Basement Color Choices

The bunker basement needed a warm palette. And also a light palette. It had been painted one of those moldy tans, under the mistaken impression that all earth tones are warm, maybe. Or perhaps it was remainder paint. I dunno. The rehabbers did it to make the old rental/fixer look clean.

Some things couldn’t be immediately changed about basement, including the fact that it was a 7′ ceiling and so naturally inclining to the dark side. Also, the serviceable new tan carpet the rehabbers put in right before I bought the house was going to stay.

Other things could, including the removal of a wall, to create a family room / home office space.

I’ve always been drawn to pale yellow and red, maybe because of pretty apples, maybe because of how well it’s used in some Asian decor. It’s just pretty.

Image result for red yellow apple images

Hmm, noticing here that my favorite images aren’t exactly basement rooms.

Anyway, that’s what I decided on. It would work well with white trim, add warmth, and not darken or drag down the space. Pale yellow walls, white painted trim, red accents. None of this would fight too much with the neutral carpet. Also, I thought that the use of red in both the basement and the basement stairwell would offer a nice transition.

Since my first big change would be the built-in, I painted it white and used fabric in red and white for the back-of-the-bookcase part.

Finished bookcase.
Finished bookcase, white painted wood, red and white fabric “wallpaper.”

 

So, that’s where we’re going with all this. More photos and updates to come.

 

 

 

 

DIY Basement Wall Storage Unit

Once I’d got a bedroom wall removed as part of my basement upgrade, it was time to think about improving function. I wanted storage, a place for my books, and for all that to be out of the way. Time for a basement built-in!

Relying heavily on this article about built-in bookcases from the Instructables, I mapped out the plan.

The spot I chose for the the built in was the far wall of the basement. Adjacent to that wall was a closet, with doors that started about 15 inches from the wall. It also extended to a window, which started about 20 inches from the wall, so it was a sort of narrow strip.

The built in would go against the far wall.
The built in would go against the far wall.

It seemed destined for a built-in. 15 inches is not a lot of space but not blocking the closet was essential. So it was basically going to be wasted space unless a built-in could go there. The built-in would also be drawing space from the long side of the room, far better than cutting into the narrow part.

Originally I thought about simple floor to ceiling bookcases. These would have been the most inexpensive option. Yet, I live with cats. Though mostly well-behaved, we have the occasionally rage moment. So the base of whatever storage I implemented needed to be closed, protecting whatever was inside from possible bad behavior.

I did consider building my own base units. As part of the Interim Kitchen project, I’d built an appliance cabinet from scratch (article coming soon!). A great experience, it came with some lessons.

First was cost. It’s just not always cheaper to build than buy, especially when your aesthetic is simple and clean. And your budget is cheap. Another lesson was about time investment. Building a cabinet is fun, but requires care and some precision. I wanted to get this unit built quickly, so I could unpack my books and just get organized.

Palette-wise, I was going for light and bright to lighten the basement. Cabinets would be a conventional white (Kelly-Moore Country Cotton). It would work instantly with the yellow-red colors I planned for the basement, and in the future if I changed up the color scheme. So painted white wood seemed right.

For the base cabinets, I settled on four of these upper cabinets from Home Depot. Though you can get already-white stock cabinets, they seemed to shiny and laminate like to me. I wanted the white of painted wood in exactly the white I was using in the rest of the house. These cabinets would be 12″ deep, 30″ tall and 30″ wide. These seem to go on sale every now and then so if you’re diving into a project like this one, start lurking around for that 20% off sale.

30x30x12 in. Wall Cabinet in Unfinished Oak

I laid out the cabinets with a frame made of 2×4 against the wall and cut away the carpet in that spot. Score! That carpet was used to patch the carpet from the wall removal part of this project.  Since these are usually wall cabinets, there’s no clearance between the bottom of the cabinet and the floor. The 2×4 frame gives the cabinets that clearance, plus a little height, stability, and level consistency. I painted the cabinets first outside and then got the bases installed.

Base cabinets installed.
Base cabinets installed.

Next it was time to do a top counter. Functioning as the bookcase base, it needed to be wider than the 12″ cabinet depth, but smaller than the 15″ allowance wall-to-closet clearance. This was easily accomplished by asking the home store guys to cut the panels to the right width, and finishing it with a nicely sanded 1×2.

Base to ceiling bookcase supports to go up but before that, I wanted to do something interesting for the the wall behind the bookcases. Wallpaper seemed like too much work and commitment. Armed with my with fabric, liquid starch and a roller, I got started. For the details on my fabric-as-wallpaper, go here.

Ten minutes later (literally), it looked like this:

Cabinet top/bookcase base.

For once I was kind of excited by these low ceilings because my 54″ fabric panel installed without cutting or piecing.

Next it was time to put up the rails / sides of the bookcases. In my ideal world, they’d go floor to ceiling and line up with the cabinets. Here’s a summary of the basic steps:

  • Cut the boards to measure.
  • Paint them.
  • Drill holes inside the bookshelf sides. Use a pegboard for very easy spacing. These holes are going to be where you insert shelf spacers so make the hole size right for your pegs.
  • Drill pocket hole screw spots at top and bottom of each side.
  • Mount top of shelf to two sides using pocket hole screws. Check to be sure it’s square.
  • Mount 3/4 box onto top of shelf base using pocket hole screws.

First bookcase rail in!

  • Next it was time to install the additional side. It’s essentially like the first box, only this time it’s an L and not a U since two sides of the box are already in.
    Another side in, eyeballing the placement of the other sides.
    Another side in, eyeballing the placement of the other sides.

     

  • Once all the sides are in, it’s time to cut, paint and insert shelves.
Time to test an actual shelf.
Time to test an actual shelf. Not the un-built area to the left? That’s because there are some utility panels that I couldn’t cover up.
Finished bookcase.
Finished bookcase.

2014-04-26 22.41.48

And here it is, finally! Tons of storage.

Doing it again, I wouldn’t do the project exactly as I did this time. Here are some lessons learned:

  1. Kinda wished I’d been even cheaper and looked at the ReStore for upper cabinets to use. I only needed 12 feet of upper cabinets to get this going. As used cabinets, uppers are often great condition and would have reduced project cost significantly.
  2. Check all the cabinets at the store. Or as soon as you get home. One of the cabinets has a gap between the doors that just bugs me. It’s small, and I couldn’t see it when I pulled the unit, which was packaged. Didn’t notice it until I was ready to install all the units and unwrapped it then. Urg. At that point, I was in GET IT DONE mode and just didn’t want to go back to the store. Now it’s there forever and will always bug me a little, even if no one else notices it.
  3. Have the patience to redo it. I messed up a little on the trim of the cabinet topper. This is another thing that only I seem to notice. Wish I’d had the patience at the time to rip it all apart and do it again, properly.
  4. Make thicker shelves: I cheaped out and used 1/2″ shelf plywood. I wish I’d gone with a thicker shelf, and a better, smoother grade of plywood. It would cost more, but I’d like it better. For now, I’m okay with my thin plywood shelves, even if they’re bowing a little.
  5. Maybe upgrade the quality overall. I was thinking basement/second-best materials for this basement storage unit. Sometimes I wish I’d gone for slightly higher quality in my materials. Other times it seems just right to me. Always I am so glad I had the chance to learn on this project.

What do you think? Have you made a built in? What would you do differently? For more on how the whole basement upgrade is going, check here.

 

Basement Upgrade: Family Room & Study

I think of my basement as “The Bunker,” maybe because this house was built in 1947, and I imagined the first owners thinking they’d use it to hide out from the A-bomb. I used that to infuse it with a more useful floor plan and a warmer vibe.

But before it got there, that basement needed help. Dark and depressing, with boxed up spaces, I needed it to evolve into a useful, inviting space that could also handle overflow guests. This meant multiple, incremental projects which are listed below. Please stay tuned as more below segments go live.

An Inviting Basement Stairwell

Lightening Up the Basement: Wall Removal

Color Choices

DIY Built-In Storage Cabinet

Fabric Wallpaper

Chalk Painted Electric Fireplace

Storage Daybed in the Study

Thrifted High End Blind

Tour

Have you upgraded a basement? Triumphs and disasters? Please tell all.

 

Fabric Wallpaper on Basement Storage Unit

This is a segment in my series on my basement upgrade.

I wanted the behind-the-books part of my DIY storage unit to pop and be pretty. Wallpaper seemed like too much work and commitment so I poked around online for fabric-as-wallpaper articles. These three great articles took the mystery out of the project:

Armed with my $5 per yard red and white fabric from Home Fabrics (discount upholstry & drapery fabric) store, liquid starch and a paint roller, I got started.

Now, my technique wasn’t the best practices described in these articles. Here’s what I did:

  • Painted the wall in liquid starch with a little roller.
  • Placed the fabric on the wall (didn’t put starch on the back of it. Too unweildly, too much cat hair to fight).
  • Put a few staples in the top to be extra sure it would stay in place. (The staples aren’t generally required and wouldn’t normally be pretty. I felt okay about adding them because I knew they’d be covered by the shelving.)
  • Rolled over the fabric with starch to seal it to the wall.
  • Waited for it all to dry and then tested it to see if would really peel off THAT EASILY. And . . . it did! And pasted back down just as easily with the application of a little more liquid starch.

It all worked just fine and went super fast (like maybe 10 minutes). And here’s how it looked:

Cabinet top/bookcase base, fabric wallpaper up.
Cabinet top/bookcase base, fabric wallpaper up.
Finished bookcase.
Finished bookcase.

 

Have you used fabric for wallpaper? Love or hate it?

Bounce over to these links for more on:

Brightening the Basement: Wall Removal

I got lucky with the Minnipin house because it came with a finished basement. The spare bedroom is nice for overnight guests, though it’s not space I need to use everyday. And it’s convenient that the house’s second tiny bathroom is down there.

I did need to use the rest of the basement as my home office, for storage, and for cat convenience. And it would be ideal to have a family room feeling space in the basement, not just boxed off bedrooms and a bathroom. This house is big enough, but the footprint is not huge. So, making use of basement was important.

Unfortunately, as I got acclimated to living here, I found myself more and more reluctant to go into the basement. Part of it was the uninviting stairwell, which I’ve been working on (details here). Yet it was also what you experienced when you got down the stairs as well.

Dark looking, the vestibule that greeted you when you came down the stairs felt dank, even if it wasn't.
Dark looking, the vestibule that greeted you when you came down the stairs felt dank, even if it wasn’t. Zero windows didn’t help.

Adding a window to the vestibule was cost prohibitive in the basement because it required cutting through concrete, making a well, etc.

Sacrificing a bedroom to create a family room/study started to make sense. There would still be my guest bedroom and the bathroom. A family room could also handle overflow guests, on the rare occasion when I have so many that the bedrooms can’t cope.

I decided to remove the wall of the bedroom closest to the busier street outside. That way the guest bedroom would offer more quiet and privacy for guests. Also, this was the bedroom with the smallest closet, so the least appealing to actually occupy.

After some basic research online, I decided that my expertise was just not up to doing this all myself. So I went to my realtor-recommended handyman service, the Pros of Idaho. A quote of around $500 would cover wall removal, patching the ceiling and sorting out the electricity.

“We” got started fast:

A last look at the vestibule pre-wall removal.
A last look at the vestibule pre-wall removal.

2014-04-22 13.00.30

The bedroom that would no longer be.
The bedroom that would no longer be.
Wall down!
Wall down!

And it went fast. Now when you came down the stairs, you’d walk into a long, big room illuminated with natural light.

Next the Pros sorted out the wiring so that the light switch that turned on the old vestibule light would also now turn on the old bedroom’s overhead light. I also hired them to patch the carpet where the wall was gone, something I’d planned to do myself originally. This cost an additional $150 and let’s face it, with a better result than I’d have got myself.

Wall removal done! Onto turning it into an inviting, useful space starting with built-in storage.

 

 

 

 

Nearly Worthless Planter

Once I mostly painted the Minnipin House, I turned my attention to other outdoor aesthetics. There’s no one who’d call my front yard a showpiece but I’m trying to improve things incrementally.

First up was the undistinguished front stoop. It looked better than it did pre-paint but needed a little gravitas. Or drama. Or something. So I poked about and stumbled on Ana White’s Frame & Panel Planter Plan.  That inspired me build a tall, painted planter for the stoop. Topped with an old topiary frame, I’d say it generally worked out OK, though I’m still waiting on my vine hydranga to blossom.

Here's the undistinguished front stoop with the first Ana White plan tall planter
Here’s the undistinguished front stoop with the first Ana White plan tall planter

Still the stoop looked . . . incomplete. Because of mailbox placement, I didn’t want to try to match the existing planter exactly in terms of height, but it needed something. And I did have a second swirly trellis that I wanted to do something with, but I just wasn’t sure what. Deep in No Spend Spring, this project seemed to be on endless hold.

Sorting wood in the garage the other day, I made a pile of leftover outdoor wood, mostly bits of fir and cedar and some mystery stuff that had clearly lived outside for a time. As part of No Spend Spring, I’d already used some old fence tips to make a rustic succulent planter but until I started really looking at the pile, had assumed I didn’t really have enough to do a larger, more distinguished looking planter that would sort of match the one already in place on the front stoop.

Also, I was guilty of doing that silly thing where you assume you need to use all the same kinds of materials to make something great. I didn’t have enough fir for a whole big planter. Or enough cedar. Or enough mystery outside wood. Or any 1x3s. But combining the scraps? Making it smaller? And painting my standard accent black it so the differences in wood would be invisible? Possible!

Outdoor-suitable scrap lumber pile.
Outdoor-suitable scrap lumber pile.

So that was my first near-miss opportunity. Time to eyeball it, measuring again and again.

I looked back onto the Ana White plans to refresh the project in my mind. I’d try to make this one look like a shorter version of my original. I scanned the recipe and got to work.

Because I wasn’t using the plan’s exact measurements, I decided to cut all the big pieces first and just make sure I had enough scraps as I went along. There would be just enough leftover cedar and fir pieces if I went for a 15″ height. 15″ would give me enough of a rise for sweet potato vine to tumble prettily over the stoop. I could stick something in the middle to go up and climb over my second swirly trellis. I also decided vary from the plan by using only salvaged 1x2s, and not any 1x3s, which I didn’t have anyway.

Here’s how all that cutting played out.

Side panels of fir and cedar.

Side panels of fir and cedar. Rails of 1x2s salvaged from another disaster project.

Panels with frame pieces
Panels with frame pieces
Things to watch out for: salvaged wood missing pieces, unextracted nails or screws
Things to watch out for in salvaged wood missing pieces, unextracted nails or screws

Next I used the trusty pocket hole jig to make the frames. So proud of myself! I actually remembered to  make sure the crappy, damaged parts of the wood faced inside the planter, where they’d never be seen. And I remembered that two panels needed to be 1.5″ wider than the other two.

Pocket holing the frame pieces
Pocket holing the frame pieces
Imperfect sides need to face inside the planter.
Imperfect sides need to face inside the planter.

Now it was time to nail the cedar fence planks to the frames . . . and I discovered I’d cut them too short. Like seriously too short. Impossibly too short. Hard to salvage too short. Why didn’t I read the plan more carefully? Too damned short. Argh!

No! Oh no! My planks are too short for my frames. I JUST MEASURED WRONG. ALL ON ME. ALL OF IT.
No! Oh no! My planks are too short for my frames. I JUST MEASURED WRONG. ALL ON ME. ALL OF IT.

At this point I was seriously tempted to just go buy a few more cedar fence planks. They’re pretty cheap when you’re only buying 2-3; my cost would be $5-$7.50. But that would be the opposite of the spirit of the project and a direct violation of my No Spend Spring commitment and all the things I’ve been learning. If nothing else, I know myself well enough to know that every time I looked at that planter, it would bug.

Humph.

The frames could be cut down. I could turn them into a 12″ frame instead of the 15″ I was going for. That would change the look not for the better. And, for once I’d let my frames set up properly so the glue and screws were just about perfect. Busting them apart to whop 2-3″ from the frames would be tedious, would damage the wood even more. And I just didn’t want to.

This is the point in time where it’s a really good idea to take a long, tall drink of water and do something else for a time. Deep breaths. Just because my easy project didn’t turn out easy . . . well, it could be abandoned. No one but me would know. Or I could blow the budget. Or I could figure something else out.

The issue was mounting the fence planks when they were too short to stick onto the frame. And coming up with something that wouldn’t shorten the frame.

Hmm. The stubby cedar & fir planks did have middles! A bar across the middle of the frame could solve that. And I did have enough leftover 1×2″ to make four little bars. So that’s what I did. It wasn’t going to exactly match the look of the bigger planter but painted black, it wouldn’t be jarring. I can live without matchy matchy as long as I can get some harmony going.

Here's a frame with the unplanned middle bar added.
Here’s a frame with the unplanned middle bar added.
Here's the assembled planter with the middle bar holding the panels onto the side.
Here’s the assembled planter with the middle bar holding the panels onto the side. Mind those gaps! If you look closely, you can see that my panels don’t go all the way up the frames.

The end result was a little wobbly. You can see some air at the top, where the planks aren’t big enough. I decided that should work okay because I’d be lining the planter with black landscape fabric so the gaps would hopefully sort of disappear. And the weight of the dirt would stabilize the wobble a bit. This planter wasn’t going to move around basically ever, so this precarious plan might not be so ridiculous.

 

Yes, you can see air between the top of the frame and the panels. Not ideal but my reality.
Yes, you can see air between the top of the frame and the panels. Not ideal but my reality. This pic also shows the slats inserted into the planter to save dirt.

Though 15″ tall, I wanted a shallower planter because I’m pretty parsimonious about dirt. I really am. If I have extra good quality dirt, I want it to go into raised bed vegetables or as many containers as possible. So I used some scrap 2x2s to create a ridge and nail in some slats, making the planting depth about 8 inches.

I inserted 2x2s in the corners to provide a ridge for the inside slats and add a little stability.
I inserted 2x2s in the corners to provide a ridge for the inside slats and add a little stability.

Now it was time to add the top ridge, which would help the cosmetics quite a bit. Unfortunately, I’d used up so much of my scrap 1×2, there would not be enough to do the whole rim. Time to patch the little left over gap.

Here's the patched top edge.
Here’s the patched top edge.

This is what I ended up with. Made from salvaged wood, it was — and still is — riddled with holes from extracted screws and brads. This is the point where you’re supposed to whip out the hole filler and get to work.

Here's the assembled leftover/salvaged wood planter, riddled with holes and dings from
Here’s the assembled leftover/salvaged wood planter, riddled with holes and dings from assembly and past lives. Ready for paint!

Only I couldn’t. Because I’m out of that stuff and we’re in No Spend Spring. So I got to work with my left over black SharkSkin Deck and Siding Stain, hoping for the best. While that stuff doesn’t totally fill in gouges in a beat up deck, it does have a smoothing over effect.

And this is the result.

 

Here's the finished salvaged planter. That's sweet pea climbing inside the trellis.
Here’s the finished salvaged planter. That’s sweet pea climbing inside the trellis.
Here's a looking down view. I yanked some sweet pea from one of the window boxes to climb through the trellis. I'm hoping the sweet potato vine in two colors will spill prettily down the stoop. I think it's  pretty hard to see where I patched the top rim of the planter.
Here’s a looking down view. I yanked some sweet pea from one of the window boxes to climb through the trellis. I’m hoping the sweet potato vine in two colors will spill prettily down the stoop. I think it’s pretty hard to see where I patched the top rim of the planter.

 

Here's the undistinguished front stoop with the first Ana White plan tall planter
A look back at the before.
Here it is with two semi-matching planters and topiaries.
Here it is with two semi-matching planters and topiaries.

 

And here's the stoop with the flag flying.
And here’s the stoop with the flag flying. We’re ready for 4th of July now!

So, I am pleased to have moved these outdoor wood scraps into being something useful, that gives the front stoop a little more balance. And I think that the middle bar I had to use essentially disappears painted black.

I still have dreams of a bigger front stoop, the kind you can put a rocker on. And railings. And a lot of other things. But this is it for now.

What do you think? What would you have done differently (besides measure twice)? Is the stoop now too matchy matchy? Should I paint the concrete dark gray (that’s what the concrete base of the house is painted.

As always, thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mint Dynasty

Is anyone else a Beverly Nichols fan? Down the Garden Path came into my life at a really dark time and meant so very much then (thank you Karen!). Well, it still does.

Besides all the garden inspiration, I loved his plan to host 100 cats and call each of them by a number. What a smart way to go about it!

Mr. Nichols reminded me that there were some gaps in my life just then, some missed opportunities for happiness. It was time to love a garden again. And it was time to have cats. Possibly a dog or two. Maybe not 100 cats. Maybe something more like 10. Not at once. Just as the years ticked by.

The Mint Dynasty was born. (I believe Miss Mint makes her first appearance in Laughter on the Stairs.)

It started with Miss Omega Mint, an aged Siamese who’d been parked in the shelter for several months. She needed to own a home again. I needed her. We also needed a kitten, so neither of us would get too hinky or obsessive. W&M picked out Jack T. Mint for me, based on his alleged intelligence. A pesty kitten with a ridiculous tail, he was destined to become our alpha.

Omega died too soon, a grand old lady when she came to me. Her passing made way for Elsa Mint and Augustus Calendar Mint, who, with Jack, established a sort of neighborhood pride. This was entirely Gus’ fault. (If ever someone recommends a kitten to you as “a lover, not a fighter,” run the other way. That lover will make friends with other cats, teach them to use your cat door, and share his meals with them.)

Since then the ranks of the Mints have swelled, mostly unintentionally. Every time I realize we’ve got a new one, I have that sick sense of dread. And every time I find so many surprise moments of laughter and love. We’ve got a great beast of a dog on board as well, Maxim M. deMint. When he’s not guarding (aka bossing) me, he delights in staggering around with his nose up the other Mints’ grills.

Max patiently waiting for me to catch up.
Max patiently waiting for me to catch up.

I love watching this dynasty develop, and am honored to be their host. Their dynamics are endlessly interesting and every time I think I’ve got them figured out, I’m quickly corrected.

Lucky us, all the Mints are flourishing after this move to Boise. Even dreadful Barn Cat, who I felt guiltiest about relocating, is thriving, probably the happiest he’s ever been.

So, that’s the Mint Dynasty in a nutshell. A strange and vibrant social organization that has delegated their care and feeding to me. Sometimes they even let me sleep in. Sometimes.

Tattoo
Tattoo is not a fan of sleeping in.

 

 

Another $10 Vintage Light!

Refreshing my entry way made me aware of how much I disliked the light in the little alcove. It wasn’t awful, just . . . not right. This house, with its pretty cove ceilings was crying out for something a little more special, a little more welcoming than the renter’s special jar light that functioned there. That said, in this Minnipin house (low ceilings), possibilities were limited.

Garage sailing really can pay off, if you keep your standards high and your wallet closed until something special comes along.

Hunting for cheap vegetables, I swung by a moving and plant sale one Saturday morning. Got to talking to the lovely gardener who was packing up and moving out of state to be closer to her daughter. June blooming organic strawberry plants, six for $5 seemed like a great deal. And of course, while I was there anyway, casting an eye over a little table covered with trinkets was just automatic.

I almost missed it! But there it was. A welcoming looking little pineapple shaped light with little crystals at the frond tips. Small enough to fit with the low ceilings of this Minnipin house, it looked like it could be original to this 1947 house.

Here's the moving sale light!
Here’s the moving sale light!

And here it now is in my little entry alcove. I love the swirly light it casts in this little space.

Pineapple light says "welcome!"
Pineapple light says “welcome!” Sorry it’s such a grainy shot. Kind of hard to get in this small space.
All lit up! Bright and swirly.
All lit up! Bright and swirly.

 

One Recipe, Two Great Cookies! Peanut Blossom & Peanut Butter Cookie Bites

This recipe is adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, 2006 Edition.

I’ve never been happy with the peanut blossom recipe I learned in high school. It was sweet, yet somehow not tasty enough.

I now use this recipe to make both simple peanut butter cookies and peanut blossom bites. Thanks America’s Test Kitchen! Your abiding passion for getting the taste right and making great recipes accessible has helped me so many times!

I make the dough and freeze it, which allows me to enjoy fresh cookies whenever. Using a smaller quantity of dough per cookie than the original recipe lists makes about 50-80 cookies per batch, depending on how parsimonious you’re willing to be with the cookie size. For peanut blossoms, a smaller cookie gives you a higher chocolate-to-cookie ratio. Frozen cookie dough balls, a bag of kisses and baking instructions makes a nice gift.

One Recipe: Peanut Blossom / Peanut Butter Cookie Bites

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 sticks (16tbs) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup extra crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 generous tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg
  • 1 egg yolk (it adds a little chewiness in my almost-high altitude location)
  • 1 cup salted, dry-roasted peanuts, ground a little in a mini food processor
  • Chocolate kisses (needed for peanut blossoms only, 50-80 if you want to make a full recipe)

Special equipment:

  • Hand mixer
  • Mini food processor
  • Baking parchment
  • 1″ cookie scoop

Prepping:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 (or for my janky oven, 355)
  2. Whisk first four dry ingredients together in a bowl
  3. Grind 1 cup of dry roasted peanuts in the mini-food processor, not super fine
  4. Beat butter & sugars together in a large bowl until well mixed, about three minutes
  5. Beat in peanut butter till fully incorporated, about 30 seconds
  6. Beat in vanilla
  7. Beat in eggs and yolk, one at a time
  8. Reduce mixer to low and slowly add in flour mixture until combined
  9. Mix in ground peanuts

For Peanut Butter Cookie Bites:

  • Use 1″ scoop to place balls onto parchment lined cookie sheet, 12 cookies per sheet
  • Flatten cookies gently with classic criss-cross pattern using a fork
  • Bake for ten minutes
  • Allow cookies to cool on parchment
  • For freezing dough:
    • Scoop balls onto a plate
    • Allow to cool in fridge for 30 minutes, separating layers with wax paper
    • Flatten with a criss-cross
    • Stack flattened cookies in bag, separated by wax paper and freeze
    • To cook, follow above times and temps, no changed needed
    • Note: Dough doesn’t have to be flattened. It’s just cosmetic. So if you’re not sure whether you want to use frozen dough for peanut blossoms or regular cookies, use the instructions below instead.
Peanut Blossom Bites. If you keep the dough scoop smaller, your chocolate-to-cookie ratio is higher.
Peanut Blossom Bites. If you keep the dough scoop smaller, your chocolate-to-cookie ratio is higher.

For Peanut Blossom Bites:

  •  Use 1″ scoop to place scant 1″ balls onto parchment lined cookie sheet, 12 cookies per sheet
  • Bake for nine minutes
  • Unwrap one kiss for each cookie
  • Place unwrapped chocolate kisses in middle of each cookie
  • Bake for two more minutes
  • Allow cookies to finish cooking on sheet for five minutes
  • To chill cookie and chocolate quickly, place on plate in fridge
  • For freezing dough:
    • Scoop balls onto a plate
    • Allow to cool in fridge for 30 minutes, separating layers with wax paper (this helps keep the balls from flattening when you’re wedging them in the freezer)
    • Transfer balls to gallon bag and freeze
    • Keep excess kisses in freezer. You know, if there are actually any.
    • To cook, follow above times and temps, no changed needed

 

DIY Extra Long Shower Curtain – Stamped Sea Monster!

When I remodeled my tiny main bathroom, I raised the shower rod, as high as possible. Two reasons: that’s nicer for tall people and I think it makes the space look more spacious. That meant that the existing outer cotton shower curtain looked stupid. It barely skimmed the top of the tub.

Time to go long. My options were:

  1. Ignore it and try not to let it bug me
  2. Add an extension to the existing curtain
  3. Buy a new, extra long shower curtain
  4. Make one

Options 1-2 just weren’t going to work. The bathroom was hardworking enough. It deserved a little pretty, not a makeshift or almost good look. Also, I was feeling lazy seamstress-wise.

Option 3 was a no go because when it comes to things like shower curtains, I can be seriously cheap. And if I am going to spend money, I want exactly what I want. Shopping about for extra long shower curtains gave me some serious sticker shock. Also, I didn’t really like anything I found. Spending money on ick, well, that would be icky.

Option 4 took a bit of thinking. I really was NOT IN THE MOOD to sew anything.

Still, I had to size the project. Shower curtains typically measure 72×72″ (sometimes 74″). I wanted something that was roughly 72×82.” Wide fabric comes in at about 54″ pre-shrinkage, so just not wide enough without a seam. With seams and hems, I’d need six yards of something. At $3-$5 per yard for cottons that I didn’t loathe, the shower curtain was costing $18-$30 to start.

I thought about a tablecloth, repurposed. Poking about, pretty vintage ones were pricey. New cheap ones were too poly for me. And still pricey.

Then it hit me. A full size flat sheet might do the trick. At 81×96,” it would certainly be wide enough. So the center seam issue would be solved pretty easily.  That said, it would still be slightly large. Folding, I thought, would solve the issue.  The sheet could be folded at the top to offer whatever length was necessary. Width wise, I could either space out the typical 12 grommet holes wider than normal, or I could fold again at one end. So, folding a double size flat sheet it would be. Since I had none, I hit Target because they offer 300 thread count cotton sheets at $11.99. I went for white but there were other pretty colors.

Next came the grommets. Now, the biggest problem with doing grommets is once you start, you don’t want to stop. Self discipline is called for. And offering to make grommety things to everyone you know. For this project, I went for big grommets because I like that look and it would fit my fat shower rod hooks. Joanne was my source. Using coupons, one grommet kit and one set of additional grommets cost me about $10 (the kit comes with about eight, and a typical shower curtain needs 12 grommets. For my folding strategy, I needed 13.). Note: Joanne Fabric’s site doesn’t show all the grommets they offer online. Cool tip: Grommets in the sewing section are slightly cheaper than the ones in the drapery section.

Here’s the blow-by-blow on getting it done.

Budget: Less than $25 for the basics, if you get your grommets with coupons and buy an inexpensive sheet. If you don’t have stamps and ink on hand already, that will be an additional cost.

  1. Gather what you need:
    • Full length sheet
    • Grommet kit and enough grommets for your shower rod hooks (usually 12 for the hooks but you will need a 13th as well). Choose grommets that offer a fat enough hole for your hooks
    • Hammer and solid surface for pounding (concrete steps are ideal)
    • Stamps and fabric ink pads for stamping your curtain
    • Iron, for assisting with the top fold and setting the stamps
    • Pencil
  2. Launder: washing and drying the sheet is necessary. It will shrink a little and you’ll want to wash it every month anyway. If it’s super wrinkly and you’re going to stamp, you’ll want to get the wrinkles out. This was not necessary with my Target sheet. Plus I like the slightly wrinkly look of cotton.
  3. Fold: The top of the sheet with the fat white hem became the bottom of the curtain. This means the top of the curtain would be the bottom of the sheet. Fold the bottom of the sheet over so that the total folded length will be length you want. Iron the fold.
  4. Space & mark: Using your old shower curtain or liner, space out the the grommet holes and mark them with a pencil. Make an x, don’t make a heavy mark or then you have to get rid of it later. Add a 13th grommet hole at the end of the shower curtain.
  5. Pound your first hole. Pound one grommet hole through the top folded section (so you’re going through two pieces of fabric). Do the side that will be seen the least, just in case you get the spacing wrong. The grommet kit will show you had to do this and there are a ton of examples online. It’s so easy and fun!
  6. Test: Hang up the sheet to check that the length is right. Really, do this. It can go wrong.
  7. Finish pounding: Once you have the right, pound the rest of your holes. Make sure you’re consistent. You want the grommets on each side to look like they match.
  8. Hang your curtain. Fold that leftover end over so you have two grommets hanging on the 12th hook.
  9. Contemplate the design you want to stamp.
  10. Be arty: Take the curtain down and stamp it. I wanted something simple and subtle so I made a border of sea monsters at the bottom in a sea blue. The always wonderful LuLu improved this by stamping bubbles randomly over the rest of it in two other blues. Also, she did some stamping at the top to disguise my bad pencil marks that wouldn’t wash out. It’s perfect for me, both fresh and subtle. Glancing at it, you basically see a white cotton shower curtain. Up close, you get fun surprises.
  11. Cure & set: Let it cure for 24 hours and then iron it. This sets the fabric ink so it won’t run when you wash it again. Hang it back up. You’re done!

 

At casual glance, it looks like a simple white shower curtain
At casual glance, it looks like a simple white shower curtain
Up close, you see bubbes
Up close, you see bubbles

 

 

And sea monsters!
And sea monsters!