Friends of the Heart

This is a repost from 2014, but just a meaningful today as it was then, so I thought I would share it one more time. Many years ago, in a college psychology class, I participated in a group discussion regarding friendships: how we enter into a friendship, how we maintain it and how friendship fades away, despite the best of intentions. Although much time has passed, an observation that one of my classmates made has remained with me to this day. That there are essentially two types of friends: Friends of the Road and Friends of the Heart. What does that mean, exactly? Friends of the Road are those that we encounter along the way while being busy with life. A childhood neighbor, a classmate, a co-worker, a teammate or dorm-mate, these friendships are formed due to time, place and circumstance. At that moment, the friendship appears to be unstoppable, an unbreakable link formed from a common bond that you promise will last forever. But once you change jobs, move away or graduate from school, the friendship, despite your most ardent efforts to keep in touch, fades into fond memories and Facebook reminders.

Friends of the Heart PM

Ah, but Friends of the Heart. Those people you meet along the way whose paths are forever intertwined with your own. They are not your family, but these are the friends you can turn to in a moment’s notice, in joy and in sorrow, in illness or trouble. They are your people. Your back door friends. The “I-don’t-have-to-clean-up-the-house-because-I-am-having-company” kind of friends. Because they see you, know you and love you just the way you are. I have been so very blessed, in my life, to have found a group of friends of the heart. We started out as neighbors, bonded by our children who shared classrooms and ball fields. The dads coached, the moms cheered on, brought the water and snacks and patched up skinned knees. As we proudly watched our children grow and thrive, we stood side by side on the sidelines, in the bleachers and auditoriums and cheered them on, comforted their sorrows, rejoiced in their victories, agonized over their defeats. And while that business of life was happening, our friendships became those of the heart: strong, unstoppable, unbreakable bonds. And then, once our children were grown and happily on their own, our friendships did not waver, but instead, grew stronger. We traveled around the world together, planned birthday parties and weddings and showers together and spent many an evening over dinner and drinks just enjoying each other’s company.  Two years ago (but it seems like yesterday…), I lost one of my dearest friends of the heart after a much-too-short battle with pancreatic cancer. She was the youngest of our group, so much fun, full of life and eager to see whatever the world had to offer. Now, each passing day brings a fresh reminder of how very fragile and sometimes too short life can be on this earth.  If I could tell her one more time, if I could show her one more way, if I could only have a few more precious moments with her, I would let her know again just how special and truly blessed I was to have her in my life. Now, if you are fortunate enough, like me, to have a friend of the heart, choose today, this Valentine’s Day, to tell them you love them. But, it really doesn’t need to be a holiday or special occasion. You don’t need chocolate or fancy flowers, greeting cards or expensive gifts. Just text them or tweet them or Facebook message them or call them or even send them a copy of this and tell them how much they mean to you. It may be weirdly out-of-character, feel funny or awkward, but do it anyway. Because you never know when it may be your final chance to let them know how you feel.  And so, I would like to say to all of my dearest friends of the heart, I love you. You have enriched my life in immeasurable ways, and life will never be the same without all of you in it.

XOXOXO Susan 

Dried Paintbrush Rescue

Remember the time when you were painting something and then got distracted and left the wet paintbrush on the work table and discovered it the next day all dried up and hard as a rock-like they can stand up on their own hard as rocks?

Dried Paintbrush Rescue BeforeNo? Well, I do…because I’ve done it more than once actually too many times to count. Which makes me mad, because good paintbrushes, especially my favorite Shortcuts by Wooster

Wooster ShortCut Paintbrush

…ain’t cheap. I had tried many possible remedies to bring them back to life in the past, but alas, no matter what I tried, the outcome was always the same…trash time. Until now! Recently I spotted a post about this very subject (and of course, I cannot remember if it was on Facebook or Pinterest or Hometalk or Instagram or Twitter…so much social media makes my head spin…which is why I most likely got distracted and forgot the brushes in the first place…). But the solution was simple- just soak the hardened brushes in fabric softener! So, off to the dollar store I dashed where I purchased a bottle of LA’s Totally Awesome Fabric Softener…for a $1!!!

Dried Paintbrush Rescue Totally Awesome Fabric SoftenerLet me tell you…it is totally awesome!! I dropped the rock-hard brushes into the blue drink and left them overnight.

Dried Paintbrush Rescue in Fabric SoftenerThe next morning…with little expectations of a positive outcome…I pulled out the brushes out

Dried Paintbrush Rescue Softener on Brushrinsed them off, and…tada!!! I now have soft, usable brushes again-and they have a clean, fresh scent too!

Dried Painbrush Rescue After(I know what you’re thinking…this brush looks disgusting…why would she want this anyway?! It happens to be my favorite detailing and dry-brushing brush so I just hated to see it go…) So now I keep a jar of the softener on my work bench. When I finish a project, I rinse the brushes off and then drop them into the softening tank, keeping them ready for action. And that’s my DIY PSA for this Friday folks…more to come! Have a great weekend everyone-stay warm in the knowledge that we are inching towards spring…Susan  

Editor’s Note: After I published this, I came across the original article I had read with this great idea! Thanks to Jennifer Allwood from The Magic Brush for the great DIY tip!!

 

Coastal Cottage Cabinet

A couple of weeks ago I shared the pantry makeover that we had just completed at my daughter’s condo. In that story, I mentioned a big, black cabinet that she had been previously using to store her kitchen overflow of appliances and food and tupperware (LOTS of tupperware : ). So, this was the cabinet then:

Coastal Cottage Cabinet Before Black

and this is the cabinet now! A beautiful Coastal Cottage Cabinet to that fits perfectly into cozy, beachy study.

Coastal Cottage Cabinet Full TMThis piece was originally purchased-by me!- many years ago at HomeGoods-and right from the get-go, Coach never really cared for it-he thought it was too modern for our country farmhouse style. So after a couple of years, we found a new (old) cupboard to replace it, and this one was delivered to my brother’s home, where it became part of their home office. Fast forward a few years, when they were moving and the cabinet needed to go. So off it went to my daughter’s condo for her pantry, where it remained until she decided she needed something narrower in its place, so we built this:

DIY Pantry FinishedSo, we offered for sale on Craigslist (no takers) and then my mom said she thought she could use it in her new study. SOLD! So we loaded up a trailer and transported it to its final destination, (thanks, Chris and Coach!) mom’s house. But the black color was just not going to cut it in her breezy coastal-inspired study. Painting time! Since it is winter here, the transformation took place in her guest bathroom (which is actually larger than both of mine put together…). so some of the photos are a little dark…but, here is the how-I-did-it:

We decided on a creamy white, so Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Old White was the choice.

Annie Sloan Old White Chalk PaintWe toyed around with colors for the back wall of the cabinet

Coastal Cottage Cabinet Background Blueand I ended up custom mixing a soft coastal blue using some of my Behr paint pots…I have quite a selection if you need any…

Behr Sample PotsFor the doors, I first used a can of Krylon Spray Chalk Paint in Paver Gray...

Krylon Chalky Spray Paint…simply blocking the window panes with paper that I slid under the wood to protect the glass.

Coastal Cottage Cabinet Paper MaskingIt worked perfectly! Isn’t this color gorgeous?!?

Coastal Cottage Cabinet Painted DoorBut, alas, it was a little too dark for mom’s taste, so I ended up dry-brushing the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint over it to lighten it up.

Coastal Cottage Cabinet Dry Brush Annie Sloan Old WhiteThen sanded the edges to distress it.

Coastal Cottage Cabinet Door PanelFinished everything with a coat of Varathane Matte Polyurethane.

Varathane Matte PolyBut, once it slid the completed cabinet into place, it still looked a little blah,

Coastal Cottage Cabinet Lit Aso mom and I both thought that some maps on the bottom half (which are not windows, but actually faux-wood panels) to add some interest. Asked Coach for some maps…he delivered.

Coastal Cottage Cabinet MapsApplied the map squares with two coats of Wunda-Size

Wunda Sizeand smoothed them out to make them wrinkle free. (You can have all the tools in the world, but sometimes the best thing to use is the palm of your hand : )

Coastal Cottage Cabinet Smoothing PaperSo now the base looks like this. I cut the maps with some space in between so it appears as if you are looking through a window.

Coastal Cottage Cabinet Map Detail

Added one final coat of poly to the maps and the cabinet was done! Time for mom to fill it with some of her favorite pieces.

Coastal Cottage Cabinet Doors Open LogoThe beauty of this cabinet is in the multi-paned windows…which is why I loved it in the first place.

Coastal Cottage Cabinet Clay VignetteWhile the entire cabinet is striking… it is the special vignettes…

Coastal Cottage Cabinet Starfish Vignette LOGOthat mom has created in each window that makes it her own.

Coastal Cottage Cabinet One DoorHere it is in the corner by the window…she’s not quite done decorating the rest of the room…so pics to follow once everything is in place. At night, it adds a soft glow, and in the daytime, it reflects the light from the large windows that span the entire wall…so even on the darkest day, there is lots of light in this space. 

Coastal Cottage Cabinet Full TMSo there you have it, an ugly duckling transformed into a beautiful swan. This poor tired cabinet that had been around the block…more than a few times…now has its forever home. Have a great Friday everyone…even if its snowing in your neck of the woods-as it is here! Susan

Pioneer Goods Co, Boston

This past Sunday, Coach and I took advantage of this incredible weather in Boston and headed into town to do a bit of vintage shopping.   I mean, guys, this weather, are you kidding me-63 degrees on February 1st!? I had been anxious for quite some time to check out this funky corner shop on Tremont Street called Pioneer Goods Co.

Pioneer Goods Co StoreFrontso we headed to Boston’s South End, enjoying the afternoon sunshine. Justin Power, the owner and shopkeeper,

Justin Pioneer Goods Cois the son of Amy Chalmers from Maison Decor, and upon entering the shop, you can instantly see how the artistic abilities run deep in this very talented family!

Pioneer Goods Co Interior ShotsBut while Maison Decor celebrated French culture and design, Pioneer Goods Co is showcasing Americana at its best:

Pioneer Goods Co Flagfeaturing flags and maps and dry goods for sale, as if you were in a grand general store in the adirondacks.

Pioneer Goods Co Hudson Bay BlanketOpen for less than two years, Pioneer Goods Co. has received many accolades from the  press and social media-his own apartment even being recently featured on Apartment Therapy. The shop is filled with incredible American treasures that Justin has collected

Pioneer Goods Co PTAand are displayed alongside masterfully painted pieces that he has transformed,

Pioneer Goods Painted Dresserusing Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (he is a stockist, as well, so you can purchase the paint directly from him). Justin has been a life-long antiquer and collector, thanks in part, to his mom, who just has such an eye for the potential beauty in simple objects. This stunning, oversized steamer trunk greets you upon entering the shop-we’ve all see these around, right? Those drab, dark green and gray hulking pieces-but have you even seen them looking like this?

Pioneer Goods Steamer TrunkPainted creamy white, with the glowing, opalescent hardware…

Pioneer Goods Co Trunk Detail…perfect for a dramatic entry way-with loads of extra storage! With the feeling of a warm and cozy cabin, every staged vignette is striking and could be a feature wall in your own home.

Pioneer Goods Co Frame VignetteJustin mixes new and old,

Pioneer Goods Co Flagssparkling…

Pioneer Goods Co Chandelier and Mapsplus rustic vintage and bold…

Pioneer Goods Co Pigs and Cows…with just a touch of whimsy, to create visual eye candy throughout the store.

Pioneer Goods Co Deer HeadAnd this month, as a special treat, Amy is bringing Maison Decor to Pioneer Goods in an exclusive pop-up shop, adding some pretty to the pioneer…

Pioneer Goods Co Maison Decor Pop Up SHop…through the end of February!

Msison Decor @ Pioneer Goods CoThe address is 764 Tremont Street, Boston (there is street parking all around the shop) They will be open on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12-4 for the winter months (if you can call this winter…),

Pioneer Goods Co Pop Up Shop 2plus you can shop Pioneer Goods Co online, or if you see something you like in the photos (omg-that trunk!) you can email him at justin@pioneergoodsco.com, check it out on Instagram or by calling 857.263.8799. If you are a lover of rustic, rugged New England style, you must…

Pioneer Goods Co Go GLobeto Pioneer Goods Co. it is definitely a “must-see-and-shop”…either online or in person. Enjoy this crazy weather everyone…every day like this is just one day closer to spring! Susan

Grimy Granite Gone, Girl!

Country Design Home Kitchen RemodelWe designed and installed our new kitchen 6, no maybe  7 years ago-wow, that went by fast! And, although I still love it…a lot…one thing has always bothered me…the lack of sparkle on our granite countertops. See how they used to glow in the light??

Country Design Home Kitchen IslandOne of the reasons I chose them was because of the sparkle factor- tiny flakes of gold scattered throughout that caught the light and brought the otherwise dense black surface to life. For awhile, I only used the cleaning products recommended by the installer, but honestly, after the first year, the countertops just didn’t have that youthful glow any longer (join the club). Since then, I have been on the hunt for the perfect granite countertop cleaner- one that cleaned but left no residue, just a shiny, sparkling surface. So many expensive bottles and cans and jars…

Granite Cleaners and Sealers…no luck…the result was always the same. They would look good at first, but after a short time that light, filmy surface would re-surface. Ugh. Recently, I was browsing my favorite home and garden website called Hometalk, HomeTalk Logowhere folks post questions about anything from planting to painting to patching plaster . Other members then respond, some of whom are experts in their field, some are self-taught DIY’ers…like me…providing hopefully helpful answers. I happened to notice that someone else had posted that very question-how to get their granite countertops squeaky clean and remove the hazy glaze-and several people responded with the same technique! Take an empty misting/squirt bottle, add some 91% Isopropyl Alcohol, then fill with water (no one divulged their exact formula, so I just went with a 4 to 1 ratio of water to alcohol). Oh, and make sure you label the bottle! Don’t want to be misting your plants with alcohol…

Country Design Home Home Made Granite CleanerLightly mist the countertop, wait a few seconds, then wipe off with a cloth or paper towels. Guys, can I tell you how excited I was when the sparkle returned…happy dance around the kitchen! This is the reflection of the chandelier on the island after the cleaning : )

Country Design Home Kitchen Granite CleanersNow, one thing to note…for a few seconds, it does have a faint “hospital-like” smell, but that dissipates quickly, and you are left with renewed and re-sparkled countertops! No more spending $$$ on messy cleaners and sprays!! Country Design Home Granite Cleaners and PolishesSo there you have it-my PSA for today. And if anyone out there has a better idea for getting and keeping their granite squeaky and sparkly clean that’s cheaper and works better than a $3 bottle of alcohol…I’d love to hear it! Have a sparkling day, everyone! Susan

DIY Kitchen Pantry On A Serious Budget

Can you believe we built this DIY Kitchen Pantry from some reclaimed kitchen cabinets and and old door…for less than $100!?!?

DIY Pantry Finished Country Design HomeHere’s the how-we-did-it: Last weekend, my daughter and I (with a bit of help from Coach-he’s the table saw guy) installed a new pantry to house all of the appliances and glassware that just did not fit in the kitchen cabinets of their condo. So, for less than $100, what was once a back hall (leading out to the deck) is now a fully functional-and very sexy…if I do say so myself… pantry- with loads of storage. The before:

DIY Pantry BeforeThe after:

DIY Pantry Finished Country Design Home How did we do this for less than $100?!?! The pantry base was created from a fantastic Craigslist find-an old set of kitchen upper cabinets, with the shelves, that someone was GIVING AWAY FOR FREE! They were old, dark scratched and dented pine-beautiful!

DIY Pantry Base BeforeSince the space is pretty tight (behind those louvered doors is their laundry room) we had searched for a furniture piece that was long and narrow without much luck. Until I spotted the posting for this piece: it was exactly the right size: 12″deep, 61″ long and 37″ high. Perfect! I flipped the base over so that the hardware was now at the top instead of the bottom and got to work painting. So, I sanded,

DIY Pantry Base Sandedthen primed,

DIY Pantry Kitchen Uppers Primed(because I thought they were going to be light gray, but then she decided that red would be fun). This area is an open passageway with full view from the kitchen, which has the same color scheme of white, gray and red, so it flows nicely. And then she asked if they could be stained red. Um, nope. Once you’ve primed there is no going back.

DIY Pantry Red PaintedSo I used two coats of Americana Chalky Paint called Romance (aw, how sweet),

Americana Chalky Paint Romance Redsanded it to add a bit of distressing,

DIY Pantry Door Painted and Distressedthen used some General Finishes Natural Stain mixed with a bit of Brown Mahogany to achieve the “stained red” look.

General Finishes StainsFinished with Varathane Matte Poly for a slight sheen and protection.

Varathane Matte PolyFor the base top, Coach and I visited a shop on the south shore of Boston called Rustored Salvage.  Frank and Mike would have referred to this as a “honey-hole”- tons and tons of industrial salvage and interesting artifacts. This little guy must’ve been in old wood heaven!

DIY Pantry BeaverThere we found several items, including this old plank door-well, at least part of an old plank door

DIY Old Wood Door Plank Topwhich was the perfect size-14″ deep by 67″ long- so for $10 we had our top by just cutting a couple of inches off of the ends. These shelves had been kicking around in the barn for awhile…

Pantry Shelves…Coach said he got them for free. I don’t ask any more… I sanded and stained the two shelves

General Finishes Stainsand the pantry top with General Finishes Stain- mixing these two colors to even out the variations in the old wood planks, then finished with two coats of Varathane Satin Poly. Unlike the painted base, I wanted the stained wood to glow…

DIY Pantry Varathane Satin PolyI mean, seriously, how gorgeous is this piece of old planking now that its revived and refinished!?

Pantry Top Shelf Stained The shelving hardware brackets are Rubbermaid Brackets from Home Depot – they match the stainless appliances and hardware in the kitchen.

Rubbermaid Shelf BracketsWe had the chrome knobs on hand from a previous project-never used. We used the same hinges, just spray painted them silver to match the chrome knobs and shelving brackets. We’d gone shopping for something else but couldn’t find any that she liked. So, spray paint it is!

Spray Painted Silver HIngesThe installation was a bit tricky-this condo building was constructed at the turn of the century and has many quirks…one of which is slightly uneven floors and walls, another of which is off-center wall studs. So we had a little shimming and lifting to do to get everything level, but we secured the unit to the wall,

DIY Pantry Shelving Installedthen the top to the base, then the shelving above. There were two basic criteria: we had to leave a space to fit Bartlet the dog’s food bin-that’s a lotta food for such a little pup!

#BartletthefrenchieAnd… the shelving had to be secure enough to hold all of the glassware. Done. 

DIY Pantry Shelving by Country Design HomeAnd then came the fun part! Staging and storing.

DIY Pantry Shelves Country Design HomeAll of their beautiful glassware they had received for the shower and wedding gifts are now proudly on display, as well as several appliances that previously took up the precious little counter space they have in the kitchen.  So what was once an open hallway with an oversized black cupboard blocking the light…and the deck door…

DIY Pantry Before…is now a fully stocked pantry, ready for their next party…and the final tally was  $92.00!! $67.75 for the brackets, $5.00 for the screw stud drywall anchors- these are super sturdy anchors-necessary if you are going to be hanging shelves to hold precious glassware! The base was FREE, the paints and supplies I already had on hand (what DIY’er doesn’t) except I purchased the additional red Americana Chalky Paint at Michaels for $5.00

Americana Chalky Paint Romance(yay, coupons : ), but I will still add in a couple of bucks for all of the paintings supplies. So there you have it, a DIY Pantry on a serious budget…less than $100!!!

DIY Pantry Staged Country Design HomeThey get a great, much-needed storage space and we’ve saved a few more pieces of old wood from a landfill. 

DIY Budget Pantry Country Design HomeAnd I know you are wondering, what happened to the giant black cupboard that was in the hallway…to be continued. Hope you don’t get a lot of snow this weekend…cheers, everyone! 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

My Favorite Holiday Dishes

This past holiday weekend was a whirlwind of celebrations with family, friends and lots of FOOD. TOO MUCH FOOD. After I had offered to make dishes for several get-togethers, I started checking around for some new and different recipes I could try (but they had to be tried and tested already- can’t take a chance to serve something awful…) For Christmas Eve (and day) dessert, I spotted this recipe for a Turtle Trifle

Turtle Trifle from I Dig Pinterestfrom I Dig Pinterest… all of the reviews said it was absolutely fabulous…so I figured I just couldn’t go wrong. Especially when it featured brownies, pecans, caramel, hot fudge and chocolate pudding. Well, it did not disappoint! Absolutely scrumptious. Very rich. Overloaded with calories, but who cares at Christmas?!?

Along with the dessert, I came across this recipe for Tater Tot Bacon Bombs from Damn Delicious,

Tater Tot Bacon Bombs from Damn Deliciouswhich I made for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day parties. Ridiculous. Damn Delicious. Here is the link to the recipe:

http://damndelicious.net/2014/07/26/bacon-wrapped-tater-tot-bombs/

PS: For the second batch I made for Christmas Day, I eliminated the cheese cube, as it really just melted away during the cooking process and didn’t seem to add anything extra to the flavor. Also, I cut my bacon slices in half, but then sliced them lengthwise- made it easier to wrap around the tot and secure tightly.

Next up: Christmas Morning Brunch. This Sausage and Hash Brown Casserole from Epicurious was amazing. (sorry, I don’t have a pic!)

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/sausage-and-potato-breakfast-casserole-4387

It is egg-less, just using milk ( although it said not to, I used 2% milk and it was fine) and flour to create a roux, then adding cheese for flavor. I also tweaked this recipe a bit by adding some crumbled, left-over tater tots to the raw hash-brown potatoes and a 1/2 tsp of chili/garlic powder to give it a little extra kick. I used regular breakfast sausages that I cut out of the casings instead of the bulk sausage. And regular white onions instead of the green because that’s what I had on hand. You can do so many things with this dish, like adding spinach or broccoli, it’s just Delish!

Also for my Christmas Morning Brunch, my “foodie” co-worker gave me this recipe for Pillsbury Cinnamon French Toast Casserole.

Pillsbury Cinnamon French Toast CasseroleAmazing. Simple to make and feeds a lot of folks! You can use any type of cinnamon roll in the can, but I found Pillsbury Cinnabon Rolls and they were fantastic!

And finally, for our annual work cookie swap, I created these peanut butter balls,

PB Fudge Balls Chocolate Drizzle Panusing a simple PB fudge recipe I found using a can of vanilla frosting and a jar of peanut butter.

PB and FrostingYou literally just melt the frosting in the microwave for 30 seconds, then fold in the peanut butter,

Mixing PB and Frostingspread evenly in a foil lined pan and refrigerate until firm.

PB Fudge in PanBut once it cooled, and I cut and sampled a piece, I felt like it was missing something…chocolate! So I melted some dark chocolate wafers and semi-sweet chocolate bits in a sauce pan.

PB Fudge Balls ChocolateI cut the fudge into equal squares, then rolled each one into a ball.

PB Fudge BallsI dipped them into the chocolate and then into some crushed honey roasted peanuts. Then I drizzled the remaining chocolate over the tops for decorations.

PB Fudge Balls Chocolate DrizzleDecadent, delicious. But I did discover that one inch squares make really big balls, so next time I will definitely cut them smaller!So there you have it, a few of my new favorite recipes for you to try at your next celebration! And now it’s time to clean out the fridge and get ready for the new year of eating healthy! Have a tasty Tuesday, everyone! Hope you only get a dusting of snow…Susan

 

Re-Loved Red Country Cupboard

Good morning everyone!  I hope you all had an incredible holiday…for us the past two days have been a whirlwind of family, food and so much fun! Even this little guy has gotten into the holiday spirit (this IS his happy face : )Bartlet on the Christmas RugAnd we still have the weekend yet to party! But, in the meantime, I thought I would share my latest project with you, since it is so merry and bright : ) This was a Craigslist purchase that Coach picked up about a month ago. It sat on the porch, waiting for my broken foot to heal (UGH) until finally, I just went ahead and worked on it, boot and all,

Walking Boot for fractured footbecause I needed to get it out of the family room before the holiday! The BEFORE: scratched, dark pine cupboard with a veneer plywood backing.

Red Country Cupboard BeforeAFTER: A Re-Loved Red Country Cupboard with a ship-lap planking background. A happy piece for (I hope) a happy home!

Re-Loved Red Country CupboardHere’s my how-to:

  1. Sanded down the surfaces, buffing out the deep scratches on the lowest exposed shelf. Re-Loved Red Country Cupboard BeforeLuckily for me, other than some scratches and dirt, this piece was in good shape. No mildewy or cigarette odors-that is the worst to try and remove!
  2. Painted with two coats of Annie Sloan Emperor’s Silk Chalk Paint- the most gorgeous color red. Annie Sloan Emperor's Silk Red But, the funny thing about the color red is, no matter what brand you use, it still takes several coats to get a uniform color throughout the piece, especially when painting over a dark surface. In this case, I was planning to distress it anyway so it really didn’t matter that it wasn’t a super uniform finish. I sanded down the edges, Red Country Cupboard Sanded Edgesthen finished it with a coat of Varathane Matte Interior Polyurethane. I love this stuff- has essentially no odor, dries quickly and leaves a soft, slight sheen.
  3. For the backing, I just couldn’t leave that dark pine veneer, so I added some ship-lap pieces of rustic pine planking Coach dug out of the barn. I cut them to the right size, fitting them behind each shelf like a puzzle.Ship Lap Pine Planking
  4. I then stained them a with a General Finishes Country Pine stain for some added contrast.General Finishes Country Pine Stain
  5. Dry-brushed them with a light coat of Americana Chalky Paint.Americana Chalky Paint
  6. I laid them all into place, then used Gorilla glue Red Country Cupboard Gorilla Glueto secure them to the back wall. Once dried, I used my staple/ finish nail gun to secure them permanently without making any apparent nail holes.Re-Loved Red Country Cupboard Interior Planking
  7. Of course, as I was lining up the planking, I created a few scratches on the already finished red cupboard.
  8. So I mixed some paint and poly together and re-applied to the scratched areas, blending into the already finished wood.Red Country Cupboard Paint and Poly Glaze
  9. I replaced the “colonial kitchen hardware” with a simple wood knob and some iron hinges and we’re done!
  10. AFTER: the Red Country Cupboard all decked out and ready for the holidays : )Re-Loved Red Country CupboardI hope you all had a magical holiday and that your new year will bring you much joy-I know we are all looking forward to 2016!! Have a great post-holiday weekend, everyone! Susan

Crafting With Wood Pallets

Do you ever look at the thousands of Pinterest pages filled with pallet projects and think: “well, that looks fairly easy, I think I can make that”. No? Well, I have. All the time. I actually have one of those Pinterest pages: Pull Apart A Pallet, which I am continually adding to as new and innovative ideas pop up (170 pins and counting…). But I have yet to actually make anything. Why? Well, wood pallets are the perfect medium for creating rustic wood items for your home and garden-for FREE. But, the trick is to figure out: 1.Where to get them-for FREE  2.How to take them apart  3.How to transform the wood pieces into something else that is useful and attractive and  4.How to finish them so they actually look like a rustic pine piece and not like a pile of wood that you nailed together. So I was delighted when I recently received a copy of the book “Crafting With Wood Pallets” by Becky Lamb. (Published Sept, 2015 Ulysses Press)

Crafting with Wood Pallets CoverIt is the answer to a DIY’ers pallet prayer. Not only does it have the pretty pics of the projects, it also includes the nitty-gritty DIY details: everything from where to find them to what type of tools and equipment you will need , how to actually take them apart, all of the measurements and dimensions for each project and the final finishing touches. Loads of super cute projects to choose from as well, like this Catch-All Caddy with the leather strap handle.

Crafting with Wood PalletsHow about some inspirational wall art? The lowly pallet has been transformed into a truly unique piece using colorful paint…

Crafting With wood Pallets…Becky instructs on the proper techniques for that as well. Loving this Entry Table/Wine Bar-it is simple and the perfect size for a narrow entryway or tuck behind a sofa while safely storing your glasses and bottles.

Wood Pallet Wine BarJust in time for the holidays (with not a moment to spare…) a porch star! As you can see in the photo, she includes all of the specs: supplies you will need, tools required and the skill level, plus the time it will take!

Wood Pallet Porch StarAnd finally, you can’t forget your favorite family pet who could be convinced that this (and NOT your bed) would be the perfect curl up and cuddle spot.

Crafting with Wood Pallets Dog BedMore than 25 complete project plans in all, with full instructions, cutting measurements and finishing techniques. So, I know you are wondering which project I have made?! Well, the truthful answer is none-YET. I have been sidelined for the past month with a few fractured bones in my foot. Yup. Suffice to say it is never a good idea to clean out and organize your basement workshop in your bare feet.

Walking Boot for fractured footBut, even though I haven’t yet created my first pallet masterpiece, I wanted to share this book with you because it would be the perfect gift for a DIY’er on your list. It is available on Amazon.com (with Prime, you can still get it shipped in time!) but also at Barnes and Noble. And I promise, once I am back in full-on DIY mode, a pallet bed for Bartlet

#bartletthefrenchiewill be tops on my list, thanks to Becky Lamb and her book, Crafting with Wood Pallets! Have a great Friday everyone- one week & counting until you know who arrives! Susan 

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