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!

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.