Yet another DIY headboard

These days I’m really trying to weigh the cost (in both money and time) before starting a DIY project. Sometimes–especially after purchasing all the supplies and tools–it’s just cheaper to buy something than make it. $46 for a complete bed frame from the As-Is department at Ikea? Better than DIY any day, especially when it is exactly the right piece for the room.

For Mr. Ten, a die-hard reader in bed, I thought a cushy upholstered headboard would be a good choice. He didn’t really care one way or another. In fact, he was a little suspicious–he doesn’t like change.

Undeterred, I pinned a bunch of tutorials and images of upholstered headboards. I really wanted something nice and thick. I also wanted to use another one of those old hollow core closet doors piled up in the garage. Over the Columbus Day weekend (sale at Joann’s!), I bought the foam (actually Nu-Foam Densified Batting) and batting for 50% off. Instead of upholstery fabric, I bought a canvas painter’s drop cloth at Home Depot for about $10, and a French cleat for another $10. Total investment: $42. I already own a jigsaw and staple gun.

I really like the canvas fabric–it’s very sturdy and if you look closely, it has flecks of colored thread throughout the weave.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Wash and dry the drop cloth.
  2. Measure. For a queen-size bed, I decided I wanted the headboard to be 62 x 24 inches.
  3. Cut the hollow core door to size. I had a 24-inch wide door, so only had to cut off one end with the jigsaw. I briefly sanded the rough edge and nailed a random strip of plastic that I found in the garage over the open end.
  4. Measure and cut the foam to size. I bought 2 yards of foam, so I have a little extra for some future project (a seat cushion, maybe). The depth of the door plus the 2″ foam makes a thick headboard.
  5. Lay the foam on top of the door and cover with batting. I used a an entire sheet of batting intended for a twin-size quilt, and just folded it (I think in thirds).
  6. Flip the whole thing over and staple the batting to the back side of the headboard, pulling the batting snugly around (sides first, corners last). Trim the excess.
  7. Repeat with the canvas fabric. You can see I was not very precise about how it looked on the back, but as long as it is smooth from the front, who cares? Pleat the corners as best you can. (Google “how to upholster corners” and you’ll get all sorts of advice.)
  8. Hang the headboard on the wall. I was fortunate to find a wall stud centered exactly above where the bed goes. I used a French cleat to hang the headboard. The headboard is not very heavy (if you use heavier plywood, you’ll need the bigger cleat), and with the center screw of the wall bracket secured into a stud and the interlocking bracket screwed into the solid wood frame of the door (the center is hollow, but the edges are solid), it is very secure on the wall.

Mr. Ten admitted that he likes his new headboard. I sat in bed with him for a few minutes at bedtime, and it was very comfortable. In the future, I think I’d like to upholster the box spring, reinforce it and add legs to make it a platform bed. I have enough fabric left from the drop cloth, but the cost of the legs and brackets is more than I want to spend right now. In the meantime, we have some artwork to frame and hang (I’ve pinned some fun prints that might make good Christmas gifts), and I’m on the hunt for a duvet cover to sew or buy.

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Monday Menu and Recipe Review

This weekend was so brimming with activities that I am actually looking forward to this week for some quiet time. I don’t even mind the chilly weather, so long as the rain holds off until I can mow the grass in the morning. In between birthday parties and band fundraising and church, the Hub baked scones and banana bread, and Little Five sacrificed the small pumpkin he brought home from Friday’s field trip so that I could make a pie. I’m not feeling very ambitious in my meal planning for the rest of the week, so we’re going to use what we have and I intend to CLEAN OUT THE FRIDGE. You heard it here first.

The highlight of our weekend was a drive into the city for an exhibition of works by one of our elementary school art teachers. The weather was crisp and sunny, lunch was delicious, and the art was beautiful. The kids loved talking to their teacher and telling her which piece was their favorite. They also fully appreciated the snack table. We should plan outings like that more often.

I’m off to the library and Goodwill.

This week

Last week

  • Fried green tomato BLTs with fennel mayonnaise, fruit salad. These were as good as the Hub thought they would be. The boys even ate them!
  • Chili, cornbread, salad (swap with Jen). The cornbread recipe on the Quaker cornmeal box is pretty good, especially if you add some corn kernels to the batter.
  • Split pea soup, croutons, salad. This is a delicious slow cooker version of split pea soup, and the croutons are a great way to use up all those bits of slightly stale bread cluttering the freezer.

Multigrain Apple Butter Muffins

Muffins make me feel good. Let me count the ways:

  1. They scent the house with cinnamon-y goodness.
  2. 100% whole grain. Bonus points for the bran. (Some children around here need more fiber.)
  3. Portable. (You can pack your snack when you move Operation Homework to the park district for an hour while Little Brother is at his karate class.)
  4. Thirty minutes, start to finish.
  5. The apple butter is on the INSIDE!
  6. Freezable.
  7. The recipe is flexible: use whatever combination of flour you have (or 2 cups of Multigrain Flour Mix). And if you’re running out of milk, making up the difference with juice or water is perfectly acceptable. It’s like Stone Soup, but in muffin form.

Multigrain Apple Butter Filled Muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup barley flour

1/4 cup millet flour

1/4 wheat bran

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 cup milk

1/4 cup oil

2 eggs

small jar of apple butter

Heat oven to 500 degrees F. Grease 12 muffin cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, wheat bran, brown sugar, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. In a 2-cup measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together milk, oil and eggs. Whisk the liquid ingredients into the dry, blending for no more than 20 seconds.

Fill each muffin cup half full of batter. Add a heaping teaspoon of apple butter to each cup, and then just enough batter to cover the apple butter, distributing any extra batter evenly among the cups.

Turn the oven temperature down to 375 degrees and bake for 20 minutes. Cool muffins on a rack. Best served slightly warm.

Monday Menu and Recipe Review

Ah, Columbus Day. The kids are home from school, and Mr. Ten is playing with the junior high marching band in Chicago’s Columbus Day Parade. We’re excited to watch them on television this afternoon. In the meantime, I have big plans to buy foam for a headboard DIY (taking advantage of those Columbus Day sales), if we can all get dressed and turn off Hannah Montana for a minute. Miss Eight would like to invite a friend over or go to the pet store to buy a hamster. Little Five would like to remain in his pajamas and play Super Mario Bros. all day. My magic eight ball says that someone is going to be disappointed.

This week

  • Fried green tomato BLTs with fennel mayonnaise, fruit salad. We’re making this up as we go.
  • Chili, cornbread, salad (swap with Jen). The cornbread recipe on the Quaker cornmeal box is pretty good, especially if you add some corn kernels to the batter.
  • Lentil salad, hummus, pita, cucumber and tomato salad
  • Split pea soup, croutons, roasted carrots

Last week

  • Easy Sliders. Mr. Ten saw me getting out the pretzel rolls, gave me hug, and said, “Thank you for making these!” I only assembled 12 sliders, which was plenty for dinner and lunch the next day (for a lunchbox, cut the sliders in half and heat them wrapped in foil, then stuff the hot foil packet into a warmed thermos jar). The rest of the meat mixture went into the stuffed peppers.
  • Seco de chancho (Ecuadorian pork stew), yellow rice. This sauce is great no matter what meat you use, and the leftovers are good in tacos or stirred into scrambled eggs.
  • Slow Cooker Stuffed PeppersI used leftover meat from the sliders, rice and a can of tomato sauce for the filling. I didn’t plan ahead, so I baked them at 350 with a little water in the bottom of the baking dish. The kids ate them!
  • Sesame noodles, stir-fried garlic green beans.
  • Garlic and Thyme Roasted Chicken with Mustard CroutonsDeeeeelicious. There’s your Sunday dinner plan, right there.

Just today, this little blog made it to 200 followers! Thank you for reading–your support means a lot. We’ll have to celebrate!

Painting brass fireplace doors

This is not a how-to post. I had mixed results with this project, and I’m not sure what to recommend. However, I’m calling it good enough for now, and if I encounter a solution to improve it, I’ll think about trying it.

What happened?

I bought Rustoleum High Heat black spray paint for the brass fireplace doors. I wiped down the brass and let it dry. I was in a hurry because I wanted to paint outside, and my project had already been derailed by an inconvenient rainstorm the day before. It may have been a little breezy. Anyway, I covered the glass doors with newspaper and painter’s tape, shook the can well, and covered the brass with several light coats of paint.

Mostly due to the breeze, I think, the sheen on the finished piece was terribly uneven. Splotchy. BAD. We carried it into the garage to dry, and I left it there for several days. Finally, I bought a can of High Heat Ultra paint, which has a semi-gloss finish. I went over everything with steel wool, rubbing away all the rough spots. I wiped it down again and tried the new paint (this time in the garage on a very still day). It was definitely better, but it’s not perfect.

If you get up close, you can still see patches of uneven sheen. I don’t know exactly what to do to correct it–use some kind of clear coat? The good news is, most people aren’t examining the paint finish of our fireplace doors. From afar, they’re fine. I would like to park the cars in the garage again, so I went ahead and put the doors back on the fireplace (complete with a new strip of insulation).

I can’t wait to hang some bright artwork above the fireplace. I’m tempted to buy a large canvas and give it to Little Five, who has been painting his heart out lately.

I’m not sure what’s next. Refinish the coffee table? Paint the walls? I’m still pondering the best (and cheapest) option for better shelving on either side of the fireplace. I like the minimal look of the white and black, and I’m wondering now if wall-mounted shelves might be the way to go. Preferably nothing I have to spray paint.

Monday Menu and Recipe Review

After a good long stretch of Indian summer, fall is finally really here. We’re getting out the sweaters, taking the wool coats to the cleaners, and thinking about Thanksgiving. I’m looking forward to more soups for dinner and cups of tea in the afternoon. (I can’t be the only one falling asleep at 2 p.m. Or noon.) I even bought three little pie pumpkins so the kids can enter the “decorate a pumpkin like your favorite character from a book” contest at school. Miss Eight has already decorated hers to look like Fancy Nancy, but I’m kind of hoping the boys will just let me roast their pumpkins and make pie.

This week

  • Easy SlidersMy dinner swap pal Jen has been making these for parties, and now people expect them and descend on the hot tray like so many vultures. If you don’t have onion soup mix (I sure don’t), just toss together a homemade substitute. I’ll make them early in the day and have Mr. Ten put them in the oven while I’m shuttling his siblings to piano lessons. (The little pretzel rolls are key!)
  • Seco de chancho (Ecuadorian pork stew), yellow rice. I’ll use cubed pork shoulder and no beer in the sauce. (Swap with Jen)
  • Slow Cooker Stuffed PeppersI really don’t know whether any of the kids will eat these, but I think they’ll like the filling. I might make some apple crumble to motivate them to try the peppers!
  • Sesame noodles, stir-fried garlic green beans.

Last week

  • Mexican Pizza, salad. Very good! Next time I’ll dial down the chile powder just a bit, and maybe have some more toppings on hand–guacamole!
  • Salmon with herbs, potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Finally! Everybody ate salmon! Don’t leave out the sauce on the side–garlic mayonnaise, or a lemony-herb yogurt sauce.
  • Quiche (I’ll use this crust, but the filling will probably be caramelized onions and bacon), salad. Make this crust. Don’t pre-bake it. Quiche can be a weeknight meal! (Also breakfast and lunch the next day.)
  • Winter squash soup with croutonsThe kids still aren’t squash lovers, but they’ll tolerate this soup because of its savory spices. Roast the squash and add a little more cream than called for to make it more soupy than baby food.

Family room update: Painting the fireplace brick

Well. This week got away from me. But I’m thrilled that I finally jumped in and painted the family room fireplace brick. Sometimes just jumping in, ready or not, is the best way to get a project moving. With the fireplace painted, the walls look even worse, so I’m eager to paint them. And then rearrange the furniture. And then hang a new mantel shelf. And then…well, you get the idea.

Here’s the deal with the fireplace. It was a red brick that we never liked, but did our best to work with for the past six years. What I really hated was the set of three dinky concrete shelves that angled up the chimney breast, preventing me from hanging anything large above the fireplace.

Enter my dad and his new tool, the angle grinder. In 20 minutes he had all three of those silly shelves cut off, and then he added a little texture to the remaining concrete to make it blend in with the brick. When the dust settled, I had a blank canvas to work with.

I scrubbed the brick with a brush and a solution of TSP, and then painted it with Benjamin Moore ben premium semi-gloss paint & primer. I used an angled brush for the mortar lines, and a cheap wide brush for the brick. The first coat looked pretty good, but I gave it a quick second coat and am calling it done. There is a little bleed-through of the soot stains around the edge of the firebox, but those will be covered up by the fireplace doors when I reinstall them.

Speaking of those fireplace doors….When I took them down to paint, I discovered that the insulation around the edge was black, dust-filled, and beginning to disintegrate. Before I replace the doors, I plan to buy new insulation strips, clean the glass, and probably spray paint the dated brass finish with heat-resistant black spray paint.

At the moment, the white fireplace doesn’t fit in with the rest of the room. Maybe you’re thinking it’s even worse than the brick! I agree, it does NOT look good with the Hawthorne Yellow walls (possibly because they are so dirty at this point) and all that orangey-oak furniture. I’m 99% ready to paint the walls Swiss Coffee by Behr (a slightly warmer shade of white). As you can see from my Family Room Pinterest board, I’m trying to create a light, neutral canvas to set off the colorful stuff we already own: a wall of bright children’s artwork, shelves of books and games, and fun pillows and our existing red rug. Since buying a bunch of new furniture isn’t happening, we plan to swap the living room and family room furniture (navy moves to the living room, tan and white to the family room). I’m pondering new (but always inexpensive!) bookshelf plans for either side of the fireplace. Ikea? Craigslist?

Next dilemma: What kind of mantel shelf? Wood finish or painted? Traditional or rustic?

Monday Menu and Recipe Review

It’s Sunday afternoon, and the Hub is “relaxing” in the kitchen:

I’m fairly confident there are half a dozen projects I ought to be working on, but the only thing I’ve really accomplished is cleaning and adjusting our sometimes fickle espresso machine. I never would have bought it for myself, but when we received it as a housewarming gift from my parents almost six years ago, we soon found we couldn’t live without it. Why would I darken the door of Starbucks when I can froth milk and dispense espresso like a barrista while still in my pajamas? It does require some maintenance, though, and I am very pleased with myself for tuning it up with nothing but the vacuum cleaner and a hex wrench. We’re going to need a good cup of coffee to go along with those cream puffs.

This week

Last week

  • Fish cakesSuccess! And now there’s a bit more space in the freezer.
  • Chicken with Bacon-y Brussels Sprouts, thin egg noodles. One skillet, so good. In the past, I’ve used chicken broth as the liquid, but this time I used a little white wine, which really brought out the sweetness of the Brussels sprouts. The kids may have accidentally eaten a few bites while they were mining for bacon bits among the noodles.
  • Crispy Fried Eggplant, Tomato Salad and MozzarellaOh, these were good. Try to slice the eggplant fairly thin, and keep the temperature at medium so the breading doesn’t burn before the eggplant gets tender. (The kids ate bean and cheese quesadillas–more eggplant for me.)
  • Tabbouleh and grilled cevapi (swap with Jen). I love this tabbouleh recipe, and fill it with whatever veggies are in the fridge. If you’re out of lemons, red or white wine vinegar works fine. 
  • Spaghetti with meat sauce (from Jen); garlic breadTasty comfort food. Toasting the unpeeled cloves of garlic for a few minutes in a dry skillet removes the bite–but not the flavor–from the garlic bread.
  • Pork and Green Chile StewServe it over rice or with warm corn tortillas. We should cook with chiles more often!
  • Breakfast Oatmeal Skillet CookieMiss Eight helped make this for Saturday breakfast (swapping almonds for the walnuts and vanilla for the maple extract)–a big hit with the whole family. Next time I intend to experiment with reducing the butter and sugar a little.

Fish cakes

Aside from that one bad experience with a Dover sole (it was probably just a virus), if given a choice, I will still choose the seafood. My boys like fish, too, and Miss Eight eats it sometimes, which is better than nothing. They also like most anything made into a little fritter, even if they won’t eat it otherwise (i.e., zucchini).

I love the transformative power of the fritter to turn scraps (or good food that some people think they don’t like) into a perfectly lovely meal.

I was digging through the freezer, attempting to use up some bits of this and that, and decided to try making some fish cakes with two small tilapia fillets and about half a pound of smoked mackerel (left over from brunch a few months ago). I quickly pan-fried the tilapia, and then flaked it into the mixing bowl with the mackerel. I wasn’t sure how the smoked fish would fly with my taste testers, but I got one “Really good!”, one “Cleaned my plate!”, one “Tastes better than it smells,” and one “How many bites do I have to eat?” I thought these little fish cakes were delicious. I like smoked fish on a bagel, so it really isn’t such a surprise. Granted, the frying fish smell was a little strong, but nothing that some open windows and a pine-scented candle couldn’t erase.

You can use whatever fish you have, really–canned, grilled, smoked. Because I had a high proportion of smoked fish, I didn’t add much seasoning, but if you have a mild fish you will want to add salt, pepper, a dash of Worcestershire or soy sauce, and maybe some scallions or chives. In place of bread or cracker crumbs, you could use some mashed potato. Experiment!

Fish Cakes

     makes about ten 2 1/2–inch cakes

1 pound of cooked fish, skin and bones removed.

1 egg, beaten

3/4 cup bread crumbs

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

flour for dredging

neutral oil for frying

Stir together the egg and mayonnaise, and then fold in the remaining ingredients, breaking the fish into small chunks or flakes. Chill the mixture for at least 15 minutes.

Pour just enough oil into a large nonstick skillet to coat the bottom (about 3 Tbsp.) and turn the heat to medium-high. Scoop the fish mixture (about golf-ball size), press into small patties and dredge in flour. Fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on a paper towel lined plate.

Serve with remoulade sauce, tartar sauce, or any kind of sour cream or yogurty-dill sauce. To continue my thrifty theme, I puréed a little bit of this leftover salad and whisked in some mayonnaise.

Monday Menu and Recipe Review

My Facebook feed was filled with photos of friends picking apples this weekend. As the lucky recipient of an entire trunk full of apples, I skipped the apple picking and moved straight on to the peeling, coring and applesauce making.

Though I peeled and chopped nearly 20 cups of apples, I barely made a dent in the apple supply in my basement. I made one small batch of Apple Almond Honey Conserve from Food in Jarswhich tastes like fall when spread on homemade bread (see my breakfast, above). I also made one batch of chunky applesauce in the slow cooker. My goal is to process a bag of apples every couple days, so that maybe I’ll be finished sometime next week.

I’m going to need more jars.

This week

Last week

  • Cheese and Chicken Quesadilla PieBig hit with the kids, and definitely a 30-minute meal (most of it is baking time).
  • Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk and Warm Spices, rice. I’ll be using brown lentils, and following the suggestions to streamline the recipe. My new favorite lentil soup–don’t forget the squeeze of lime. So glad there was enough to freeze for another meal!
  • Yogurt-Marinated Shrimp, pita, some kind of fruit salad. Mmm…shrimp. The marinade (Iemon-garlic), plus leaving the shells on, kept the shrimp from drying out under the broiler.
  • Black Bean Burgers, roasted potatoes, salad. In a reverse-vegan move, I replaced the flax seed with an egg. My only complaint is that these turned out a little crumbly–maybe I will make thicker patties next time.
  • Tortellini Soup. This is strictly for lunchbox thermoses. Quick enough to cook during breakfast and ladle into thermoses. Two out of three kids ate it up, and I had some for lunch, too. Homemade broth is the key, even if you have dried tortellini (I like the Trader Joe’s brand).
  • Maple-Bourbon Banana Pudding CakeThe Hub made this Saturday night, and it was superb. It only takes one overripe banana, and the rest you probably have in your pantry. Regular granulated sugar and 2% milk work just fine.

What are you eating this week?