Friday, March 22, 2013

Shelving Do-It-Yourself

Note: I am by no means a DIY expert and don't pretend to be. Rather I am a woman with an unhealthy preoccupation with power tools. Please read all installation directions and safety procedures and happy drilling. 

 The awkward space between the kitchen cabinets and the sliding glass doors has plagued me since we moved into this house nearly three years ago. Year one it just contained the black clock. In year two I added the mail sorter in a bid to get the envelope situation in this house under control. The sorter is pretty, but it looks terrible there and I'm pretty sure that those are the same bills I shoved into its pockets a year ago. It looks messy and there is still mail everywhere!

This is my solution. Personally, I think it looks about a thousand times better. The space seems better integrated with the rest of the kitchen and it gives a nice focal point as you walk in the door (this wall is directly across from the front door in open concept living space of my house).

I began the project by first collecting my materials: 4- 7' x 7" decorative brackets from Home Depot, 2- 10" wide by 2' long pieces of board ( I selected a 10"x 6' board and had the Home Depot folks cut it for me), 1 can of spray paint, 1 packages of dry wall anchors

Then, by collecting my tools: stud  finder, level, tape measure, sander (or sand paper), phillips screw driver, drill, 3/4 drill bit

I began by applying a coat of spray paint to the brackets. Spray paint is really convenient, there are no brushes and little clean up, but you have to be careful to keep the paint far enough away and to move back and forth in smooth strokes in order to avoid drips and uneven color. While I was waiting for the paint to dry I used my palm sander to sand the rough edges on the boards.

Once I was finished with that the first coat of the paint was dry. I put a first coat of paint on the boards and a second coat on the brackets, turning them to assure coverage from every angle. 

While I waited for the paint to dry a second time I used my tape measure and level to lay out the placement of my brackets. Earlier I had used my stud finder to mark the studs in the wall and had run into my first minor road block. The studs between the cabinets and the sliding glass door were irregularly spaced. Due to this I had decided to use dry wall anchors to attached the shelves rather than screw the brackets directly into the stud, which was my first inclination.

The Stud Finder blinks and give a beep when it senses the edge of a stud. 
Drywall Anchors come in package like this and are rated for different weights. I planned to place mostly small decorative objects on mine so I selected anchors rated for 50 pounds. 
I marked where I wanted the shelf to lie, where I wanted the brackets to sit and where I needed to drill the holes on the wall before taking out my drill

Once I had decided on the position of the brackets I used a scientific and time tested method for placing the holes... I held the bracket up to the wall on its side so that I could see where the key hole was and marked it. O.k. so maybe my husband would have a cow if he saw me doing it this way, but I'm a visual person.  For all you mathmeticians out there, I doubled checked the hole placement by measuring the bracket from its top to the top of the key hole and divided the width of the bracket in half. When I checked the measure it method against my visual method the results were the same. 

Now that I have the holes marked I placed the 3/4 drill bit in the drill. The bit has to be larger than what I would use for a normal screw because the dry wall anchor gets pressed into the hole with the anchors employing barbs on either side that allow the screw to hold extra weight. The screws are then screwed into the anchor. 

I slid the bracket key hole over the screw head and pulled down to secure the bracket on the screw.

Once all four brackets were secured to the wall  I placed my painted boards on and was amazed by how different the area already looked.

I filled the shelves with a collection of bits and bobs from around the house, using cranberry as an accent color to reflect the color the the dining room. I think the the transformation is remarkable. What do you think?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cinnamon Bun Cupcakes

A little while ago I tried a recipe that celebrates a marriage of two crowd favorites: cinnamon buns, and cupcakes. This one manages to be sweet without going overboard and the cinnamon adds just a bit of dimension to the cake. Here's what I did:

In a small bowl I created a mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger (you could use allspice aswell, but I didn't have any).

In a second small bowl I sifted together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl I used my mixer to beat unsalted butter until fluffy. I alternately added sugar and eggs then splashed in some good quality vanilla before mixing until the mixture was light and fluffy.

Then I alternately added the flour mixture and milk to the butter mixture (sorry for no pictures of this step. The mess was really flying).

Once the batter was ready, I filled the prepared cupcake liners about halfway then sprinkled the batter with a spoonful of the cinnamon mixture. I topped up the cups so they were 3/4 of the way full then inserted a butter knife  into the batter and swirled it in an "S" shape to create a cinnamon sugar swirl in the cake.

Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon mixture over the cupcakes and bake them for about 20 minutes.

While the cupcakes baked I prepared a batch of Creamy Butter Frosting. First I placed softened butter in a large bowl and beat it for 30 seconds. I then beat in vanilla and salt. When it comes to adding powdered sugar to frosting I have a rule, I start with half the amount in the recipe. Then I increase it a 1/2 cup at a time alternating with tablespoons of heavy cream until I have reached the right consistency. That's what I did here.

I wanted to play with my piping techniques which resulted in the unfortunate frosting application below. Next time I think I would go for a more rustic application that better mirrors a real cinnamon bun. 

Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes

350 Degrees
Makes 24 Cupcakes

2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp allspice
2/3 cup butter
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups milk 

1. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. In a separate bowl combine brown sugar and spices. Set both aside. 
2. In a large bowl beat butter until fluffy. Add granulated sugar 1/4 cup at a time. Beat for about 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. 
3. Add eggs one at a time. Beat after each then beat in vanilla.
4. Alternate adding flour mixture and milk, beating on low after each addition. 
5. Spoon half batter into prepared baking cups, then sprinkle with cinnamon mixture. 
6. Fill cups the rest of the way with batter then sprinkle remaining cinnamon mixture on top. 
7. Bake 18 to 20 minutes. 

Creamy Butter Frosting

1. Allow 1 cup unsalted butter to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. 
2. In a large bowl beat butter for 30 seconds.
3. Beat in 1 tsp vanilla and pinch of salt.
4. Gradually add 4 cups of powdered sugar. Beat until combined.
5. Beat in 1/4 cup whipping cream.
6. Beat in 4 cups additional powdered sugar. 
7. Beat in 2 to 3 tablespoons of whipping cream until frosting reaches correct consistency.
Makes 4 cups

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

5 Random Things- March

Today I am linking up with Growing Up a Thomas for 5 Random Facts March!!

1. Every year in January I think, "OH MY GOODNESS! I HAVE TO HAVE GIRL SCOUT COOKIES!" and then in March I think "Oh my goodness if I eat all these cookies I will; A. Be sick B. Be as big as a house and C. be so sad they are all gone until next year." This year I have devised a brilliant plan to solve this serious issue. I carefully counted the total number of cookies I have, 124 cookies. Then I divided them by 12 months, which comes out to 10 cookies a month with 4 cookies left over. I will then label 12 freezer baggies January through December and freeze my 12 month allotment of girl scout cookie yumminess. In this manner I may; enjoy the cookies throughout the year, avoid eating all five boxes in one sitting and make myself sick and avoiding being so Girl Scout cookie deprived that I do this to myself once again next year. That is the plan folks. We shall see how it works out for me.

2. Has this ever happened to you? You walk in after a long day at work and smell a funk then spend the next 20 minutes playing "Find That Stink"? For those of you who are more fastidious than I, this is a fun little game where one spends a crazy amount of time playing nose based hot and cold as you search for the source of a stinky smell. In my case it was a forgotten carrot lost at the bottom of the crisper.

3. I learned today that a woman I know is retiring at the end of the year due to being connected to a prostitution scandal. It always weirds me out when what I am watching live at 6 is ripped from my life. It seems to be happening with alarming frequency in the past couple of years. I wish some of these sensations were positive.

4. I'm making this amazing asian pasta dish to go with dinner tonight and hoping to snap some shots so I can share the recipe with y'all sometime in the near future so stay tuned:). Oh man I am hungry. Can you tell?

5. I am so excited for spring. Are you excited for spring? I am planning the garden and lusting after my cute sun dresses. Meanwhile, I am huddled in front of my space heater wearing fleece and fur.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Winter Getaway

In January Mr. Onion and I were having a conversation we have pretty frequently around here, it goes something like this; 
Mr. Onion: I'm tired
Me: Yeah you should be you've been up since 4, done the chores, spent 8 hours cutting wood, then did the chores again, spent time with your mother, etc, etc. 
Mr. Onion: Huh...
Me: You need a vacation! This is just crazy! (thinking) You know you took 3 days off in all of 2012?
Mr.Onion: No, it had to have been more than that. 
Me: No. (Ticking them on my fingers) Our anniversary, Ryann's wedding, Fryeburg Fair.
Mr. Onion:  Oh, I guess you're right. 

End Scene

A short while later I decided to put my foot down/ trick the Onionator into taking a little break/ sneak in a little break of my own,  by giving him a two night getaway for his birthday. Since Mr. Onion's birthday fell during my February break we scheduled our trip for then and spent 2 chilly, snowy nights and 3 chilly, glistening days in beautiful Bradford, NH. Bradford is a teeny tiny town in the Mt. Sunapee region of NH surrounded by other tiny town each with their own small cluster of restaurants and shops surrounded by rolling mountains and scenic farms. We stayed in the honeymoon suite of a place called the Rosewood Country Inn
It was glorious! 

We slept in. We ate breakfast. We took a nap or read. We drove around and explored until we found a good place for lunch. Then, we drove back to the inn and took another nap, got dressed and went to dinner, only to return to the inn for more lounging.

Mr. Onion remarked that some may think it sad that our idea of a fabulous vacation is lots of sleep, and food, and driving to see where this road leads. While it certainly isn't the full itinerary of the expeditions of my youth, in my opinion, sometimes a good dose of rest and relaxation is worth every penny.