Hope you all had a Super Sunday, everyone-I know we Pats fans sure did!  Time for some more snow shoveling… but at least we’ll know where to find our winter scarves…behind door #6!! Xoxo Susan

 

Being Sick (& Yummy Sea Salt Caramel Pretzel) Bites

I’ve been sick these past few+ days with some sort of flu or cold or whatever is “going around”. Sick as in I couldn’t go to work, couldn’t attend the annual neighborhood Christmas party and essentially just found myself lying on the couch for hours watching Hallmark Christmas Movie Marathons. This week so far has been a total frustrating fail for me. I kind of felt like this guy-agghhh!

Sea Salt Caramel Bites SnowmanNo big DIY projects, no blogging, no nothing, other than trips back and forth from the couch to the fridge to the pantry to open yet another can of soup or box of crackers. Coach would leave saying “my poor darlin'” and come home hours later with me still in the exact same position on the couch and say “really??”-lol-he’s not used to seeing me doing nothing, and I mean nothing-not a paint brush or sandpaper in sight-for days. But, you know, it hasn’t been all that bad. This little forced break given me an opportunity to step back and take stock of what I’m doing with this blog and the barn shop and start implementing a plan moving forward that doesn’t result in me being so run down and exhausted that I end up lying on the couch watching endless Castle reruns and stocking up on kleenex tissues whilst staring at a large, dark green evergreen in the corner of my family room.

Blank Christmas TreeThe house is not even close to being decorated, because I just didn’t have the energy to open up all of the giant bins and sort them out, never mind actually placing the items somewhere decoratively. Coach and I finally got a tree Monday night (good thing I’m not part of any of those blogging holiday house tours…) & it finally has lights but no ornaments.

Lighted Christmas TreeBUT, today marks a new day and newly inspired (and sugared up : ) by our annual work cookie swap which took place yesterday,

Cookie Swap Platter WrappedI’m on the mend and ready to add some holiday spirit to our home : ) In the meantime, I figured I’d share this yummy recipe for Sea Salt Caramel Pretzel Bites I used for the cookie swap. (And I assured my co-workers that I did not breathe on them and repeatedly washed and disinfected my hands before handling!) The original recipe for Salted Caramel Pretzel Pecan BonBons

Salted Caramel Pecan Pretzel BonBons by Baker By Naturewas via BakerByNature...but mine didn’t come out exactly as the photo (aren’t these gorgeous?!?), but they were still pretty tasty, if not a bit extra chewy! Here’s the how-to:

1. Assemble ingredients: Bag of caramels, bag of pecan 1/2’s, bag of mini pretzels (these I did not have in my pantry),

Sea Salt Caramel Pretzel Bites Ingredients from Walgreenssome melting chocolate, sea salt, holiday sprinkles (these I had on hand). I didn’t have any of the main three ingredients at home, so I ran over to Walgreens since that is the closest store to my home, and I figured they would have the basic snack bags the recipe required. Which they did, which made me happy, so I didn’t have to trek all the way to the grocery store. And they had more kleenex and cough drops too, which made me healthy (sort of). And that is why they are at the corner of Happy & Healthy. So that was a win.

2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place a piece of parchment paper on a large cookie sheet. Or a small one depending on the # of bites you wish to make. The beauty of this recipe is that you can make small batches as you go.

3. Place the number of mini-pretzels equivalent to the number of bites you wish to make. 12 makes a dozen. 24 makes 2 dozen. Simple math.

Sea Salt Caramel Pretzel Bites on Parchment Paper

4. Unwrap the caramels…meh, not fun. When my kids were little and I needed unwrapped caramels, I used to have them race to see who could open them all the fastest-worked every time!

Unwrapped CaramelsBut the only “little one” I have around me these days is a Frenchie named Bartlet,

Bartland unwrapping caramels is near-impossible without opposable thumbs, unless you want caramels with drool and bite marks. Place an unwrapped caramel on top of each mini-pretzel. The recipe mentioned above called for chocolate mixed with coconut oil and vanilla, so I skipped that step by buying caramels that were coconut and vanilla flavored. Right?!?

Sea Salt Caramel Pretzel Bites Caramels on Pretzels

5. Place in oven and bake just until they soften. Now the original instructions said 7-8 minutes, JUST TO SOFTEN. But, I left mine in a bit too long (I swear I was watching them, but then I got distracted and…they over-melted. So I scrambled to put the caramel back onto the pretzel by taking a small knife and scooping it back up.

Sea Salt Caramel Pretzel Bites Over Melted Caramel

6. Quickly place a pecan 1/2 on each one. These look pretty messy because I was placing pecans and scooping up oozing caramel lava as I went along.

Sea Salt Caramel Bites Scooping Melted Caramel Over Pecan

If you melt them correctly, you won’t have this problem. Lightly sprinkle each with sea salt. Good thing sea salt is a thing right now, because I have this giant cannister full that will probably last me forever!

Sea Salt

 

 

7. While they cool, you melt the bag of chocolate in the microwave according to the directions. These are the bags of Wilton Candy Melts you can get at your local crafts store. They have many flavors and colors, but I happen to like my chocolate dark, especially when mixed with salted caramel.

Sea Salt Caramel Bites Wilton Candy Melts Dark Cocoa

I always use a heavy bowl and cook in the microwave on high, the first go round for 30 seconds, then take it out and stir.

Sea Salt Caramel Bites Melting Chocolate Disks

Then every 15 seconds until the chocolate is drippy and all the little disks are melted.

Sea Salt Caramel Bites Melting ChocolateDO NOT OVERCOOK. OR YOU WILL HAVE A BIG SCORCHED BLOCK OF CHOCOLATE.

8. I dipped the bottom of the cooled pretzel in the chocolate, then flipped them over on the parchment to let them dry.

Sea Salt Caramel Bites Dipping Base in Chocolate9. Once dry, I flipped them back over, reheated the chocolate just enough to melt,

Sea Salt Caramel Bites Drippy Chocolate

then drizzled it over the top,

Sea Salt Caramel Bites Drizzling with Chocolateadding a few holiday sprinkles.

Sea Salt Caramel Pretzel Bite DecoratedCoconut is optional as well.

Sea Salt Caramel Pretzel Bites by Country Design Home

10. Allow to dry, then store in the fridge or a cool, dry place. Like my family room. Because we don’t turn the heat past 55. Sweaters, folks!! Unless I’m sick, in which case I got to turn it up to 60-lol! Then you share the goodies with friends and family, because you can’t eat all of them yourself. Or could you….have a sweet Thursday everyone! Susan

S’Mores Chocolate Pie Bites-YUM!

One of our  annual Thanksgiving family favorite desserts is chocolate cream pie. Over the years, I have baked many an apple, pumpkin or squash pie, only to see them get pushed aside in favor of the creamy-chocolate-graham-cracker-crust delight. This year, I made the chocolate pies (shhh, no one knows that I served one, but there is another one left in the fridge), but also created a new family favorite: S’Mores Chocolate Pie Bites!

S'Mores Chocolate Pie Bites from Country Design HomeThese yummy little clouds of toasty chocolate goodness were a fam favorite, and sure to become another traditional holiday treat! I originally saw these marshmallow melted cups transformed into shot glasses, but since this was a kid-friendly holiday, I decided to create the pie bites instead. Here is the How-I-Did-It:

These are quite simple to make and only require four key ingredients: Chocolate Pudding Mix… I used the Jello Cook and Serve Chocolate Fudge Pudding.

Jello Cook "n Serve Pudding

I was making the pies at the same time and planned to use the pudding as the filling, but you could certainly save some time and make the instant stuff.  Milk to make the pudding according to the box, Large Marshmallows…these Jet Puffed Marshmallows

Jet Puffed Marshmallowsare just that-large and fluffy. These misshapen sugary lumps were sent off to the land of misfit marshmallows.

S'Mores Pie Bites Misshapen MarshmallowsI figured if they weren’t straight before I toasted them, they would become melted molten messes once the heat hit them. Saving them for some hot cocoa action : )

 Keebler Graham Cracker Crumbs…

Keebler Graham Cracker Crumbsyou can make your own crumbs, but I happened to have these already crushed and ready to go. OK, ready?

1.Toast the marshmallows. If you are lucky enough to live in a part of the country where freezing cold weather is not a factor, then do this outside on your firepit or campfire. We, unfortunately, had quite a snow fall on the day I was making these, so the stove top burner it was. Mine is a glass topped burner, so I just cranked it to high.

S'Mores Pie Bites Hot BurnerWARNING!!!! Do NOT TOUCH THE HOT BURNER. THIS IS NOT A KID’S PROJECT. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DO THIS AFTER HAVING A WEE BIT TOO MCUH SPIKED CIDER… THIS IS DANGEROUS!!!!

2. Spear the marshmallow with whatever implement you wish to use. I tried a single metal skewer but the marshmallow kept turning as the inside melted. This three-tined fork was the perfect length and the tines created heating holes that caused the inside of the marshmallow to melt more evenly.

S'Mores Pie Bites Three Tined Fork

Now, don’t ask me why, but the fork handle never got hot to the touch. Which was interesting, because the hot glow from the burner on HIGH made me feel like I was under a sun lamp!

3. Starting with the bottom, hold the marshmallow over your heat source approximately 1-2 inches above the surface.

S'Mores Pie Bites Holding Marshmallow Over Heat

DO NOT TOUCH THE BURNER. Hold it there until you see a light smoking from the marshmallow, this means the sugar is starting to melt. Time to turn the marshmallow. Look at that-a thing of golden sugary beauty!

S'Mores Pie Bites Golden Toasted Marshmallow Bottom

4. Repeat around the sides, turning when you see the pale smoke trail as you lightly brown each side until the entire marshmallow,

S'Mores Pie Bites Toasted Marshmallow Sidesexcept the top,  is a light golden brown.

…this is what happens when Coach distracts you and asks a question about the upcoming Holiday Fair in the Barn at Todd Farm.

S'Mores Pie Bites Flaming Marshmallow

5. Remove the marshmallow from your fork using another implement- DO NOT USE YOUR FINGER!! The interior of the marshmallow is HOT and melty.

S'Mores Pie Bites Removing Marshmallow From Fork

6. Place toasted marshmallow on foil to cool.  Not wax paper, that will melt. And then you’ll have a S’Mores Pie Waxed Paper Bites. As they cool, you will notice that the marshmallow centers begin to implode, but the toasted exteriors stay upright. The hot melted middles sink down, creating the cup vessel you will need to hold the pudding. So cool!!

S'Mores Pie Bites Sunken Middles

7. Make your pudding according to the instructions on the box. This is the cook-‘n serve style, so it takes a few minutes cooking in a sauce pan to get to the molten lava stage.

S'Mores Pie Bites Molten Pudding in Pan

8. Using a teaspoon, fill the toasted marshmallow cups to the top (each one will take about a teaspoon of pudding). I was a bit worried that the hot pudding would disintegrate the marshmallow cups, but they were little toasty troopers and stood up fine.

S'Mores Pie Bites Filling Marshmallow Cups with Pudding

9. Immediately sprinkle with the graham cracker crumbs. This is a sprinkle-as-you-go project…you have to add the crumbs to each one after you fill them.

S'Mores Pie Bites with Graham Cracker Crumbs

If you wait until the pudding has cooled, the crumbs will just fall off. And you cannot have a S’Mores Chocolate Pie Bite without graham cracker crumbs!

10. Cool in fridge. An hour or so should do, since each S’Mores Chocolate Pie Bite only holds about a teaspoon of pudding.

S'Mores Pie Bites Cooling in Fridge11. Arrange on pretty platter and serve. The best part is no serving implements required, just pick up with your fingers and enjoy!

S'Mores Chocolate Pie Bites from Country Design Home

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving that you shared with family and friends. Now it’s time to go continue with the kitchen clean-up…hope you’re planning s’more fun today! Susan

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Weather-Proofing Your Porch!

This is a PSA for those of you who live in cooler climes…like we do here in the Northeast…and wish to “shrink-wrap” your screened-in porch before the winter hits. This most definitely will NOT be helpful for those of you in the Buffalo NY area-it’s a little too late for that! Anyway, this is a post from a couple of years ago when I was preparing to serve our Thanksgiving dinner outside. Yup, that happened. I figured if the Pilgrims could eat outside, then why not us??

The First Thanksgiving Dinner

But, even with a heater it was still a bit chilly, so we are back inside this year. So, without further ado-I give you…the shrink-wrapped porch!

“Last year Coach and I converted our deck into a screened-in porch, which was simply awesome. No more buggy nights, or rainy afternoons when we couldn’t use the deck for anything other than furniture storage! Since we had decorated it with quite a few pieces of antique wicker, I decided to “shrink-wrap” it to prevent any winter weather from ruining our newest addition. We used thin plastic sheeting and some lathing strips and tacked it up all the way around. Functional, not very pretty and it wasn’t very transparent, it flapped in the wind (which drove me crazy!) and the plastic kept ripping away from the lathing. Uggh. So this year I decided to get a more permanent wrap, something we could re-use each season. I went online to purchase a custom porch weather-proofing system, only to find the prices @ $1500.00 and up, to be a bit exhorbitant. Sooo, this past weekend’s project was weather-proofing the porch, country design home style! With this how-to video on You Tube as my guide, we began the laborious task of wrapping it up! The supplies: 20 gauge clear vinyl (heavy enough to withstand the winds and rain, clear to let in the light) and 2″ white Duck Tape Dritz 7/16″ steel grommets 5/16″ screw-eye hooks.  I measured each section, determining the placement for the grommets. Cut the vinyl, then wrapped the edges with the tape on both sides for extra stability, overlapping in the corners where the grommets will be installed. Some sections had to be taped together, since the width of the vinyl is only 54″. That proved to be the most difficult part of this project, as the unrolled edges were a bit curled. You just have to smooth it as you go. Mark the center holes for the grommets, cut out the circles and then hammer the grommet into place (this pounding away with a hammer activity is fun for anyone wanting to vent some anger or angst : ). Hanging the large panels requires 2 people to make it level and install the screw-eyes. The finished project : ) Hard, painstaking work, this easily took 20+ hours. The cost? All of the materials, with the exception of the screw-eyes ($5.19/50 @ Home Depot), were purchased at Joann’s using 60% coupons, of course! So the vinyl that normally would have been $7.99/yard became $3.20/yard and in total we will probably use 25 yards-so $80 + tax. The grommets, screws and tape totalled approximately $70, so the grand total (aside from the band-aids, the Motrin and a trip to the nail salon to repair that damage) comes to $150+ tax- one tenth of what the online estimate was! It wasn’t easy, but it looks great, the sun shines through year round AND we don’t have to pack away all of our deck/patio furniture-it just stays in place! And now we will have another functional space for the holidays- as long as you wear your winter coat and mittens : ) And remember, always measure 3Xcut once!! Susan”

So there you have it, but just a couple of side notes for those of you who are interested in doing this project on your screened porch. Since the installation, a few of the grommets have come loose, and some of the tape as well, so that needs replacing. Also, this installation needs to be done on a fairly warm day. The vinyl is quite thick and in the cold it’s very difficult to work with to get it to lay smoothly to tape the edges, and then stretch it out to attach it. Otherwise, it was a great DIY project that I am very thankful we have installed now! Have a great weekend, everyone! Susan 

Through the Looking Glass Mirror-A DIY Project!

A few weeks ago, a customer came into the shop at the barn and purchased 6 of our old white, multi-paned windows for a wall installation. Once it was completed, she texted me this pic-which is awesomely creative and sooo Pinterest-worthy!

Window Wall InstallationShe took the windows and hung them on her dining room wall, framed by some old shutters, to create an interesting backdrop for her candles-she loves dining by candlelight- and the glass window panes reflect the light for some very romantic dining!! Loving that painted vintage buffet, BTW. Since Coach and I had recently sold our old gigantic dining room hutch, I now have a large blank wall in my dining room that is screaming for some attention. This seemed like the perfect solution, and since we have a bunch of old white windows hanging around,

White multi-paned windows for DIY

I thought it would be fun to experiment. But, I decided that I wanted at least one window to be a mirror, not clear panes of glass. Here’s where the fun started! Rather than going out and purchasing six mirrors to replace the window panes, I decided I would make my own with this can of Krylon Looking Glass Mirror Paint

Krylon Looking Glass  Mirror Paint

I cleaned the reverse side of the window  (pretty thoroughly, I thought) to make sure there was no dust or streaks.

White multi-paned window for DIY

Then I scraped the paint around the edges to clean it up.


Scraping window edges for paint prep

For this technique, you spray the reverse side of whatever object you want to transform into mirror so that the finished product has a glassy look. Taking it outside, (this stuff is a wee bit smelly, folks) I used the can of Krylon Looking Glass Mirror Paint and proceeded to spray the reverse side of the window. Following the instructions, I shook the can for 2 minutes, then held the can 8-10 inches away from the surface and lightly sprayed the first coat.

Spraying window with Krylon Looking Glass Mirror Paint

Then I waited a minute, shook the can for 10 seconds, then repeated, adding 5 layers of mirror paint in total. While each layer was drying, you could see the vapors evaporating into thin air, which was like a cool science experiment.

Mirror Paint Evaporating

As each layer was added, I could see that the window was becoming more opaque and less transparent. By the final coat, I could no longer see the trunk that the window frame was resting on.

Mirror Paint Evaporating

Then I waited for the magic to happen. After the drying period, I flipped it over and discovered that my window was now a mirror-yay! But not a crystal clear mirror, more like an old, dusty mirror, which is perfectly fine for the look I am trying to achieve with this wall installation.

DIY Window Mirror Reflection

But, why, you ask!? You followed the instructions perfectly! BUT,  I didn’t clean the glass properly! Behind the glass, you can see the streak marks that I left behind with my paper towels. Lesson learned. If you want a crystal clean mirror, you MUST start with a crystal clean glass surface! (When I first purchased this can of Krylon Looking Glass Mirror Paint, I started experimenting and sprayed this little candy dish, which came out beautifully mirrored. But I left it outside to dry and then it rained, so this is what happened.

Crackled Mirror Paint Apple Dish

Whoops. In both cases, total user error. But, I still love my mirrored window, and it is the first piece of my new dining room wall installation, coming soon! Have a great Thursday everyone and make it a reflection of the real you : ) Susan

PS: If you are in need of some awesome multi-paned white windows-we’ve got extra!

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