Wordless Wednesday: In Bloom 

Look behind Feisty. Daffodils are starting to bloom!

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Terror Lake 

You know the dark underbelly of old house ownership? Quirky wiring? Lead paint worries? Quirky…plumbing??

Saturday, The Flyer and I were getting ready for an actual date – dropping Feisty with her grandparents and going to lunch/movie. The Flyer successfully unclogged the bathroom sink, but noticed that the tub wasn’t draining either. With our time crunch, he decided to just shower and we could deal with it when we got home.

Yeah, bad plan. We ended up with a gushing pipe (until I walked in, stoppered the tub and grabbed a bucket for bailing) and a massive lake of potentially subfloor-damaging water EVERYWHERE.

So bad. We mopped up. We almost cancelled our date, but my parents talked us out of that. Sunday morning, my dad came over. He is seriously the freaking house whisperer. My parents have renovated five houses now, and I only recall them hiring a contractor like twice.

So we have a functional tub again. It was minor after all, just a giant clog downstream. Terror Lake is relegated to the hopefully permanent past. And while The Flyer and the father were flushing the gunk out of drain, I made donuts. Never let it be said that I don’t do my part.

I used this recipe, minus the nutmeg, for baked cake donuts. I frosted them with my great great aunt’s recipe for caramel frosting. Normally, this is used to recreate her signature chocolate cake, but thinned down, it was pretty darn delicious as a topping for donuts- caramel iced cake is a favorite donut flavor around here.

Aunt Rene’s Caramel Frosting (donut edition)

Frosts 1 dozen standard size donuts

2 T salted butter

1/2 c brown sugar 

4 T heavy whipping cream 

1/2 t vanilla extract 

1 c confectioners sugar

Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat, being careful not to brown. Adjust heat to medium low if necessary. Add cream and sugar, stir until dissolved. Bring to a rapid boil and boil for 1 minute.

Remove from heat, beat in 1/2 c of confectioners sugar. Cool slightly, add vanilla and remaining sugar. Frosting will be thick – add additional cream or whole milk to spread easily over donuts.

When doubled and with the cream amount dialed back to 3 T, the recipe frosts a 9 x 13 sheet cake. Go chocolate on this one. Make the Hershey’s classic recipe with dark chocolate and oh man… No regrets. Serve French vanilla ice cream over it for the full Aunt Rene experience. Just use all-purpose flour or the icing will decimate your delicate cake.

Mission accomplished

Well, I did not mean to be away from this blog for so long! We’ve been working on finishing up the (currently occupied) bedrooms, plus I’ve been going into the office more, which equals less blog time for me. Also, does anyone else follow “The Wonder Weeks” with their baby/toddler? Feisty is on Leap 9 of 10 (almost done with the leaps, thank God, thank GOD) and therefore deigns to sleep alone for like 20 minutes a night.

Speaking of Feisty, her nursery is complete! Here she will stay until she’s old enough to move into the Big Girl Room. The finishing touches included a birch tree mural on one wall, plus a “metal” letter. I do want to re-upholster the ugly wing chair in that room at some point, but I’m still calling it done!

Photographic evidence:


The tree mural wasn’t quite as difficult as I’d thought – once I scrapped the idea in which I actually would draw a decent looking tree. I used this tutorial and stenciled some birds onto the finished trees.

I had planned to buy a metal letter from Anthropologie – they aren’t out of sight expensive – but came across a tutorial to make faux-metal letters on the extreme cheap, so, of course, I did that.

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They turned out pretty well! Trotting horses will never notice. I even made an extra one for over the fireplace, as we’re finally going to start painting the downstairs soon and will be able to then hang up stuff.

In food news, I’ve been hard at work with the usual granola, muffins, random weeknight dinners. Lent is starting tomorrow, so I’m getting ready to simmer a big pot of red lentil (haha LENTil) soup. The meatlessness of Lent is actually a boon to my organization because it forces me to think ahead and have veggie options available.

I also attempted a king cake in the spirit of Mardi Gras! I’d never actually had king cake prior to making it, mostly because the store versions look really cloying and too rich. It was pretty time consuming, plus the dough took foreverrrr to rise in our chilly house, but the results were delicious! I used Sara Bonisteel’s recipe from The New York Times Cooking. Well, a modified version. I replaced the almond extract with lemon, filled it with cream cheese filling and used regular whole milk in place of the sweetened condensed milk in the icing. No offense to John Besh (haha), but mixing sugar with SC milk just sounds like tooth-decaying overkill.

The dusting sugars, though. The green and yellow were beautiful, but I discovered when I attempted to make purple that we are out of blue food coloring. Thus, the jankified purple I mustered up with a bit of green and a lot of red. And I didn’t quite sub the regular milk in a proper ratio, so the icing was super runny. Still tasty, though!

Wacky Cake

When I was a kid, my mom used to make this cake we called “wacky cake.” The wackiness? It doesn’t follow the usual rules of cake making. I’m sure there’s a technical term for this type of cake, but I have no idea what it is (leave me a comment if you do!). Regardless, it’ll always be wacky cake to me.

Yesterday, I wanted cake, but we have barely any butter, one egg, and no milk. (The freezer is barren, too, but that’s neither here nor there. Time to hit the grocery…) So, ingredient-less, I remembered WC and dug out the recipe for it. Its leavening comes from a baking soda-vinegar reaction, and it was at this point I realized I had poured all the white vinegar down the basement floor drain trying to clear it.

We still had balsamic vinegar, though, and a quick Google search confirmed that chocolate/balsamic flavor mashup is actually a thing. Figuring it would be either good or horrible, I threw it in. It was good.

My mom always made the straight-up, as-written WC recipe, but it occurred to me that this would take well to changes: nut oils, coffee instead of water, infused vinegars, different extracts. I may be off on an experimental WC binge this week. Mom always served it dusted with confectioners sugar, but I was craving a little extra chocolatiness and made a quick frosting out of roughly 1/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips and 2 T. of heavy whipping cream, microwaved for a minute and stirred together until well blended. Buttercream, a drizzle of royal icing, or some fresh fruit (or fruit syrup) would all work wonders, too. I feel like we used to have some kind of chocolate/royal icing snack cake as kids and now I’m totally nostalgic for it.

Before I get to the recipe, I will say that this is a tasty bit of nostalgia for a snack/weeknight dessert, but not some earth-shattering cake I’d serve at a dinner party. Also, this cake DOES NOT invert well, so just serve it from the pan.

Wacky Cake

Serves 8-9

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. sugar

3 T. cocoa powder

1 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

6 T. neutral oil

1 T. white or apple cider (or balsamic!) vinegar

1/2 t. vanilla extract

1 c. cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×8 square or 8-inch round cake pan. Use a fork to mix dry ingredients right in the pan. Make a large, a medium, and a small well in the center.

Add oil to the largest well, vinegar to the medium well, and vanilla to the small well. Pour cold water over entire thing. Blend thoroughly to combine.

Bake 35 mins or until tester comes out clean. Frost or dust with confectioners sugar as desired. Enjoy the wackiness!

*Sugar amount seemed excessive to me, but I went ahead with it. Results weren’t overly sweet, but I might play with this in WC experiments.

Cinnamon Muffins

How was everyone’s Super Bowl Sunday? Feisty and I went to my aunt, The Singer’s,  for a party, and I ate ALL. THE. JUNK. FOOD. It was glorious in that sick-feeling, but wings-and-pizza-stuffed way. She also sent us home with five heaping plates of goodness. Carrying that home, plus my purse, gifts for Feisty, toys for Feisty and actual Feisty was no joke, but now I am kinda counting down to today’s junk time.

I was going to start eating healthier or something, but with the five plates of tasties in the fridge and my upcoming birthday, that’s a resolution that’s best tabled for now.

Anyway. We’ve got meals pretty well figured out here, honestly, except lunch. We try, but never manage to get it together. Breakfast, though. I skipped it all through high school and undergrad, some of adulthood, but now actually enjoy it with the help of homemade granola on whole milk plain yogurt and making a batch of muffins to freeze in advance. Today, I adapted this recipe, and the results were good. As written, I found it good, but maybe too pared down without a lot of flavor. I also didn’t have time to make streusel topping because work and baby breakfast.

Cinnamon Whole Wheat Muffins

Makes 12 standard-size muffins.

3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/2. c. all-purpose flour
1 c. old-fashioned oats
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 T. baking powder
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1 c. milk
1 egg
1/4 c. neutral oil
1 t. vanilla
1/3 c. + 1T cinnamon sugar, reserved

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 12 standard muffin cups or line with cupcake papers.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together dry ingredients until well blended. Make a well in the center.

In another bowl, beat egg and add milk, oil and vanilla. Stir into well in center of dry ingredients and mix until fully incorporated. Fill greased muffin cups half to 3/4 full with batter. Sprinkle 1/2 T. of reserved cinnamon sugar over each muffin.

Bake for 18-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Run a knife around the edge of each muffin, cool for 5 mins, then remove from pan to cooling rack.

When the muffins are fully cooled, I put them on a baking sheet and freeze, then (ideally), when completely frozen, turn then out into a freezer bag. Store in freezer and warm for about 30 seconds in the microwave before serving.

Reclaimed wood sign tutorial

Feisty’s nursery is coming along – the Flyer hung up curtain rods and blinds in her room and ours this week, which means we can once again sleep in the dark and get dressed in rooms besides the bathroom.

To help complete my grand vision for Feisty’s room, I still need one of these letters, a tree painted on the wall (wish me luck with that one), and the sign I finished today.

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I found a reclaimed wood board at an architectural salvage shop we discovered over the weekend. The board was $3, and I had to get a set of paintbrushes, which was $2.97. These signs are at least $25 on Etsy, so I am pretty happy to have this one for a lot less! I will probably go back and clean up the letters a bit when it dries, but this is basically it. I didn’t use stencils, but those would make things look a bit more professional. I was going for whimsy, since it’s for a toddler’s room. Here’s how I did it.

Reclaimed Wood Sign Tutorial

Materials needed:  Reclaimed wood board or boards, cut to correct size and assembled if necessary; soap & water; paper towels; sandpaper; sealant; chalk; paint; paintbrushes; two (or more, if needed) picture screw eyes and hanging wire; picture frame hook/nail; drill; hammer. Gloves and stencils are optional.

How to do it:

  1. Wash your reclaimed wood and let it dry thoroughly. My board was FILTHY – it was more of a grey at the shop and turned this nice walnut-y color after washing and drying.
  2. Sand the surface that you’d like to paint. (I wore gloves for this, but it’s up to you.) I didn’t want to lose the character of the wood, so I just used 180-Grit sandpaper until the board was a bit smoother and all the splinters were worn away.
  3. Apply sealant to prep the board. I used Delta Ceramcoat all-purpose sealer (it’s non-toxic!) that I got from…somewhere. Can’t remember. Most craft stores have it or a similar product. I didn’t feel like getting a big paintbrush out of the basement, so I just used a paper towel to slather it on. Have no fear – it dries clear!
  4. Let sealant dry. Mine dried for a whole day, but that’s due to me being busy. A couple hours should suffice, just make sure it’s completely dry and not tacky to the touch.
  5. Sand the dried, sealant-covered board again briefly.
  6. If you’re using stencils, skip this step. If you’re freehanding, write your message or draw your design with chalk. You won’t be able to see pencil markings, and chalk wipes off really easily if you goof.
  7. Actual painting can take place! Paint over your chalked design or stencil, making sure to keep the paint even. I used Delta Ceramcoat acrylic paint.
  8. Let it dry. See if you need a second coat – repeat step 7 if so.
  9. Measure to find the middle of your board. Space the screw eyes so that they are equidistant from the middle point – there should be one on each side of the board.
  10. Drill into the board to make holes for the screw eyes, then insert screw eyes until secure. Attach hanging wire to desired tautness.
  11. Hammer picture hook and nail into the wall; hang up sign.