Spot of Gun Rack Tea?

Summer rolled in like curry through your colon. Still over a month away from the official calendar start, this past weekend was the first time I had to come in by 10 a.m. from the garden. There will be many, many, many more weekends like it ahead, but I wasn’t prepared for them to start seemingly so soon. Pretty sure I say this same thing every year though.

If given the choice, I prefer being outside. But I admit that every so often, I don’t hate days I’m forced inside. They become crafty project days and my pile of projects has been growing for a while now. The thrift and antique stores in North Carolina are impossible for my mom and me to avoid when I visit. Last time, I went up with the intention of finding a pie plate and came home with a rocking chair…that is still in the pile of projects undone.

However, the piece I decided to work on this weekend was a local find a few years back–20160515_205509.jpgan old, wooden gun rack. I always intended to cosmetically change it somehow, but never did. I ended up using it as it was, first as entryway storage and then in the bathroom as a display piece and towel holder. This time, I wanted it to become a tea and coffee station in the kitchen. Between hand-me-downs from my grandmother and my own thrift store treasures, I realized that I had a pretty assortment of tea/coffee cups hidden away in the cabinet.

After hitting up the hardware store for dowel rods and hooks, I went through my closet of leftover paints, looking at what was still usable. Thought about the colors of the cups and how I wanted them to be the focal point, not the rack itself. Pulled out the paint I used on the kitchen cabinets and went with that. It also happens to be the same color as the walls in the kitchen, but it’s satin while the walls are flat.
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Primed, painted, and second-coated that bad boy. During the drying times, I painted the dowel rods and hooks a bronze color to match the existing hardware on the gun rack. The wall in the kitchen that I wanted it on also houses the breaker box and that needed to be hidden. I used to have a chalkboard over this spot, but never used it. So out with the old…in with the tea? No clue.

Anyway, I liked the way the rack itself kind of disappeared into the wall, and the extra space of the extended rods to hang towels if I want, but when I put the rods in the side holders, I figured out they weren’t level (duh). Makes total sense if you actually visualize a gun and how it would lie in there. I have never been around guns, other than the rifle in my dad’s closet that he shot snakes with, so I did not know this about the racks. I be smart though, so I just popped in some tiny nails on the lower side and boom. Level rods. Or at least close enough. Measure never, eyeball it always.

At this point, I wandered around the house looking at fabrics, serving trays, paintings, 20160515_181552.jpganything that I could fit behind the rods to hide the breaker box. First, I tried a vibrant kitchen towel that was a birthday gift. I loved the pop of colors, but my pretty cups were too matchy-matchy and didn’t stand out enough. Since the purpose was to show them off, this option didn’t make sense. I also tried to cram the robbin’s egg-blue enamel serving tray that goes with the cups back there, but it was just a bit too wide to fit.

Then I remembered the funky chicken pic my mom gave me a while back after I begged her for it and then tried to steal it from her. It was sort of hidden behind my stand mixer in the corner, under the upper cabinets, and deserved a more prominent spot. My kitchen being the room in the house with the chicken decor, I pulled that out of hiding and put it up. After adding the cups, saucers, jars of teabags and honey, as well as a stirring spoon, my gun rack turned tea station felt just right.

What do you guys think?

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Painting, Pressuring, and Pulling: A Laborious Weekend

Whew. The weekend is over and I’m almost looking forward to going back to work to get a physical break. Instead of heading to the beach or mountains or just relaxing in town, I somehow thought it would be a great idea to take on multiple home projects all at once. Brilliant.

Last weekend I started painting the bedrooms in my house. I’ve had the same grey throughout all of the house for about four years now. The color was an attempt to neutralize and unify the house after a rough patch in life. It worked well, but lately I’ve been ready to reinvigorate my surroundings to bring on more creativity. It was time to put color back on the palette.

Painting, like pie making, is another activity on my therapeutic list. There’s just something about covering over a past decision with something vibrant and new, but knowing that old decision is still under there as a base for your present.

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For one of the rooms, I wanted a purple. I’ve always adored the different shades of this royal color found in vegetables and flowers, but finding one for the walls is a different story. Purples can be difficult. They tend to either end up looking like you splattered Grimace on your walls or they dull out to a hideous mauve, reminiscent of polyester suits and rose perfume–brutal. This purple is neither. It is a plum with just enough brown in it to not be child’s play, but not too much to be old lady. The effect is at the same time relaxing and refreshing.

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For the guest room, which is really more of my library, I wanted
blue. Again, blues can be tricky. There are so many moods of blues. I didn’t want the beach-theme blue nor the cornflower boringness found alongside rooms of burgundy and emerald greens. I wanted something with depth and, again, to rouse the creativity beast inside me. Found it and it’s a perfectly dark, bluish-green that creates a cozy nook, but also gives an expansive feeling like looking out at the Blue Ridge mountains at twilight.

I realized after moving artwork back into both rooms, that the color choices may have already been made for me. Everything is fitting back in naturally and with a renewed beauty.

Next up for the weekend was pressure washing the massive deck. Well, decks, but I only got to one this weekend. The front deck runs the length of my house and is half as wide. My house being quite small, this is the compensation. A big deck. Yep.

So anyway, my big ol’ deck had become a hazard–a veritable adult slip-n-slide. Or maybe more like unexpected ice skating. Either way, it had to be rectified. After hours of work, and even some enlisted help, it still wasn’t finished. As with most things I get involved in, there was a hitch. By the time the hitch was fixed, I was caput. The difference on what was accomplished is shocking though and it is actually safe to walk on now. Pro=tip:  don’t wait two years in Florida to pressure wash your decks.

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Before. During. After.

Then there was the garden. While my unpaid labor worked on the deck, I took on the yard. Cut the grass and then doused myself in bug spray and ventured into the vegetable garden that was overgrown with summer weeds, basil gone to seed, six-foot eggplant plants, and ‘Black & Blue’ salvia slowing marching ahead consuming everything in its path. I got out my tools–hand shovel, hand weeder, clippers–and proceeded to use none of them. Instead I used my glove free hands, as usual. I have to admit loving the feel of dirt under my nails. I will never have nice fingernails and I’m good with that.

11891182_10153520472232310_7267114819877121211_nScooting along in the dirt, I wrangled that garden back into shape and it’s now ready for fall seed planting next weekend. I will also be adding broccolis, cabbages, spinach, and herbs from starter plants in another few weeks. Violas, snapdragons, calendula, and nasturtiums will be included as edible flowers and to attract more pollinators.

Finally, the weekend of chores had come to a halt. I was sweat and dirt covered, stinking of bug spray, and ready to just sit back and look at all my hard work. Although a long weekend at the beach would have been glorious, even with an achy back and numb hands, I feel really good about the labors of accomplishing so much and seeing the results.

And now I’m going to wrap this Labor Day night up with a cup of chamomile, a fresh out of the oven cookie, a comfy chair, and the words of Jeanette Winterson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

August Out. Cookies In.

I went for a walk in a rain shower this afternoon. Ruby Joon drank from street puddles and I listened to the birds chirp their delights while preening and cleaning. August tends to be a tough month that seems to drag on and on,  and this one proved no different. The raindrops hit me like a hundred hummingbird tongues lapping at my skin, rinsing away the stresses and anxieties of the month. I kept walking, to Ruby’s dismay, until all of the month dripped away and I knew I could welcome in my favorite months of the year–the ones that end in ‘ber’.

And what better way to start the season than with baking something new for me? Chocolate chip cookies! A simple classic that I’d never attempted myself. I was motivated to finally go for it by reading about a contest through Cook’s Illustrated in which you try out one or all five of their essential recipes and you’re entered to win one year of web membership access–which I would love to have at my fingertips. I decided to try the cookies since I’m getting into baking and from-scratch chocolate chip would be new to me.

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I followed their recipe and was sure to read all the instructions thoroughly (or so I thought) and portion everything out before starting. Full disclosure, I somehow still managed to mess up the process and didn’t add the egg/egg yolk at the right time. Whoops! And I was sure, because science, I messed them up by doing that. But I pushed on and tried to finish strong.

 

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After I got the dough together, I then tried to measure it out per directions and was semi-successful with that endeavor. I ended up with one extra cookie on my baking sheet, but who’s going to complain about that? I chose that one as the test cookie. Another fun fact–I don’t have wire racks and I have two completely different styles of baking sheets. Wheeeeeeeee!

 

First batch was out. This set was the one baked on a well-used Calphalon baking sheet. They were in for 12 mins. and looked pretty spot on. I mean, they looked nothing like the picture on the recipe, but the edges were set and the centers were still soft, so I was optimistic.

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Since I don’t have wire racks, I just moved them to a fresh sheet of parchment paper to cool.

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Next up was the second batch done on an air-bake cookie sheet. I do not typically like to use this one for baking cookies and I wasn’t super pleased with the way these came out–still soft all around. I decided to leave them on the hot sheet an extra few minutes after 12 mins. in the oven to see if they’d set better before moving them to cool. Seemed to work.

I put the kettle on for tea to have with my test cookie(s) and went over the experience in my head again. Clearly, I do not follow instructions well and I skim information when I’m in an impatient mood. This is why I have always had trouble with the idea of baking. It’s so exact. It’s so sciencey. And I can screw it up so easily.

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The mug sums up my first attempt at cookies from scratch, but I will say they were both quite tasty and the chamomile tea calmed my frustrations. Turns out, the ones done on the air-bake sheet were actually better. Mental note made. Overall, it was a good way to start out my favorite time of year and I will try again someday…now that I know the actual process. And yes, work friends, I will be bringing them in tomorrow to share, so calm your antsy stomachs and wipe that drool off your fool faces.