Saturday, September 8, 2012

First Apartment!

First off, I apologize for the gap in posts, as I moved into my first apartment and started my junior year of college at the end of August and have been slammed beyond belief.

Quick story: My mom and I went to IKEA to buy furniture for my room since it's completely unfurnished. We decided on the MALM queen bed frame in birch veneer, MALM 4-drawer dresser in birch veneer, and the MICKE desk in white/birch veneer. I also purchased a roll-packed queen memory foam mattess, the Sultan Finnvik. We weren't planning on getting everything that day, but it just sort of happened, and more impressively, it all happened to fit in the back of my mom's Toyota Highlander, with room to spare.
There was a whole bit of drama with the move in for my apartment. Long story short: two days before move in our apartment wasn't ready, they were going to put my roommate and I in a hotel for about a week with storage and hopefully our apartment would be ready by next week. The next day they called back and told us we could move into a two bedroom one and a half bath townhome instead with a larger floorplan, and pay the same amount we would have been paying. Of course we jumped on the offer. Anything to stay out of a hotel for the first week of classes.

My brand new organization the UNT chapter of SEPA (Student Event Planners Association) was officially approved by the CMHT board (College of Merchandising, Hospitality, and Tourism) so we have been promoting like crazy for our first meeting coming up and have gained the interest of about 175 potential members! Which is incredible! We have worked so hard to get this organization's third chapter in existence established here at UNT and we are just getting started.

The first few days of move in I was going non stop, hardly sleeping, and panicking all over the place. It was so stressful but it resulted in a pretty little apartment that still isn't quite finished.

Here's my room!

 Those two doors on the walls are my closet... It's at least twice as big as the one I have at home.

I get a really nice and relaxing beachside vibe from my room. Especially with the incandescent lighting from my lamps. It's still a bit of a work in progress but it's generally the same. 

The downstairs isn't quite finished yet, and I don't have pictures because it isn't anything special. There's a couch, tiny tv, wine rack, a few pictures hung, and a HUGE space for a dining room table that is currently in Austin.

A few days ago Jen called me and told me our upstairs toilet was acting up and she came downstairs to find a stream of water coming from the ceiling in the dining room. She sent me this picture to the right and called emergency maintenance and they shut the water off and said the seal of something or other for the toilet hadn't been properly done so they'd get someone out here to fix it the next morning. Nobody showed, and we went to office and they said they'd get someone out there the following morning around 8:30 am.
Today, I went to class around 8:30 and came back around noon. It was obvious that they'd come in and looked at it, but nothing is fixed, and it is now 9:30 on a Friday night, and we're no where close to having a working toilet upstairs yet. Lovely.
We've had many problems and the complex maintenence is incredibly slow to fix anything, so we've adopted the idea that when they say they will complete your request, you add on 4 or 5 days to that estimate for good measure.

 In the mean time, you can see a piece of the sheetrock and plaster from our ceiling in the dining room here. This is what we get to look at on a daily basis. So... that's awesome...

All that's really missing now is this little kitty cat sleeping on my bed! I'm going to next weekend to get her and bring her up here! :) I could not be more excited to see my babycat.

And I will leave you with a last remark. I'd heard it a million times and found it incredibly annoying . I figured it wouldn't happen to me, but it has in a way. And I can't say that I enjoy it much. But moving off campus in college and into your first apartment really does make it much harder to hang out with people on a regular basis. You have to make plans with people if you want to see them instead of just running around campus with everyone and always being together. It's not all bad. You don't have to hang out with the people you don't like, but you tend to miss some of the ones you do. Cliche and overused, but it's true.

Monday, August 13, 2012

U: Upholstery Tutorial

About a year and a half ago my first roommate, Hope, and I bought an old avocado colored, velvety chair for $10 at a garage sale benefiting our club, the UNT chapter of Invisible Children. If you haven't heard of it, and I can't imagine that you haven't to be honest, here's more information.

Anyway, we kept this chair in our dorm room, dubbing it the "green granny chair" and it was beloved by all, except my current roommate's parents and my own parents of course. I have no idea how old it was, but the girl we bought it from said it was her family's or grandparent's chair. And it could easily be anywhere from 10-30 years old.

My roommate and I, after failing to find a suitable slipcover, decided that we could just reupholster it, and as I'd never done that before, I was excited to try! My mom and I are both good sewers and are creative and decided to tackle it.

The fabric used is Amy Butler Daisy Chain Deco Rose Navy and I purchased it from through Amazon. I bought 5 yards and it came out perfectly.

Below, I'm going to walk you through how this:


In order to get the some odd 500 or so staples out of the chair to get the fabric off, we used a pair of pliers, needlenose pliers, flat head screwdriver, and staple remover.

The first step was to rip all of the fabric off the chair. We started with the bottom flap around the chair since it was the easiest logical thing to do. At this point, we could see how disgusting this chair really was. The color had changed so incredibly from chartreuse to old rotting gold avocado.

Next, we ripped off the outsides of the arm rests which were attached to the back panel of the chair. These were starting to rip off anyway, so it was definitely time for them to go. Now if I were REALLY going to upholster, I would've learned what those metal chain brackets were called that held the outside panel onto the chair, but I didn't really care enough, and didn't plan on using them when I recovered the chair, but I would definitely recommend doing so if you decide to upholster. The off white bits shown in the pictures below are muslin (covering the back sides of the chair) and a layer of batting (fluffy pillow material).

 My mom was a HUGE help on this project. I almost lost it a few times, but she kept me sane!

There's the back. Those little strings and puffs that look like awkward cotton balls are the tufted buttons that look pretty on the front, and like this on the back! You can also see those awkward metal bracket things too!
Most of the fabric removal was just ripping out staples to strip it down to the wooden frame of the chair.
The flap covering the bottom front of the chair where the seat cushion goes, was sewed onto the seat base so that when the separate seat cushion sits on top, you can't see any of the chair base that you see below.
As you see below, the front two panels were just folded under and tucked next to eachother on the front, and staped on the back.

This is the chair frame once it was stripped of the layer of fabric, batting, and foam padding. I completely trashed the batting and foam that was there before. It was nasty and old. I bought about 6 yards of medium thickness batting from Joann Fabric & Craft Stores. This can get kind of expensive, but I had coupons! used the batting and pillow fluff from some old unused pillows and actually used an old tempurpedic pillow on the back for lumbar support, as you can see below.

We saved the old pieces of fabric to use as estimates to create a pattern for the new fabric pieces. Lay it out on pattern paper (similar in thickness to parchment paper) and cut to match the size, then lay these out on the new fabric to cut the pieces to size.

At this point, my tutorial may or may not help much, as each chair is different, but hopefully it will kind of give you a better idea to get you started!

The first piece I attached to the new chair was the front bottom base. I stapled the fabric on the wrong side to the base of the chair seat, so that the staples were underneath and remain unseen. Scroll up four pictures and you'll see what I mean.

Next, I attached the seatback fabric (where the tufted buttons are). I pulled the bottom of the fabric through the whole in the frame where the seat meets the back and stapled it from behind. Then I pulled the top of the fabric to the back and stapled, then the sides.

Tufting buttons: This tutorial will teach you how to use a button kit to make custom buttons (kits can be purchased so that the last two steps are unnecessary and they come with the button loop bottom, and this tutorial will tell you how to tuft! I recommend using a really long thick needle and thick thread, otherwise it may not hold well. Before tying off  the ends, thread the needle through a cotton ball or piece of fluffy batting so to help keep the knot from slipping through the fabric and losing the tuft of the fabric being pulled back by the button.

It's a bit difficult to see the buttons here but if you look closely enough, you can see them!

After that, I attached the inner sides of the arm, stapling at the bottom on the outer edge of the frame, like with the back piece, and letting it fall over the top and staple onto the outside. All that extra white batting that is still visible in the picture below had to be cut off for the fabric to reach around to where it could be stapled.

I pinned the back of the seatback piece on just to envision it and noticed that the corners where the arm rest meets the back were not going to reach. So I cut out two little triangle pieces of fabric and sewed them onto the edges of the back and inner armrest to close the gap.
Next came piping. For those of you who don't know what piping is, here is a great tutorial on what it it and how to make it! I believe I bought about 4 yards of cord for lining the outer back edge of the chair and the cushion. A trick my mom learned, if you are out of cord, take a few strands of yarn and use in place of the cord. It's not quite as thick or solid, but it still looks fine!
After stapling down the piping as close to the edge of the seam as possible, wherever I could actually hit wood, I went back with a needle and thread and hand sewed any parts that were flapping out too much or wouldn't let me staple through all the batting! Rather than trying to do long stiches on the seam allowance, simple, stick your needle back and forth through the piping to the other side and back. It's much easier and faster.

Attaching the back panel and the two arm rest side panels was a bit of a nightmare. It get's really tight and impossible to fit a staple gun between the chair and the underside of the fabric once you've gotten the top down. I tried staples, small nails, and eventually just ended up sewing most of the panels on and reinforcing where I nailed the fabric onto the frame. I didn't take pictures of this part because it was pissing me off so much.

And I didn't take pictures of the cushion because my mom did that, but if you need some help, look no further!

The last thing you should do is staple down all of the bottom ends of the fabric panels on the underside of the chair. So flip it over, and hold them down!

If I can do it, SO CAN YOU! So next time your grandmother or mother wants to throw out an old tacky chair, strip it down and re-cover it!

There were a few sources that helped immensely with this project. I would have been entirely lost without their guidance:

This site gives you an estimate of how much fabric you would need to cover a chair/sofa/couch of each size shown. It's pretty close. My chair was estimated at 6 yds and I did it with 5, but better to be safe than sorry!
This blog post is also about reupholstering chairs and is super helpful!

This post is also entered into Chef In Training's Tuesday Talent Show #49! There are lots of excellent recipes, crafts, and tutorials there, so check it out!

Monday, July 30, 2012

I: Illumination

Below are a few projects playing with lighting that I've make over the past few years.

The Floral Vase

I took a small vase with a cork topper and some small fake white flowers and pushed a few of the stems that were attached into the bottle to lay with the shape of the bottle. Cork it up and let it sit somewhere in front of a light source!

Glow Stick Chain

This "project" was really fun and unanticipated! While at a friend's birthday party we started playing with glowsticks and I linked up a few of the same color into a rainbow chain that could then be twirlled around for good pictures with extended lighting exposure from an open shutter. I ened up keeping the chain for 2 years, adding to it whenever I got more glowsticks and draped it over a mirror for a fun little twist in my dorm room!

Canvas Firework Lamp

This canvas firework lamp was supposed to be an easy and cool pinterest project! Instead, it turned into an exhausting nightmare that just wouldn't go right! 
Take a canvas of any size (I used a 20"x 24"), a strand or two of christmas lights (I used 200 lights), an awl (to poke the wholes, or in my case a leather needle, safety pin, and small phillips head screwdriver, after learning that scissors don't work.) Simple enough, right?
What I didn't take into account was that you have to draw out a pattern on the back to show where your lights will be so you know it will look good. The original source suggested leaving 2 inches of space between each whole, but I definitely ignored that and it turned out just fine in the end with a little maneuvering. I ended up counting and recounting the dots of the drawing at least seven or eight times before thinking I had a correct count because each one was different. After poking all of the wholes, a tedious effort in itself, I discovered that I poked two too many. I'm sure there is some magical trick to healing canvas that I don't know about yet, but I've just let it slide. If you look carefully enough at the photos, you'll see the wholes :(
As if that weren't enough, Once I had maneuvered the mess of twisted christmas light cords through the wholes, I realized that some were slipping out and I had entirely missed other wholes! :( :( Double sad face!
I went back and fixed all of my mistakes and hot glued each individual christmas light on the back to the canvas for good measure. God forbid any of these lights ever crack or burn out...
IF you do attempt to recreate one yourself, make sure to plan carefully so that the wall plug has enough room to reach an outlet from wherever you decide to place your lamp! 
Click for the Inspiration Source

Recycled Negatives Display

I have always loved photography and had boxes of old photos printed from film. I just love the quality that photos get from being printed from film negatives. I found a bunch of negatives from my favorite photos over the years and thought I'd try to find a way to display them. Found an old 8"X10" clear acrylic frame, cut up the negatives into individual slides, lined then up and taped the backs to thin piece of clear plastic from an old calendar clipboard (random item), so that they would stay straight and not fall out. You could probably use a piece of parchment or wax paper, but it won't be as sturdy. Just an idea... You can see the pictures well enough without a backlighting source, but it definitely helps to have light!
The idea stemmed, months ago from a pin of this...

Stick around for more! Thanks! :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

D: Dessert

Chocolate Souffle (recipe below) 

Coconut-Lemon Layer Bars
(recipe below)

Fruit-On-The-Bottom Greek Yogurt Parfait (recipe below) 

Apple Rhubarb Crisp (recipe below)
Lemon Blackberry Cheesecake with Whipped Cream


Chocolate Souffle- Got this recipe from a food prep class. Everyone is always so intimidated by souffle, but it really isn't THAT difficult. The batch from the photo above was left in the oven just a bit too long, due to an error of my own fault, but every other time they have come out perfectly, even in a kitchen that found a way to screw up even the most time-tested recipes.

1.5 oz. butter
3 tbsp. cocoa (or dark cocoa)
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
4 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 pinch salt
6 oz. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs, separated
& a little extra butter and sugar for the ramekins.

  • Preheat oven to 350 F. 
  • Butter 5 souffle ramekins, covering whole inside and top of dish. Coat in sugar, if there isn't butter for the sugar to stick to in certain spots, add butter and sugar. This prevents the souffle from sticking and allows it to rise beautifully.
  • Melt butter and cocoa in a medium bowl over simming water in a small pot. Stir in flour, first 2 tbsp. sugar, and salt using a heat resistant spatula. It will be very thick. 
  • Slowly whisk in milk and place the bowl back on the simmering pot, stirring constantly until it thickens to a creamy consistency. If the chocolate sauce separates, stir in a small amount of water. Stir vanilla into chocolate sauce.
  • Beat egg yolks in another bowl and temper eggs by adding chocolate sauce a little at a time and whisking well into the yolks. Set aside.
  • Beat egg whites to foam,and continue beating until they form soft peaks and then gradually add last 2 tbsp. sugar, beating until peaks fold over. They should be stiff and shiny. 
  • Fold the meringue (beaten egg whites) into the chocolate sauce a third at a time, and pour the mixture into the ramekins and bake. Check after 15 minutes. They should move slightly but be set as a whole.

PROBLEMS OCCUR IF: You wait too long to get the beaten egg whites into the chocolate sauce, and therefore, into the oven. The air beaten into the egg whites is what makes the souffle mixture rise the way it does. If you didn't preheat your oven before preparing the mixture and dishes, they won't rise properly. If you open the over door too frequently or take out the ramekins before the souffle has risen and set, they will fall. Once a souffle has fallen, it does not get back up! They will fall naturally within 10-15 minutes, sometimes sooner, after taking them out of the oven, so serve quickly! And they do well topped with whipped cream!

Coconut-Lemon Layer Bars- recipe from Kitchenaid
2 c. vanilla wafer crumbs (or graham cracker)
6 tbsp. butter, melted
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tbsp. grated lemon peel
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1 egg
1 c. white chocolate chips
1 c. sweetened coconut flakes
1/2 c. chopped macadamia nuts

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F. 
  • Stir together vanilla wafer crumbs and butter in a medium bowl. Press crumb mixture firmly in the bottom of a 13"x9" baking pan.
  • Place cream cheese, lemon peel, lemon juice, and egg in a mixing bowl and beat on medium-low until smooth. Spread evenly over the crumb mixture.
  • Layer with white chocolate chips, coconut, and nuts; press down firmly.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely and cut. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

This recipe supposedly makes 32 bars, but I do not understand how that is even close to accurate. I usually get anywhere from 9-15 bars.

Fruit-On-The-Bottom Greek Yogurt Parfait-
1 c. plain greek yogurt
1/4 tsp. vanilla or other extract
2 tbsp. blueberries or other berry
A few other berries
1 tbsp. almonds
Powdered Sugar (optional)

  • Mash up most of the berries on the bottom of your bowl. 
  • Mix greek yogurt with extract and scoop onto the mashed berries. 
  • Top with leftover berries, almonds, and powdered sugar.

Apple-Rhubarb Crisp-
(As per the reviews, I halved both the white and brown sugar, and it was still very sweet, but not too sweet. I used approximately 2 tsp. of ground cinnamon, a dash of ground nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp. of ground clove. I also used 2 and 1/2 cups of frozen unsweetened rhubarb and two apples chopped into small chunks.) Clicking the link will get you the actual recipe, but below is my rendition, which got rave reviews at my office!

1/2 c. light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 c. all-purpose flour (or whole wheat!)
3/4 c. quick cooking rolled oats
1/2 c. melted butter
2 heaping tsp. cinnamon
1 dash ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground clove
2.5 c. sliced rhubarb (frozen or fresh)
1.5 c. sliced apples
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 c. water
1 tsp. vanilla

  • Preheat your oven to 350 F.
  • In a mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, flour, oats, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove; mix together until crumbly. Press half of the mixture into a buttered 8"x8" baking dish. Top with sliced rhubarb and apples.
  • In a saucepan, combine granulated sugar, cornstarch, water, and vanilla. Cook together until clear and slightly congealed. Pour over rhubarb and apples. Pour remaining crumb mixture on top.
  • Bake for 45-55 minutes.
  • Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Lemon Blackberry Cheesecake with Whipped Cream- (original recipe from My Family Table: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking by John Besh/Andrews McMeel Publishing)

2 tbsp. butter, softened
1 c. graham cracker crumbs
2 lbs. cream cheese
1.5 c. sugar
3/4 c. milk
4 eggs
1 c. sour cream
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1.5 pints blackberries
1 lemon (juice and zest)

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Mix graham cracker crumbs and butter and press into the bottom and halfway up the sides of a greased 9" springform pan.
  • In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Then blend in the milk and beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing just enough to combine. Mix in the sour cream, flour, and vanilla until smooth.
  • Divide the mixture into two bowls.
  • In a food processor or blender, puree 1 pint of blackberries with the lemon zest and juice. Pour the puree into one bowl of the cheese mixture along with the remaining 1/2 pint of whole blackberries and mix well.
  • Pour the blackberry filling onto the prepared crust. Bake for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and pour the remaining cheese mixture (without blackberry) on top. Return to the oven and bake for 1 hour, until the topping is set.
  • Let cool, and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  • Cover in whipped cream (recipe below) and fresh blackberries!

Note: Many of the originial recipes do not involve whipped cream, but it is easy enough to make.

Whipped Cream-
Beat heavy whipping cream on high until it starts to fluff a bit, then add powdered sugar to taste and continue whipping on high until it forms stiff peaks (when the whipped cream holds its shape when the beaters are pulled out.)

Other wonderful recipes I've used that don't have pictures:
  • The Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe- it is golden, especially when baked using the instructions found here!
  • This Chocolate Chip Whole Wheat Banana Bread Recipe
  • These Fried Mozzarella Sticks
  • Chewy Coconut Lime Sugar Cookies
  • Earl Grey Tea Cookies- my sister is obsessed!
  • Zebra Cake- not only does it look cool, but it tastes incredible! Made this for my cousin's high school graduation party, and it was a huge hit!

Enjoy! And feel free to leave me your recipes. I'd LOVE to try them! :)