Thursday, May 31, 2012

Anyone for a spot of tea?

I couldn't wait to cross something off my list for the upcycle challenge... I've been meaning to make a tea table and chairs for MONTHS.  I found the perfect little table for $2 (!) at the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore and couldn't wait to dig in!  The problem was, I couldn't find the perfect little chairs to match.  I was at my wits end until my husband told me I had to do something about...

... the empty kitty litter boxes in our basement!  That combined with the theme this week was enough to kick me into gear.  When I was finished, I had Tea for Two: Tea Table and Stools.  

Everything on the table (and decorating the stools) was thrifted/recycled/upcycled for a chic little tea party.  The "stools" were spray painted and upholstered with pieces from a  vintage sheet, which was pleated on all sides and trimmed with vintage lace.  The attached cushions are comfy AND cute, and fortunately don't affect the overall functionality of the stools - storage!  They flip up from the side and snap down tight.  The old end table got a facelift and a LITERAL lift - a stabilizing new base - and the top was hand-painted in a soft gold.  (An added touch for the party - all of the china, trays, vases, etc. were thrifted, cleaned and some were sprayed with paint to match.  The dessert tray was created with two saucers, some large wood beads and E6000.  Even the little hostess is dressed in vintage attire!)
The stools came together well, so I couldn't help but make a third, just in case another guest dropped in unexpectedly.  When you're all finished with the party, cleanup is easy - just whisk all of the fixings into a stool!  Another stool can hold a few beloved tea party goers (don't know about you, but stuffed animal storage is sorely needed around here...)  All in all, our hostess thinks this upcycle is a huge hit!

I was so excited for the upcycle challenge!  I'll admit it.  I am a... hoarder collector.  Hoarder is such an ugly word... So.  I'm a collector.  I can't throw away my elastic scraps, for instance, for fear I will then need them a day later which would, of course, be a travesty.  So, yes.  I save things.  And then I have to find stuff to do with said things.  And thus began a love affair with the "taking junk and making it into... NOT junk" philosophy.

When my husband began complaining about the empty kitty litter boxes piling up in our basement, I knew we needed to find a use for them.  Sure, we could throw them away, but what a waste of some perfectly nice sturdy plastic buckets!  With lids!
It just so happened that I was also searching for the perfect little chairs at the same time.  During a maddeningly unsuccessful trip to the thrift store one day, the light bulb magically went on.

Now, I don't presume that you will find a table exactly like mine.  You might.  But you might not.  My point in showing you the beginning of this table tutorial is to illustrate that even though you may not find the PERFECT piece, you can make it perfect!  For instance:

Ugly table.  Dark brown. Kind of outdated looking.  It had obviously been removed from something permanent, as the very bottom of the base looked like it had been sawed off on two sides.  I don't really know what that's all about, but obviously the very bottom piece had to go.  Plus, the table was a little short for kitty litter box stools.  With the bottom piece removed, I worried that the base wouldn't be as stable.  But there's a way to work with all of these issues.

First, take an adjustable wrench and take the nut off the bottom of the bolt.  (Did you notice the nut is SQUARE?  Weird!)  Remove the wood piece.  And you're left with a big bolt sticking out of your table.  Not cool.

Take your vice grips.  And PULL... tug... WRENCH that bolt out of the table.  Use some elbow grease!  Give it your all!

Now we'll address the height/unstable base issues all in one.

Take a scrap board.  Cut the board into squares that are all the same size and a bit bigger than the bottom of the table base.  Cut enough squares to make up the height you need.
Dab wood glue all over one side of two boards.
Smooth the glue out over the boards with a putty knife (or similar).
Smoosh the two boards together.
Take some finishing nails and nail them into the boards.  You'll want to clamp the boards together so they don't shift.  Trust me on that one.
Then, put wood glue all over the top of this stack, and all over one side of another board.
Smoosh that board onto the other two.
Add your nails.
And continue this with all of your squares until you get the height you want.
See why you need to CLAMP the boards??  

Fortunately, the next step is to sand it all down, really really well.  So that takes care of the unevenness along with any splinters.  It would have been easier to sand had it not been so uneven, though.
So, use a belt sander with coarse sandpaper to really smooth it down.
I then used a palm sander with fine sandpaper to round the edges and make it less angular.
It'll be smooth as butter then.

Now, sand the table down.  Belt sander and palm sander.
Wipe it all down.
And spray the table and the block you made with primer.

Now drill some holes around the base of the table.  One on each side.  You don't have to go all the way through, these are just guide holes.  Make sure you drill at an angle.
Center your table base on your block.  Take some deck screws, or something really long and tough, and drill them through the table into the block at an angle.  Make sure you've really got them in there.
Take some wood filler and smooth it over the screw holes.
Let it dry.  Sand it.  
Paint over the entire thing with satin spray paint.  You'll probably need two or three coats.  

Draw guidelines with a ruler.  I drew lines straight across horizontally and then diagonally to make triangles.  Then I hand painted the champagne-colored diamonds on.  I also painted in the groove that runs around the tabletop.  I used regular acrylic craft paint.
When it's all dry, erase the pencil lines.

Spray the whole thing down with a clear sealant.

On to the stools!

Wash out your buckets.  Wash them GOOD.  I used bleach.  And then left them in the sun for a while.

First up, use a screwdriver to pry the handles off.  Try not to stab your hand like I did.

Use Krylon Fusion spray paint to paint the boxes.  It adheres to plastic!  Awesome stuff.  I used - of course - white.  Satin.  You will likely need an insane amount of spray paint to cover the words and images.  Insane.  But I really wanted them to be white in case I needed to remove the pleated covers.  Just be aware that the fumes in your garage may be enough to kill a small mammal.
Make sure that you spray the inside of the boxes, too.
Turn them over and spray them upside down, too, so you really get into all the grooves.
While you're at it, spray the lids.

I don't have a ton of pictures of this step, but it's really straightforward.  To make the cover that goes around the bottom of the "stool" you just need a vintage sheet.  Measure around the box.  You'll need to add pleats to three sides, so add about 8-10 inches per pleat to the box circumference.  Cut your sheet to this length and slightly longer than the height of the box.  Hem the top and bottom by folding over twice, ironing and sewing with a straight stitch.  Measure the distance from mid point of one side of the box to midpoint of the next side.  Iron a pleat in the sheet at these points.  Pin at the top of the pleat.  Sew the pleats down with a straight stitch all along the length of the sheet.  To attach it to the boxes, I just hot glued the sheet on under the lip.  I hot glued vintage lace over the top edge.

Now you'll need to make the cushions.  Grab some thick cardboard.  I used a huggies box.
Open it up at the sides and lay it flat.
Cut the sides apart.
Cut the bottom flaps off.
Lay the lid on the cardboard rectangle,
and cut around the curves.
Lay out your fabric, right side down.
Cut a piece of craft foam the same size and shape as the cardboard.  Lay it on top of the fabric.
Put the piece of cardboard on top of the foam.
Wrap the fabric up and over the cardboard.  Tuck the corners in, like a present.  Staple the fabric down with a staple gun.

Use your hot glue gun to glue the cardboard to the top of the lid.  

I used complimentary scraps to dress up the cushions a bit.  I just stapled them down like the other fabric.

And you're done!

With some thrifting and spray paint you can turn some inexpensive items into tea party treasures!

Clean up is a snap!  Awesomely, you can just lift the lid and store all your tea party goods!  Including your stuffed guests.
Perfect for your little one to enjoy a beautiful outdoor tea party picnic.  The rain took a short break just long enough for an impromptu photo shoot.  It was perfectly sweet, until we were swarmed with lakeflies (quite possibly the most disgusting bug ever.  Like a skinny spider with wings.)  We'll have to try again later.

Thank you so much for voting!  I think this was my favorite project yet.

*Be sure to check the right sidebar for all the fun parties I link to!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

I almost scrapped it...

I was at a complete and total loss for "just scraps."  Why?  I certainly have enough of them.  I think I was overwhelmed by options... wood scraps? Ribbon scraps?  Paper scraps?  So many options!  In the end, I was struck with inspiration while watching my child play with cousins.  Thrilled and obsessed with the small dollhouse at Cousin's house, my daughter couldn't leave it alone.  I started thinking about how useful it would be to take one along with us on short road trips or longer airplane rides... or even to the Dr.'s office or grocery store!  Nothing else has caught my daughter's attention so fully and I started to wonder if my box of scrap fabrics could somehow be utilized in this project.  After a bit of brainstorming, some drawings, some heat and bond mixed with the dreaded task of ironing, lots of zigzag stitches, some scraps of fabric, trim, and even elastic remnants came together to form the "Pocket Peggy House".  (Not to be confused with the Polly Pocket's House, that's something entirely different...)

The Pocket Peggy House is a completely furnished, move-in ready home.  It boasts the latest in modern design with stenciled walls and bold color choices.  There is a lot of natural light from the open concept roofing, and the light fixtures throughout are completely updated.  The curtains are both feminine and modern and add quite a lot to the decor.  If you're worried about storage, never fear!  There is plenty of space for all of your items in the attic!  The yard is perfectly manicured and professionally landscaped with flower beds, a small garden and two window boxes.  (Some of my favorite features?  The pom pom valances, the spunky polka-dotted coat tree and the whale and sheet music stuffed up in the attic.)  With it's funky orange doors, this home is the perfect mix of modern meets traditional meets eclectic!  Don't you want to move right in?  We found a family of peggies who couldn't wait - and they coordinate so nicely with their new surroundings!

What's more - the Pocket Peggy House can be rearranged and attached in any number of ways!  It can stand up straight like a normal house, with the front wall opening as a door, or it can lay down flat on the ground so the Peggies can play with all of their things.  It can be propped free standing with any number of walls, or it can stay completely connected to the "floor" of the house.  It can be used at home, in the grocery cart, waiting for your food, or just about anywhere!  Split up the walls and let each child play with their own - no fighting!  And the best part is, when it's time to stop playing, the Pocket Peggy House folds up completely to be slipped - well, not QUITE into your pocket (unless you have a really big pocket) - but definitely into your purse!


Well, at first I really was stumped when it came to scraps.  There are so many things you CAN do - the options were overwhelming.  I love watching my daughter play with her cousin's doll house, though, and I thought a version just for her would be perfect.  She's a little young for the tiny, intricate pieces.  PLUS, we have an airplane trip coming up.  With all things considered, I finally put it all together into one project - 

I had so much fun with the details - and could honestly make a ton more because it was so much fun to put together.

Before you start assembling anything, you'll need to cut out squares for your walls and triangles for the roof.  You can make these any size you'd like, it's totally up to you and where you want this to fit.  When cutting your squares and triangles consider the following:
which pieces of scrap compliment each other the best?  What color do I want the outside of my house to be? (this will be your largest scrap) What kinds of patterns do I want to include or avoid on the walls?  Do I want to make an "attic" or just leave the inside of the triangles the same color as the outside?
After perusing your scraps and planning the walls and roof, you can start cutting the base pieces.  You will need four squares for the outer walls, four squares for the inner walls, four triangles for the outer roofs and four triangles for the inner roofs.  In addition, you will need two squares of the same color for the floor.  Once all of that is done, you can move on to assembly.

1.  Cut (or find) scraps that are in smallish strips and rectangles.  
2.  Cut heat and bond to just a bit smaller than the scrap.  
3.  Put the heat and bond face down and iron it onto the scrap.
4.  Do this for all of the scraps you find that you want to use.

A note about "accessory" scraps: Pick a variety of colors/patterns and keep in mind what you might be using them for - florals for flowers or curtains, brown patterns for wood grains, etc.  You want everything to coordinate, but it will be more interesting if it isn't all "matchy-matchy."

5.  Decide on your "decor" and trace the shapes onto the heat and bond side of the scraps. I traced shapes for a door, several windows, a large bay window, small circle window for the attic, vases, curtains, table, chairs, coat rack, etc.  Cut them out.
6.  Design your "rooms".  Lay out each inner wall piece and place your decor scraps where you want them, just to get an idea for what will go where.
7.  Stack everything in order, the way you want it.  Outer wall piece, outer wall piece decor, corresponding inner wall piece, inner wall piece decor... outer wall piece, outer wall piece decor, corresponding inner wall piece, inner wall piece decor... etc.  

Note:  The reason I found this to be so helpful was due to duplicate pieces.  For instance, for every window you cut out, you will actually need two of them since the window is on the inside of the house AND the outside.  I didn't want to get confused about which window went on the inside or outside, or what inside wall piece went with which outside wall piece... stacking them neatly in order with the decor pieces right on top of each really helped.  I did this with the roof pieces as well, and then matched the attic pieces up with a wall piece later on.

8.  Lay our your decor pieces exactly where you want them to make sure it will all fit.
9.  Take the backing off of the heat and bond.
10.  Lay your pieces back down where they go and iron over them to make them stick.  You may have to do this one at a time. 

Do this with EVERY SINGLE BASE PIECE.  That's right.  Every triangle.  Every square.  Inner, outer, floor, everything.  Are you good at math?  That's ironing pieces on 8 triangles and 9 squares (since there was nothing to iron to the outside of the floor.  That would be weird.)

Once everything is ironed down in place, the real work begins!  Start with the windows.

11.  Sew down the middle of the window.
12.  Turn and sew perpendicular to the previous stitch.
13.  Iron on curtains around the outside of the window (if it's an interior wall piece) OR
14.  Zig Zag stitch all around the outside of the window (for exterior wall pieces).

Note: You will be sewing around pretty much EVERYTHING you just ironed on.  How carefully/accurately you do so, is really up to you.  I suggest doing this "assembly line style" - one color of thread for every single base piece, then switch thread colors and go through each piece again.  I started with black for my windows and a few other things, moved onto blue for the blue decor, then green for grass, flowers, etc, switched to orange, then pink and finished with yellow.  Phew.  It sounds like a lot and if you want to do it all with one thread color, well, I wouldn't blame you.

15.  Sew around each decor piece.  Curtains, light fixtures, grass (you can see I cheated a little on the grass), window boxes, flowers, tables, boxes, vases, etc, etc.  EVERYTHING.  If you don't sew it on, it will NOT withstand play.

16.  As you switch thread colors, think about accessories you will want to add so you can add them at the appropriate point.  For instance, when I was sewing around my green items, I added the ric rac for the stems and leaves of some of the flowers.  When I was using yellow thread, I added the yellow pom pom valances, the row of daisies outside and the daisies in the vase in the attic.

Once everything is sewn, you're really almost done.  It's a breeze from here.

17.  Match up one triangle to each square piece - interior to interior and exterior to exterior. Place the bottom of the triangle to the top of the square, right sides together, and pin.
18.  Use a straight stitch to sew them together.
19.  Do this for every square/triangle combo.

20.  Lay out your wall/roof piece.  See how the seam looks yucky?
21.  Iron the seam flat.
22.  Iron the rest of the piece while you're at it.  Doesn't it look so much nicer, now?

23.  Now, match up the exterior pieces to the interior counterparts.  Place them right sides together.
24.  Take a small bit of elastic (I used leftover hair band pieces) and sandwich it in a loop on either side of the walls (you can see the orange bits sticking out below.)  Pin all the way around.
25.  Start at the bottom corner - where the bottom meets the side - and sew up the wall, around the roof and down the other wall.  DO NOT SEW THE BOTTOM.  
26.  Leave the bottom open.

27.  Sew each outside wall to it's matching inside wall in the same fashion.  
28.  Turn them right side out and iron them flat again.  I know it seems like a lot of ironing, which I detest, but it really does look so much better and make things easier.

A note: You will also need to sew your inside floor to the outside floor.  Do this the same way as the walls - right sides together - and sandwich elastic pieces in THREE sides.  Leave the fourth side OPEN.  

29.  Get your plastic canvas out.  Lay your pieces down.
30.  Trance around your pieces.
31.  Cut them out.  There should be five pieces total.
32.  Slide each plastic piece inside its exact wall to make sure it will fit exactly.  Trim as needed.

33.  Lay your plastic piece on a piece of batting.  I know.  You can't see the plastic piece.  Trust me, it's there.  It's on the right, down in the corner... no?  Well...
34.  Wrap the plastic in the batting and trim to the right shape.
35.  Slide the batting wrapped plastic canvas piece inside the wall through the opening at the bottom.
36.  Do this with all five pieces.

37.  All you have left to do is sew up the openings!  Just fold the edges into the inside and top stitch across each bottom.

I don't have a picture of this step, but then you'll want to hand sew on your buttons.  Each outer wall will have three buttons - sew the buttons right next to where the elastic is coming out on either side, and in the middle on the bottom.

And then you really ARE done!  Yea!  

Now you can button the walls together in any order you'd like.  

To collapse the house and tote it around, just start with it laying flat, fold in the outer two wall pieces, then fold back in the middle so those pieces are now the top and bottom.  Place the floor piece inside the top wall.  Pull the elastics from the bottom piece over the buttons on the top piece to keep it all together.  
I need to make a cute bag for the peggies...

And now you have a portable little dollhouse that you can play with in a number of different ways!

 Thank you so much for voting and reading through this tutorial!  It sounds like a lot of work, I know, but I'm really glad I finished it.  It gets a lot of use between the kids around this place!

*Be sure to check the right sidebar for all the fun parties I link to!

Monday, May 28, 2012

I scratched my cornea on a shredded carrot

So, last yummy monday I made my confession.  The one where I admitted I was just like everyone else.  You know, trying to stick to a food budget?  Not dancing around in an apron and high heels with tons of energy to make braised lamb?  

I should have just turned that into a series.  Because tonight's dinner is ALSO cheap.  And easy.

Actually, you probably have a lot of this in your pantry already, so you won't even need to run to the store.  I know I had everything I needed for the casserole, anyway.  

So, I found the chicken casserole on here, the side dish of beans on here and the sounds crazy but is delicious dessert on here.  

I changed the casserole up very slightly.

Chicken and Rice Casserole
1 C uncooked white rice
1 C cream of chicken soup
1 7/8 C water
1 Package onion soup mix
1 bag frozen peas
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves

Preheat the oven to 350.  Spread the uncooked rice over the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan - for casseroles I usually use both.  Cut the chicken into bite sized cubes.  Layer it over the rice.  Mix the cream of chicken soup and the water together.   Pour it over the chicken and rice.  Sprinkle dry onion soup mix over the top.  Layer the peas on top.  Cover with foil.  Cook for about 1 hour.

This really was easy to make and I loved that I already had everything I needed.  This one will definitely go into the regular rotation for those reasons alone.  BUT it was also really delicious.  Most chicken casseroles have a super creamy, rich sauce.  I like that, too, but this was much more savory.  It was great for a change of pace.

For the sides, I decided to go a little crazy with my beans.  

Parmesan Green Beans
1 LB fresh cut green beans
2 T butter
1/4 C dry bread crumbs
1/2 tsp paprika
1/3 C grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Wash and trim beans. Measure 1 inch water into large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add prepared beans; return to boil and cook 3-4 minutes. Cover and steam until beans are tender but still crisp, up to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt butter in small pan. Add bread crumbs and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until light golden brown (about 5 minutes). Sprinkle with paprika; stir and remove from heat. Add grated Parmesan cheese; toss to combine.
Drain cooked green beans thoroughly and turn into serving bowl. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper; toss, then sprinkle with Parmesan topping. Serve immediately.

This was a really fun and yummy way to fancy up the beans.  The kids loved them.  (actually my kids love green beans, anyway, but they really loved these.)  I don't think I would do this every time I have green beans, but it was a fun treat.

Now.  You may already know about this crazy dessert.  If you are LDS and from Utah, you definitely do.  Because apparently they put everything including shredded carrots in their jello.  (I kid, guys, I kid.  But did you catch the "Singles Ward" reference?)  Anyway, I'd never had this dessert until I went to a potluck and holy cow.  I was smitten.  mr has made it a few times for us since then - he loves the salty and sweet together.  I will admit that he does a better job than I do.  With this ONE thing.  I changed mine a bit from theirs, so here it is:

Pretzel Jello Dessert
1 stick melted butter
1 1/2 C crushed pretzels
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
1 small container Cool Whip
1 C sugar
1 (6 oz) package raspberry Jello
1 bag frozen mixed berries

Mix melted butter, pretzels, and 1/2 cup sugar together and press into 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake 6 minutes at 350 degrees. Dissolve Jello in 2 cups boiling water and add frozen berries. Let gel. Combine cream cheese, Cool Whip, and 1/2 cup sugar; put on top of crumbs. When Jello is starting to set, pour over cheese layer and refrigerate until firm.

Ok.  A few notes here.  I don't think I made my water hot enough in the first place.  I'm pretty sure the heat is essential to the whole "setting up" thing.  It looked a little fishy and I was unsure so I added a little Knox unflavored gelatin, which I had in the cupboard.  I'm really glad I did.  Because I'm pretty sure that as the berries thawed, it added even more water.  If I made this again I would thaw my berries first and run them through a strainer.  Anyway, once I made it, and it looked unlikely that it would congeal, I stuck it in the freezer.  That combined with the Knox did the trick!  Phew!  It was really yummy.  Still a fav.  These pictures don't do it justice.

So the moral here is to never give up, be resourceful and just carry on hoping for the best!

*Be sure to check the right sidebar for all the fun parties I link to!
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