Thursday, November 29, 2012

From the Playroom to the Kitchen

Hi all,
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I wanted to take a little break from re-decorating and holiday prep to share a couple of recent cake projects.

The first was cupcakes for my dear friend, Beth.  She is a teacher, swimteam manager and amazing mom to 2 beautiful girls.  She's one of those women to whom the title "Superwoman" could easily apply.  Beth recently hosted a Stella & Dot party and asked me to provide some sweet treats for her guests.  For those who don't know, a Stella & Dot party is kind of like a Tupperware party, but for really cute jewelry. I wanted to make the cupcakes special for Beth, so I made some toppers to mimic some jewelry designs that I dreamed up.  The cupcakes were rich and moist Choco-Mocha topped with tangy Cream Cheese icing and topped with fondant jewelry.  Thanks for the support, Beth!

 Next up was a baptism cake for my friend, Amanda.  I had done the Nursery Rhyme cake for a baby shower that Amanda hosted, but this cake would be for Amanda's own baby girl.  The inspiration for the design came from the nursery, which has a very cute woodland theme.  The sweet creatures were hand painted by Amanda's husband and are really adorable.  On top of the cake is a little miniature Abby in her Christening dress and bonnet. She is hand-molded out of fondant.

Thanks again to both Beth and Amanda and happiest of holidays to all of you!
Confectionately yours!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Playroom Transformation: Phase 3

Today, I am bringing you the next installment in the transformation of the kids' playroom to a more family-friendly study/gameroom.  I think this overall project has been the most comprehensive and physically difficult project that I have done.  Our master bedroom (painting vaulted walls and ceiling which required a rented scaffold) and tiling all 3 bathroom floors definitely kicked my butt.  In this project, however, every step seemed to have me popping ibuprofen after.  But, I LOVE how it is turning out!

Off topic for a minute, I think genetics are fascinating and I love ruminating on where certain aspects of my/ my husband's/my kids' personalities/interests/quirks come from.  Well, I was recently reminded of where the DIY obsession originated.  My maternal grandfather, Douglas (husband of Maria, the inspiration behind CREO) was quite the handy man.  But also a little bizarre.  I have not fully appreciated said bizarre-ness until recently, when my brother posted a photo on Facebook of he and I in my grandparent's backyard.  I was in 9th grade, the pinnacle of awkward adolescence, and my brother was probably about 6, his smart-aleck tendencies just starting to emerge. We were actually living in this house at the time, helping to take care of Grandma, who was battling cancer.  Grandpa had passed a few years prior.  He did not go without leaving behind a legacy.  Check out this picture.  When you are done laughing at we kids (I mean, look at my brother's face!!!), please look closely at the fence behind us...and laugh again.  This is a "privacy" fence that my Grandpa made....out of Budweiser cans.  No joke.  He bound chicken wire to a pipe frame and then carefully cut all of his empty Bud cans (yes, he was a drinker) into perfectly uniform strips and wove them in and out of the wire.  The bottoms of the cans provide a nice, decorative touch at the top, don't you think?  I have no idea what inspired this...but I have to admit it is fairly ingenious..albeit extremely tacky.  I think he may have done it to spite the neighbor. Needless to say, my family moved into that house a few years after my Grandma passed and promptly took it down. Douglas rolled in his grave, I'm sure.

Anyway, I blame him for this obsession of mine.  And now..on to the desktop!!

As with all my projects, I have an aesthetic in mind and then have to find a way to make it affordable and try not compromise my dream too much.  The desktop for this unit was a big hiccup in that department.  I looked at pre-fab countertops.  Decent price, but felt that they looked too kitchen-y.  Really wanted butcherblock, but was not able to find an affordable option.  IKEA recently discontinued a perfect option, so that was out.  So, back to the drawing board...make my own.  Our neighborhood has a maintenance person on staff whom I have befriended.  He has been a great mentor to me, popping by to check out my projects and offer tips here and there.  So, Larry was my first stop when I started brainstorming this idea.  I explained my plan and he gave me a sanity check and helped tweak where I needed tweaking.  Thanks SO much to Larry!!

Back to Lowe's and the lumber department.  I needed 10' lengths in a variety of widths, which I would attach together to form a 26" deep desktop.  I went with 10", 8", 6" and 4" wide planks.  I was not in the habit of buying lumber, so Larry helped me realize that even though these boards say 10" wide, for instance, they are actually a 1/2" less than that.  So, all of mine did equal 26" wide, not 28". A convoluted system, if you ask me.

Once home, (I am lucky they did not snap in two when I shoved them in the back of my CRV), I laid them out in the order that I wanted them and marked the back and left/right sides of each board.

Fast forward a few days later...then came the tricky part.  I had to move very quickly, using strong wood glue to attach the boards to each other (without letting the glue seep out) and then clamp them securely together...but not too tightly as I did not want them to buckle.  Once glued, I had to attach cross-braces to the underside (see next to last photo).  I did one in the center, and one about 15" in from each end. Again, thanks to Larry for those tips.

The wood was not perfectly cut at the mill, so there were some differences in thickness in some areas as well as a few small gaps in between boards.  I had to use wood filler on some areas to minimize those.  Here's the raw surface.

I hated the next part.  I had to use an orbital sander to try to get a more even and smooth surface. This process creates SO much dust..and I did not have a mask on.  So I coughed for the remainder of the day and am convinced that this exacerbated a cold that eventually turned into bronchitis.  Lesson learned.

I finally got it as smooth as I was going to get it and then started the staining process.  I wanted a rustic look..kind of a golden oak color that would not match, but would complement the maple floors.  I used a wood conditioner first, then applied the stain in sections, and finally 3 coats of matte polyurethane.

I like the color of the finish.  I don't like the way that it highlights the sections where I used wood filler, but I had no choice with that.

The open desk section in between the two lower cabinets in fairly wide, so I had to figure out a way to support the weight so it didn't sag.  Again, Larry suggested the ledger board, which is screwed to the studs in the wall.  The back of the desktop rests upon that.  I had planned to do a post to support the front, but didn't like the look of it once I got it all put together.  I elected to do a bracket from the back wall instead.  It's not a perfect amount of support, but I think it will work.  The boys know not to sit or stand on the desk.

And here it is!  Also completed since the last installment...baskets in the top openings, knobs and handles and stools.  Still to come..wall accessories.  Working on a few projects that will help wrap everything up very nicely.  Can't wait to show them to you!

Confectionately yours!