Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Before and After

Resale find, one very dated looking slipper chair, before, and after pretty linen slip cover


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Buffet Project

 I love a project!  
I found a buffet and had a vision for its transformation.

After much sanding, painting and distressing, the vision is realized and the process documented.  This is my way, tried over many years, but surely not the only way.  Have fun.  There will almost always be surprises.  Keep smiling and hold on to your vision.

I first removed all the hardware, 
pulls and hinges, then began sanding.  
The piece was stained rather than painted and the 
finish came off easily with my trusty electrical sander.  

NOTE:  If it's necessary to strip paint, Goddard's stripper is absolutely the best I've found.  It's however a commercial product and not easy to find.  Get the stripper with the highest percentage of methylene chloride you can find.  It's really toxic so you have to work outside wearing really heavy-duty protective gloves.

Here's my buffet, sanded and ready for paint, like a blank canvas.  I love this stage!
So, I wanted to be really sure about the color.  My vision was a charcoal color with lots of scuffed wood showing through.  Blacks and grays vary with such subtlety but can really change a look.  I started a test of "black forest" from Lowes.  Too green.  Tried Sherwin Williams "black swan."  Too purple.  "Tricorn black"  is black, black.  Not what I was after.  Sherwin Williams "black magic" was the magical color.  Exactly what I wanted, the color of a black kettle.  Four test samples were worth it.

I began painting, one thin coat, then another.  I always use a flat latex paint.  
When the piece was well covered and the paint coats were very dry I used my electric sander, then sand paper, to scuff the edges and areas where natural wear would occur.  The extent of this distressing is always a matter of taste and vision.

After I was satisfied with the scuffing I mixed a diluted antique stain, Minwax "provencial" diluted with turpentine.  I applied it to all the surfaces and crevices with a sponge brush then wiped it entirely off with a lint-free rag.  On this piece, the staining darkened the finish more than I liked so I used fine steel wool and turpentine to buff out the stain to a finish I wanted.  The steel wool buffing smoothed the finish and the oil-base stain gave it just the right amount of sheen.

I put all the hardware back on and the buffet was finished and beautiful to me.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


I love spinach and all its possibilities.

Recipes calling for cooked, chopped spinach vary greatly in the preparation of those delicious fresh greens. This is a no fuss way to ready your spinach leaves for greatness.

In a 1 1/2 qt. microwave-safe bowl pile in the spinach leaves.  Pack them down a bit to fit as much as possible.  Add 1/4 cup of water then cover with a bowl or plate that's about the size of the top of the bowl.

Microwave for 2 minutes.

Let the spinach just sit, covered, in bowl till cool enough to handle.  This gives it a little more steaming time.  Here it is, steamed till just tender.

Now squeeze the moisture out in handfuls, chop as desired and your fresh spinach is ready to go.
This will give you about 1 cup.  I know, it's never enough.  More spinach, please.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

These cookies are delicious in any size or shape, any time of year, but decorating valentine cookies is SO much fun.

Rosemary Shortbread Cookies (adapted from Peace Meals)

2 cups unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 T vanilla
4 cups flour
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 T fresh rosemary, chopped very fine

Cream the butter in a large bowl.  Add the sugar gradually and blend until creamy.  Add the vanilla, salt and rosemary.  Mix in flour till combined.  Remove dough from bowl and flatten into two disks.  Wrap in saran and chill for at least an hour.

Roll dough on floured surface till about 1/4" thick.  Bake on parchment lined cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.  Cool completely then ice.


1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 T milk
1 T light corn syrup
1/2 t (scant) almond extract
food coloring if desired

These are my cookies to share with friends.  It's also really fun to ice in one color and write valentine words in another, "I luv U," Kiss Me," "XOX."

A pink raffia bow makes it pretty and festive.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Mmmmm, lunch!

Just spoiling myself.  Avocado, Mango and Black Bean Salad

Found the recipe idea this morning on Fresh 365.  http://www.fresh365online.com/

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Power of Vinegar

Well, I've had to think about this for a few days.  Do I really want to share how AWFUL my old, inexpensive glasses looked even though the cleaning is nearly miraculous and even friends who've been homemaking for many years weren't aware of "The Power of Vinegar"?  My glasses were so terrible looking that our children, grown children, refused to drink from them even straight out of the dishwasher.

It was so bad that I was ready to get rid of them and buy others.  One morning I asked the girls I walk with about the housekeeping dilemma.  (We solve many of the world's problems while we walk and talk.)  The next morning our paper published an article about just that problem,  cloudy, dirty-looking glasses.

The answer is vinegar, plain, white vinegar.  I used it straight and rubbed with a kitchen sponge.

I'm embarrassed about the "before" but humbly share with you my great excitement every time I take a sip from my sparkling "old" glasses.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Comfort Food

In all my years in the kitchen I've never made Chicken and Dumplings!  The weather recently has been cold for Houston and what I love on cold evenings is soup, any kind of hot soup.  But, though Richard, my sweet husband, is always grateful and never complains, I know that meatless soup is not his favorite.  As I searched for a comforting cold-weather recipe with meat, I was inspired by The Pioneer Woman's recipe for Chicken and Dumplings.

Here's my attempt as I adjusted a little and added turnips because we love them.  It was delicious and I'm looking forward to making it again.

Chicken and Dumplings

2 Tbs.        olive oil
4 Tbs.        butter
3                bone-in chicken breasts
1/2 cup      flour
                  salt, pepper, cayenne, thyme
1                medium onion
6 cloves     garlic
1/2 cup      apple cider
1 qt.           chicken broth
1/4 tsp        turmeric
4-5 stalks   celery
1 lb.           carrots
4-5             medium turnips
1/2 cup      heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 cups  flour
1/2 cup      cornmeal
1 Tbs.        baking powder (heaping)
1 tsp           kosher salt
1 1/2 cups  half-and-half

Wash chicken and remove skin.  Pat dry.
(There, that unpleasant part is over.)

Heat olive oil in large pot.  Add butter and melt.  While oil/butter is heating season chicken on both sides with salt, pepper, cayenne and thyme then dredge in flour.

Lay chicken meaty side down in hot oil/butter and cook till brown on that side.  While chicken is cooking chop onions.

Turn chicken to brown on bony side.  Add onions and cook till chicken is nearly browned before adding chopped garlic.

When chicken is nicely browned turn heat to medium low and add some chicken broth and the apple cider.  Allow to simmer till chicken is very tender.  Remove to plate and allow to cool till you can easily handle it.  Take meat off bones into manageable serving pieces.  No need to chop.  Put back into pot with all drippings and good stuff.

Add chopped celery, carrots and turnips and more chicken broth to cover vegetables.  If using turmeric add it sparingly.  It's cancer- fightingly healthy and adds a golden glow to the dish.

Simmer till vegetables are almost tender.

Stir in the cream and parsley.  Mmmmmm.  Admire it with anticipation.

For dumplings 
Mix together all dry ingredients, then add half-and-half, stirring gently to combine.  Set aside.

The only tricky part of this recipe is how much broth is necessary.  As the dumplings cook they add thickness and starchiness to the broth.  You need liquid to cover the vegetables and dumplings as they're added plus some for goodness.

So, add a litttle more broth, check seasoning and allow to return to simmer.  Drop dumplings by tablespoon into simmering pot.  Cover pot halfway and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes till dumplings are done.  Let sit or another 10 minutes.

Serve in large bowls with a sprinkling of additional parsley if desired.