“I saw it on Pinterest.”

No! No! No! No! I’m not going to do it. I am NOT pushing that Pinterest app icon. Pinterest got me into this mess in the first place. Why didn’t I just order a cake? We live within 40 miles of some of the world’s best cake shops. Sure the drive is time consuming and the idea of transporting a cake without melting, dropping, sliding or dumping it is nerve wrecking and the cost for a decent sized cake (to feed 80+) feels more like a car payment than a cake purchase these days, but for the love of all things beautiful – what possessed me to decided that since I “had the pans” that I could take on such a feat?!!

Oh yah… Pinterest.

One night on Pinterest and I was ready to melt down the plastic to make the cake topper party animals myself. What the heck was I thinking? And no – I didn’t even have all the pans I needed. I have decorated one cake in the past 13 years. One. And it turned out so lopsided that I modified it at the last minute to make it look like I did it intentionally. I haven’t baked or decorated a cake like this EVER.

img_4022-3https://pin.it/gzxe4iruumaxou

It seemed so simple at the time. A glass of wine, a few inspiration Pinterest pins and the ideas began flowing. A tiered cake, it had to be tiered… And different cake flavors and filling combinations for each layer – oh, and look at those cupcakes! I’d make those, too! Ombré icing is a must. Oh my gosh – look at those party animal cake toppers! How hard could that be? So perfect and adorable!

https://pin.it/v2kaer5rwlc6oq

https://pin.it/7xtpecb4t6z32z

Before I knew it, my pinning had spiraled out of control and I had masterminded an impossible but beautiful birthday cake: it would be layered with a lemon poppyseed cake with lemon filling, white cake with raspberry filling, red velvet cake with cream cheese filling and surrounded by a ton of very cute chocolate on chocolate cupcakes decorated like horses. The cake would be dark to light pink ombré rosettes from the base up to the top where it would display a group of party animals, complete with celebration banner and party hats. (Squeal!) Thank you, Pinterest! It was going to be amazing and a perfect surprise for my dear friend!

https://pin.it/pkmpm3theu77hh

Uh-huh.

What the @*$# was I thinking??! I’m a nurse, for crying out loud! It would be nice if Pinterest provided some sort of warning, like those annoying web pop-up ads, just to remind me that hey, I’m no where near a professional baker with any substantial experience or knowledge to pull something like this off – but no. I was pretty sure I could do ANYTHING with my new Pinterest “Cake Board” for inspiration.

A few days into it and my optimism faded. When I had to go to the specialty store to purchase additional cake pans, I knew I was in over my head. I kept having flashbacks to the epic moment in Top Gun when Tom Cruise’s character is being told, “Son, your ego is writing checks your body can’t cash!”

So was I.

What do you mean I need cake supports? And how, exactly, do I store this cake until the party? And how do I stack the tiers again? I’ve never made a rosette in my life and how am I going to pull off ombré anything?! The idea of making tiny party hats for a bunch of plastic animals has GOT to be borderline psychotic.

My anxiety was nearing the panic level and I hadn’t even begun! I sat in my kitchen, drinking a beer to calm my nerves, staring at my KitchenAid Mixer like a lifeline. We had to pull this off. HAD TO! There was no plan B, no backup plan.

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Seriously. Not even exaggerating.

First and foremost, I needed to find a decent cream cheese frosting recipe that was creamy enough to be good but stiff enough to hold the shape of a rosette. And THAT brings us back to the beginning of my story, I was tempted to consult Pinterest. I used Google instead. Then, true to form, I created my own. (Yes, this is one of those character traits I wish I didn’t have – such a strong need for something to be perfect, that I reinvent it myself, often failing repeatedly until I get it just right. This was one of those many moments in my life.)

Filling the cake layer
After baking the cakes, I froze the layers, then let them thaw to split, fill and add a “crumb coat” of frosting.
Cake Freezer
After the filling and crumb coat, I stuck them back in the freezer to chill. It worked out well that we’d just brought home a new freezer and it was empty!
Stacking the Cake
I used wood dowels and parchment lined cardboard layers to support the weight of the cake. It was very, very heavy!
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I worked on the farm animal’s party hats and banner between chilling the cake.

The great news is that everything came together just as I imagined it.

It required 11 cake mixes, doctored to fit my cause, of course; 40 eggs, six pounds of butter, 2 pounds of cream cheese and roughly 10 pounds of powdered sugar. It took 4 long days to complete and there was more than one moment of pure panic when it came time to move the monster but I think it was worth all the work. There are a few things, I’d do differently, but let’s be honest, when I convince myself to do this again someday, I’ll likely have forgotten what those things are so I’m just going to be happy with the way this birthday cake turned out – and then delete my Pinterest account.

Just kidding. I’ve already started a new Pinterest board. Heaven help us.

I’d love to hear about some of your great Pinterest projects if you feel like sharing!

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It took some practice and next time I’ll stack the tiers a little differently, but all in all, it was better than I anticipated! It also helped that it was 17 degrees outside, so chilling the top frosting layer was easy – lifting the cake, not so much…
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I removed our refrigerator shelves to store the cake overnight.
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And spent the rest of the night decorating chocolate cupcakes with Nutter Butter horse toppers.
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I was on pins and needles for the short drive to our party venue, but we made it and everything came together just as I had imagined it!
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The look on my friend’s face made it ALL worth it when we lit the candles and sang Happy Birthday!!!

My inspirational Pinterest “Cake” Board link.

The Pallet Sign Class

I cut back my hours 18 months ago because I felt like I was investing all of my time and energy in other people’s lives and at the end of each work week, I was too short on both to truly invest in my own.  I wanted time with my husband, my family, my dogs, my friends and yah, it sounds selfish, but I wanted more time for me, too.  I wanted a clean house, folded laundry and a green garden.  I wanted a date night.  I wanted to go more places.  I wanted to take classes, learn new things and fill parts of my brain that have nothing to do with the nursing profession.  Life is short, create the life you want and truly live it, right?

I saw this pallet sign class in Februray and had to giggle when the only dates available just happened to be on 3 of the 8 nights I had already been scheduled to work that month.  Oh, the irony!  

I caught a short message on Facebook yesterday that there was still room in the class for last night. So I signed up.  A quick text to a friend and I’d found someone willing to give it a try with me — even though she had no idea what I was talking about when I said it was a pallet sign class — and even after learning that it was a two week class and neither of us could do the second class.  I can’t stress how important it is to have at least a couple friends who can “wing it” on impulse and at the last minute with you.  It helps turn life from a scheduled event into an adventure!

Katie Homann is the smart, articulate and crafty genius behind the class.  She brings an energy into the room that is fun, spirited and knowledgeable. I love being around people that love what they do. She has a community page on Facebook named Reflection with her projects and classes through RAPRD.org (Redmond’s Park and Rec).

I think she’s pretty amazing and I love what she creates out of scraps and leftovers.  The class was AWESOME!  She called earlier in the day to make sure she brought the right supplies for me to create exactly what I wanted that night.  When I told her that my friend and I could only make it to the first class; she was cool with it, totally improvised and brought some extra stuff to send home with us so we could finish up our projects at home, even offering her own time and shop to us if we wanted it.

So, because I’ve had more than a few people messaging me about the pallet sign specifics, I thought I’d go over some of the details here – but I still think Katie’s class is the best choice for locals.  She will even do private classes for groups of 5 or more for $40 per person.  Her tips, insight and help is worth the cost of the class alone.  She’s absolutely great — and knows her stuff!

The Basic Instructions:

It’s a little difficult to show you the steps with a mostly finished product but I did my best to “recreate” the moment for you.

I borrowed this pic from her page to show you how she arrives in class.

We started with premade sign boards built from ripped pallets.  Katie went over all the specifics to teach which pallets to look for, how to tear them apart and how she assembles the individual signs.

(Heat treated pallets, a rip saw, a staple gun and a saw to cut everything to length and sander – though she said she’d created the same sign with just a hammer, nails and handsaw and sandpaper.) 

Did I mention she’s amazing?

I can’t get over the hanger.  It’s made with a keyhole router bit and I can’t wait to get one of my own! Until then, any picture frame hanger would work, too.

After choosing our premade sign boards, we chose the paint color for the back ground and learned some dry brushing techniques to maintain the rustic character of some of the wood.  Paint samples, a paint brush and paper towel is all we needed.

Katie also prepared some printed pictures with our names in different fonts to give us options for our design.  She uses a word processor and regular printer.  In class, we flip the paper over and coat the back with regular #2 pencil graphite.  In theory, we created our own transfer paper.  We cut up the designs and taped them to our boards the way we wanted them. We then used a ballpoint pen to outline the design, creating light transfer lines on our boards. Easy peasy but a little time consuming so it was nice to be able to finish up at home.

I was a little surprised that Katie prefers using a Sharpie to fill in the design.  She has also used a tiny paintbrush, but after seeing several samples of each and knowing my patience level with painting straight lines, I was all about using the Sharpie.  It gives the lettering a nice sheen and was pretty easy to use.

When the ink or paint is nice and dry, I went over it lightly with 150 grain sandpaper to give it a bit of a distressed look.  (Remember to go with the grain so you don’t mess up your beautiful art!)
You can stop here if you’d like.
I almost did — but I really like the aged and weathered look that glazing gives a piece, so I went on.  I applied a light coat of glaze with one rag and quickly wiped it off with another dry one to keep the coat light.  
And … drumroll please:
I love it and think I might get a group of gals together to host one of Katie’s private lessons — with wine drinking and cheese nibbling.  Who’s in?
One last pic just to show some size perspective to those who were inquiring.  
Lol – The next time you see this wall it might just be covered — ooooohhhhhhh!  Think of all the wonderful wine quotes that could fill this spot…  I think my imagination just exploded with ideas.  If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the shop, er, I mean garage…

Oh Deer…

I was scrolling through Etsy because while I like to make things on my own, let’s face it – there are lots of people out there who have amazing talents and sometimes, I’d just rather have them make one for me…  Then I saw it.  The cutest little girl in the MOST adorbs reindeer hat that I have ever seen!!!  A photo came to mind with four sweet little girls, each with a matching hat.  There were two options: the pattern or I could purchase the hats themselves – but that was proving to add up into “cost prohibiting numbers” – so I bought the pattern and BEGGED my knit talented sister to oblige me with 3 — no, make that 4, reindeer hats.

Let me preface the rest of the story by admitting that the pattern sounded complicated and used knitting needles and techniques that I had never heard of.  My sister was very clear when she accepted the challenge, “I only knit.  I DON’T crochet.”  So when she went through the pattern and saw not only the techniques but the fact there was crocheting involved, she said, “I don’t know, Aim…”  I giggled, handed her the bag of supplies and said, “You’ve totally got this.  Easy Peazy.  Either you’ll figure it out or find a way around it.”  So she did.
I had a hard time finding enough (or ANY) of the right color of yarn suggested by the pattern.  All I could find was much softer and less structurally supportive so she fought her way through that challenge, too, and the results are so stinkin’ cute that I added on a 4th order for the girl’s cousin!  She’s likely a little too grown up for a reindeer hat but maybe she can wear it around her cousins over the holiday.
When you add on the fact that both families are big hunters, the little twist of irony makes it all even sweeter!  I can’t wait to see the girls dressed in their gear!
The pattern or individually sold hats can be found on Etsy by Two of Wands if you are interested in your own.

The Revolving Herb Tower

I saw a few different things on Pinterest that I thought I could combine to make something that would work for me.  These were the inspiration pieces:

So I gathered my supplies:  canning jars, paint, lazy susan, wood scraps, wood glue and duct clamps then went to work.

I added a tray for rocks to help weight it down due to our wind gusts and detailed it with a monogram to personalize it a bit more.

Then I filled the jars with a gravel base, potting soil and seeded them with herbs.  I added chalkboard tags that can be marked with which herb is growing where and then altered if I replant with something different.  When the temps drop, I will bring it in for the winter.  I have 8 jars of tiny green sprouts!  It will be interesting to see how they grow.

This was project took more time than most due to the drying time of glue and paint between steps.  In hindsight, I wouldn’t have used the scrap wood I had on hand.  It wasn’t all straight or the quality I would want to use on a project that turned out this neat.  I’d opt for the quality stuff.  I think the hardest part was sanding off the fresh paint to give it the “shabby” look I was going for.  To a perfectionist, doing things intentionally haphazardly is not easy.

Antler Light Fixture

I have been working on lots of little projects to make our house into the home that fits us.  When we built it in 2004, we had a different future in mind.  We designed this house to raise a family.  Life has a way of changing plans in spite of our greatest efforts.  We adjusted.  We got busy.  The house got old and it’s time for some updates.

So, I’ve been working to make this happen.  Not only was this my first real house but it was custom designed by a collaborative effort between me, Jeff, my dad who drew up the plans and Rocky, the builder — plus anyone else who was willing to give advice along the way.  I love it too much to leave it but there are lots of little things I would do differently next time.

We have an awesome wrap around porch but the lighting has always bothered me.  So much, in fact, that I’d rather just leave the burnt out bulbs in place and ignore them.  I’ve been keeping my eyes open for something that would speak to me.  After our trip to Jackson, Wyoming last winter – I knew exactly what we needed, I wanted a new antler light fixture for the deck.  I waited for the right fixture to go on sale for the right price and pulled the trigger.

Light fixtures are easy to swap out.  It’s a matter of unscrewing things, matching like colored wires, screwing them back in and calling it good.  Usually.  Until there is an extra wire.  And a mismatched colored wire.  And the ladder barely reaches.  And you have to perform all of installation tasks 16 feet in the air with one arm because you are holding the 30 pound fixture with the other hand.  But after a 911 call to my favorite electrician, an impromptu trip to borrow my brothers ladder and a little bit of blood, sweat and tears — the fixture was up — and it’s beautiful.

Before:

After:

 

The Salad Planter

I love Shanty-2-Chic’s website and tutorials.  These sisters are amazing.  I found this plan on their site and thought it would be perfect to grow our own salad fixings while keeping them off the ground.

I needed it to be a bit bigger so I adapted the plan.  The hardest part was recalculating the leg length with the angle that I needed.  It brought me back to algebra, trig and geometry high school classes.  I was excited because this was my first project with my new pneumatic staple gun.

I stained it, blinged it out with some glass pebbles and landscaping cement.  I lined the boxes with plastic and drilled holes in the bottoms for drainage.  Filled them with moisture control potting soil and seeded them with different varieties of loose leaf lettuce mixes.

The top left photo is from Shanty-2-Chic’s site and the size of the original planter.

The Tomato Tower

Another Pinterest Project: DIY Vertical Planter Garden with instructions found on RufflesandTruffles.com – recently updated to HelpfulHomemade.com. (I really like her blog – she’s smart AND funny!)  I tweaked it a little to maximize my space and accommodate large planters.

The risers are prefab and available at most home improvement stores.  They are around $25 each.  I used treated 2x4s and 2×6 for the frame because I knew that I’d be using plastic planters that would not come into contact with the wood.

I used screws and bolts to stabilize the frame.  I knew it would get heavy with soil, water and plants.  The planter boxes I purchased were extra large and I needed to cut the back edge down for a secure fit.  I also drilled holes in the bottom for drainage.

This wasn’t a thrifty project.  With $50 for the risers, another $40 for the planter boxes, lumber, hardware and stain; I believe it was around $115-125 to build, but it has certainly optimized space and has been a great way to add portable gardening space around our home.

Mid July

Burlap Wreath

If you are going to go to the trouble of staining the front door – know in advance that it likely won’t stop there.  I think maybe I was spending too much time staring at the fruits of my labor because it started to look very, well, empty.  I searched home décor sights for something, though I wasn’t sure what.  A few clicks at Pottery Barn gave me some ideas but the prices!  Yikes!

(I spend money in time allotments now.  I don’t see dollars and cents.  I see units of work.  How many shifts is that pretty, somewhat fragile, organic, welcome wreath really worth to me, anyway?  Yah.  It just wasn’t THAT awesome.)

I perused Etsy and I still couldn’t do it for the price.  The cheap ones were, well, CHEAP and the items I liked seemed to still be in the $100+ range.

So I cruised over Pinterest just to see if something – caught – my – eye…  If you don’t know Pinterest that likely won’t make sense but for those of us that do, we know all too well that it can take you into an alter-universe where time simply disappears.  One moment it’s 8 pm and you are waiting for a commercial to end before your favorite TV show starts.  You remember a recipe you saw the other night and take advantage of the break to look it up so you can pick up the ingredients in the morning.  You look up, the house is dark, the TV is off.  Everyone is asleep.  It’s 2 am and NO…  You never did actually make it to the ingredients list of that recipe — what was it anyway?  And who will have time to cook!  You need to get to bed because there are 13 super cool projects that you just found and must absolutely start working on first thing in the morning!!!

Ah, but I digress…  This is about a wreath, right?

Yes, you can find tons of instructions on Pinterest.  So many, in fact, that I’m not even posting the link.  There are thousands.

Mine is made out of a straw wreath base and about 2 yards of burlap cut into 3.5-4.5 inch squares and hot glue gunned into place.  I may have burned most of my fingertips past the nerve endings because eventually they quit hurting.  I found a cardboard letter and wrapped it with twine, holding the twine in place with a fair amount of glue.  (Also seen on Pinterest, of course.)  Then I embellished it with a bandana and USA flag and called it good.

It took about 6 hours from start to finish and about another 4 days to get all the tiny burlap particles out of the house.  It cost about $20 in the end and it discouraged me from starting any new projects for a few weeks — and THAT likely makes it worth it’s weight in gold.

The Outdoor Wine Bistro

A friend of mine posted this photo on Facebook – and I immediately fell in love with it!  I found a link on Pinterest and went to work!

I didn’t find specific instructions but it seemed pretty self explanatory.  I cleaned two small wood pallets, added a 2×4 for both additional support and extra shelving, stained them, used metal plates and screws to secure them together, and landscaping cement to adhere concrete pavers to the top.

I used the glass pebbles (from a floral department) with the same landscaping cement to add a bit of bling to the edges and added some “feet” made from a 2×8 to reinforce stability and make it child/dog proof.

The total cost of the project was around $25 but I had a few things on hand that I didn’t have to purchase:

Pallets – free
Stain – I used left over stain I already had
2×8 – I used scraps I already had
2×4 – $3
Pavers – $6
Screws, Metal plates – $4
Landscaping Cement – $6
Glass Pebbles – $5
We love our table and use it much more than I anticipated.  This was an easy and very rewarding project!