Birthday traditions and a cheesecake extraordinaire!

As evident by my "Cooking 101" page, this is not a food blog. I usually share recipes that are easy or ones I have put my simple "twist" on.

But today I am going to share one that may seem a tad intimating but honestly, super easy. And because it APPEARS to be difficult, it not only tastes great, it will impresses everyone.

One of the great traditions in this home has developed as the kids got too old for traditional birthday parties. For your birthday dinner, you get to pick the meal and the birthday dessert.

I can usually guess the favorite desserts...but occasionally one of the kids will surprise me.

Last month Brandon requested a "Reese's peanut butter chocolate cake." Hum...that was a new one. No biggy...I baked a two layer chocolate fudge box cake, spread peanut butter buttercream icing and chopped peanut butter cups between the layers, topped with chocolate butter cream icingused my little frosting tip to make some little peanut butter frosting edging and them mounded the middle with chopped peanut butter cups. OH. MY. GOSH! Not only did it taste amazing, but it was the star of the dinner! 

My opinion....if you want to impress people with your box cakes (and save some money) ALWAYS make a buttercream icing! 

My oldest daughter's birthday is not until next month, but since she was here this past weekend I decided we would have her birthday dinner. No surprise that her dinner consisted of my famous Alfredo I shamelessly "borrowed" from the Olive Garden (plus 2 tablespoons of cream cheese for thickness!) Usually over a pasta with shrimp or chicken. 

This year her dessert request threw me for a loop...her usual is my grandmother's lemon cake...definitely one you need to try! But she requested TURTLE CHEESECAKE!

Seriously? I have no idea where that came from, and honestly, I have never made one! Sam's use to carry frozen turtle cheesecakes that were awesome, but they no longer have them...after 20 years, go figure!

So I did what I always do when I have to make something I am not familiar with...I went to the internet.

For the first few decades of my adult life, I had to do what everyone did when needing a recipe...dig out the cookbooks. Not complaining...the absolute best (and simplest) brownies you will ever eat are from the Betty Crocker cookbook. The most luscious peanut butter cookies you will ever eat came from an old church cookbook my mother received as wedding gift. And there is no better recipe for plain ole' chocolate chip cookies than on the back of the Nestle chocolate chip bag. 

But the internet has changed a lot of things, so I googled "Turtle Cheesecake" and found a recipe that looked like one I could manage. The only change I made was using caramel ice cream topping rather than going through the tedious process of unwrapping a 14 oz bag of little caramels. I'm a lazy! 

The cheesecake turned out amazing.

One of the little tips I want  to share is how I "drizzle" criss cross patterns on cakes and other baked goodies without a fancy piping bag. I also use this method for layering ricotta cheese in lasagna and anything else that needs to be layered or drizzled.  

First, take a plain ole' ziplock bag and put it in a cup with the tip of one corner pointing down....

Fill the bag with your "stuff" this case, melted chocolate.

Lift the bag out of the cup and gently "squeeze" all the goody into the tip of the bag by twisting the top of the bag. Then nip the corner of the bag with scissors....

There you go...a simple "pipping" bag!

I actually have a REAL pipping bag, but this is much easier...I can toss the bag when I am done...told you I was a lazy! 

Baking is a lot like DIYing...we are so intimidated by the THOUGHT of the process, we don't even attempt it! 

Think of all the awesome refurbished furniture and cheesecake we miss out on when we don't even try! 

Practicality beats heirloom...

It certainly doesn't happen often. If you have been around awhile you know I will take heirloom over just about anything.

This stool was my great grandfather's drafting stool and I featured it here.

It is oak and it really isn't "my style." (whatever that might be!) But because it was an heirloom piece I carefully refinished it and recovered the seat.

But when it came right down to it, the little guy just wasn't very practical. First, it was kind of heavy and difficult to move around...truth is, if you lift up the seat it comes right off. Second, there is a good chance the thing was going to kill me! Since popping my cabinets up, I often need a little boost to reach the upper cabinets. The top of this stool spins and more than once I found myself dang near snapping a limb just to get to a spare can of coffee when I tried to use it as a "step stool!"

It was my great grandfathers and I seriously love it...but it just wasn't functional for the kitchen! 

I have been on the lookout for an old "cosco" type step stool. I found several, but all were too every time I would need to open a drawer I would have to move the stool...again, not practical! 

I FINALLY found the perfect stool...and naturally it was a mess!

Covered in paint, ripped vinyl seat, and minor rust spots on the legs. 

NO BIGGY!!! Fortunately the paint was latex so I was able to scrub MOST of that off with a little detergent and elbow grease. I have found that 0000 steel wool and mineral spirits will take rust spots right off of metal...then I just wipe it down with vinegar to neutralize any lurking rust. I recovered the little seat with some fabric I had on hand, and.....

Not sure I am a huge fan of the olive green step, but the fabric has a little olive green in it so for now it will do! 

But the awesomest thing about this stool is it's size...perfect fit for the corner of my kitchen and perfect height for a little boost when I need it!

I'm a little bummed that I had to give up my heirloom piece in the kitchen, but I will no doubt find a functional use for it somewhere, sometime!

Spring is ALMOST here!

Almost...who knows. Last week I was in shorts putting down mulch. Sunday we had sleet and snow. Go figure.

Here I shared some tips for prepping for will be here before you know it! 

If you plant in your beds, now is the time to compost and mulch. Empty and clean your pots. I have a pond to clean out and new sod to put down and a new fence to seal. But all that will happen over the course of MONTHS rather than weeks...getting old sure slows you down.

The only thing growing in my beds now are perennials! No more crawling around in the beds digging holes! I am a big advocate of container planting  Over the years I have collected everything from clay and plastic containers to galvanized buckets and old tea crocks.

This little chair has been in my garage for months....

It had a rattan seat but it was busted...I could have replaced the rattan but I decided to do something a little different.

I turned it into a little planter....

I cut the hole in the seat a bit bigger, trimmed it with some scrap wood (old fencing boards!) added some little slats (again, scraps of wood) on the bottom with glue and nails....

...and then chalk painted it a bright yellow! Distressed and sealed and it is ready for a little potted plant!

This is what I mean when I say "think outside the pot." You don't have to plant everything in boring old clay pots. This was a simple little project that would be perfect for a porch or even stuck in the back of a flower bed somewhere.


Settee makeover...

As you probably know by now, upholstery is one of my least favorite things to do. One, because it requires me to do my VERY least favorite

Second, it hurts. Seriously after a day of pulling old fabric, staples and nails, my hands are killing me. Which is why it usually takes me weeks to complete a project.

A few weeks ago I shared a club chair I reupholstered for my living room.

I hardly had time to recover from that before I started on this Eastlake chair, and then it was time to tackle this camelback settee!

This thing was seriously hideous. But it had really good "bones" and well, it was free!

This little piece is exactly why I have vowed (time and again) to NEVER take on upholstery projects...just too much work. But how could I pass up such a neat little piece. I'm sick I tell ya! 

So I decided to pace myself and tackle a bit at a time.

First, a day of stripping stinky old fabric and a few billion staples and nails.

Then I made a few minor repairs. Then I chalk painted and distressed the little bit of wood that was showing. Then I covered the entire thing with fresh new padding and batting. Then I made the cushion covers. Then I spent 2-3 days recovering the frame. All in all, this "simple" little project took me a good week to finish.

AGAIN, I could give you a blow by blow tutorial on upholstery. But AGAIN, there are a billion really good tutorials online and your best bet is to find a piece similar to the one you want recovered.

Then be smart and take it to your local upholstery shop and don't complain about how much they charge me, it is worth every dime!!!

Course I say this EVERY time I reupholster a piece...and next thing you know I am hauling home another battered and abused couch or chair. This strange illness I have may explain why I keep hauling home abandoned cats...who knows.

I just know that occasionally I see a piece that is so different and my vision for what it COULD be is so clear, I can't help myself. 

When it was all said and done, it really was a little gem....

I threw in a few pillows I made several years ago for my den.... it sold the day after I took it to 410 Vintage. The fact that someone will love it and use it makes all the aches and pains worth it! 

Fortunately, as much as I love these pieces when they are done, I have a venue to sell them. 

The cats...well, that's another story!

Eastlake chair makeover....

A few weeks ago I questioned the need to paint an antique....seriously, is it a cardinal sin?

Most "purists" would never take a paint brush to a walnut chair or mahogany dresser...I get it...I was one of them. 

But sometimes I have to bite the bullet and go with the flow! 

I bought two Eastlake chairs at an auction a few months ago. Naturally, I neglected to take good "before" pictures because, again, I am a bad blogger.

One had arms, usually referred to as the "caption's chair" can get a peek of it next to the old couch (finished the couch last week...hope to share soon!) 

The other does not have arms. It has been at 410 Vintage since I bought them. 

I decided to give the caption's chair a little makeover, knowing that a true "antique purist" would stroke. But my general rule is...if changes will enhance the piece and give it another life, go for it! Keep in mind, I always do as much research as I can to make sure I am not slathering paint on a valuable piece. Eastlake pieces have some value, but right now the market in their original condition are pretty slim in our area. (Now MCM pieces...that's another story!) 

These two old chairs didn't have much of a life as they were, so...

I chalkpainted the frame....

....distressed it a tad to highlight the Eastlake detailing, applied a clear coat, reupholstered the seat and back with drop cloth and added a little graphic from The Graphic's Fairy for a touch of whimsey!

The seat of the chair was in pretty good shape, but the back needed new upholstery weaving and padding. And as with most old chairs the arms needed to be glued and clamped. No biggy, but again, ALWAYS make needed repairs before investing your time and money on paint and upholstery!


It sold the day I took it in.

I've decided to give the other chair a makeover as well....fortunately warmer weather is just around the corner!


"Repurposed" oak dresser....

So many little projects happening...a tv console, a thrift store wall clock, an old love seat, some Eastlake chairs.

But today I want to share another "Trash to Treasure." As I have mention, I often find discarded, abused pieces of furniture at the apartments. They either get left behind in a unit or thrown on the trailer I keep out back for bulk trash. 

Someone had tossed this oak chest skeleton onto the trailer....

It wasn't in terrible shape but it was missing all the drawers. I hated to just toss it in the dumpster...I knew I could do something with it, just wasn't sure what. I brought it home and waited for inspiration to hit.

I did have to do a little bit of structural repair...nothing major...glue and clamps!

I decided to turn it into a little, bath, bedroom...wherever someone might need some extra storage for dishes, towels or even shirts...maybe add some cute baskets or boxes. 

I cleaned it up, chalkpainted and distressed the "skeleton," added some stained plywood shelves, and....

I thought about painting the inside but decided to let it be what it is...and old oak dresser repurposed. 

Sometimes less is more.

Club Chair Makeover...

For those of you who are old enough to remember 45 records, you know what it is like to buy a record for the "A" side, only to find you love the song on the "B" side.

That is basically what I did when I found the perfect upholstery for my big club chair and ottoman....

No I did not find inspiration in a song. I brought home 4-5 fabric samples I thought I might like. IIICKKKK! They were all awful so I tossed them on the chair, only to find exactly what I wanted on the flip side of one of my selections!

Magnolia Fabric Lemuel Mushroom

I knew I needed a lighter fabric...anything dark would just be too "heavy" for the space since the addition of the brown leather couch (reasons for the hulking brown leather couch here.) "Light" is kind of a problem in a house with a dog that sheds like a dead pine tree and thinks ALL the furniture in the house is for her comfort. You think kids are a mess...HA! 

So I really couldn't go with anything "off white" but I desperately needed a fabric that was "light" and would go with any color.

This chair is really "not my style." It is oak...strike one. It is "queen anneish"...strike two. But what keeps it in the game is the comfort...this chair is soooo comfortable. I bought it 26 years ago and this is it's second makeover, the last being 16 years ago. I have read many books in this chair, watched many movies in this chair, and even spent a few restless nights in this chair!

Originally it was in the den....

...but when the "combining of the households" went down, it was moved into the living room to make room for Brian's leather chair and ottoman!

I still love the black and gold fabric but again, big brown couch! Major "dark and dank!"

Since I knew it would be a major chore to makeover, I wanted to make sure I picked a fabric that I really love, could handle a lot of wear and use and one that would stand the test of time! 

I think this fabric fits the bill...super durable, not too light and not a "fad." It coordinates with any accent color I throw at it...teal, red, black, white, whatever!

And more importantly, I really do love it! 

First I removed all the old fabric and set it aside to use as patterns for the new fabric.

To mask the "oakiness" I stripped the old finish using this process and then stained it with gel stain. I used a gel stain to ensure I would get a deep, rich color. I actually layered several different colors to finally get the look I of the reasons I advocate using a stain without a sealer! A few coats of tung oil finish and it was ready to reupholstery.

Again, I could give you a long-winded tutorial...but every chair is different and I really think you can find a perfect tutorial just by searching for a chair/couch/bench very similar to what you have! 

In my opinion, the hardest part of upholstery is stripping the old fabric and pulling the million plus nails and staples. But it is important to remove ALL the old nails and staples! Also, don't forget...NOW is the time to make repairs...wobbly leg...glue and clamp...broken frame...glue and clamp. If it needs new springs or batting or it NOW!

I added a little fresh batting and tightened the strapping in the ottoman...but other than that, it was pretty solid!

Make the PROPER repairs before you start upholstering! If you don't know how to fix it, google it! I promise you will find a tutorial to fix anything! 

Now that the chair is done, the other things I want to change are all the more apparent...the window seat cushions and a few accent pillows...and of course the flooring and wall color. IT NEVER ENDS!!!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I told Brian to just take me shopping if I EVER mentioned reupholstering a piece again. But the truth is, I love this chair...not the oak, not the style...just "the chair." And now that it is recovered in a fabric I really love, I love the chair even more! So I guess the two weeks of hell was all worth the effort...

...I think!

Waterfall armoire makeover....

This week's project is a classic example of "OMG, can I really paint an antique!!!???"

This is a pretty little vintage waterfall armoire I picked up at an estate auction a few weeks ago. It wasn't in terrible shape, but it really didn't have a lot going for it aesthetically...kind of plan and boring!

It did have some really pretty bakelite hardware, which is classic on waterfall pieces. The problem was the condition of the hardware. One was completely missing the bakelite, and the other three were broken and chipped....pretty much unsalvagable! 

The "design" on the top drawer was not a true inlay...and the general construction was pretty simplistic. I did a little research online to make sure it wasn't something of great value! Sometimes, when there are no makers marks, you just have to make a judgment call on the value as a "restored antique." 

In the end, I decided to give the piece a little KTSP treatment and give it a new life. Hopefully it will make a perfect little dresser/storage cabinet for someone! 

I removed all the hardware, taped and papered the drawers and insides and sprayed it down with Kilz. Since one of the pulls was toast, I puttied the holes so I could add a single pull. After sanding it smooth and wiping it down with tack cloth, it was time to paint.

Unfortunately, it is that time of the year when temperatures don't always cooperate. So I had to haul everything into my dining room and use a brush and roller instead of spray paint. 

No biggy IF you do it properly...make sure you use a quality brush, a 4" foam roller and add Floetrol to your latex paint! (Penetrol for oil based) The additive will give your paint a longer dry time and more time to "level," eliminating brush and roller marks. 

I found a pretty blue and tried it on the Too babyish. So I mixed a little black in some green and came up with a greyish-green I kind of liked.

I removed the broken bakelite from the pulls and sprayed them with metal primer then sprayed them with gold paint. Kind of pretty!

All in all, it turned out kind of cute. While it was a nice "vintage" piece, I think the paint and new hardware gave it a nice little "update" and a chance at a new and useful life....

If you are certain a piece is not a valuable antique, don't be afraid to give it a little face lift! 

As I mentioned last week, I have been working on reupholstering the club chair and ottoman in the living room. Unfortunately I had to order a little more fabric so HOPEFULLY I can finish it up this week and share next week! 

Until then....

Easy bottle cleaners!

Sometimes I don't take "before" pictures because I am not sure what I am doing will work!

But this little trick DID work so I will just share what I did.

I keep a baby bottle brush on hand to clean out small bottles and glassware and it always seems to do the trick! But this week I picked up two large glass jars with small "mouths" that were pretty cruddy. I soaked them for a good while to try to remove all the gunk inside and used mineral spirits to get the label gunk off the outside, but I just couldn't get the insides clean. 

My baby bottle brush was too short for these large jars so I had to figure out a way to scrub out the inside. And I didn't dare stuff a cloth or sponge down inside least it wouldn't come out!


This is one of those "think outside the box" times. I cut down a scrubby sponge, pierced it with a long wood skewer and PRESTO...

Instant bottle scrubber. I was able to reach all the gunk inside and clean them right up!!!

I think a coat hanger would work as well because you can bend it to fit the curves of the bottle...but I didn't need to do that. The skewer worked just fine!

And there you have it...a simple way to scrub out a large glass jar! You're welcome!

This week, between painting and repairing apartments, I have been working on recovering the club chair and ottoman in the living room.

After DAYS of stripping and ripping and sewing, I told Brian if I EVER mentioned reupholstering anything to immediately take me shopping...seriously, if you ever wonder why it costs so much to have something reupholstered, just try it!!!! Right now I am laying in bed counting the hours until my chiropractor opens and kicking myself for getting rid of that hot wax hand dip gadget. It's a good thing I really LOVE this chair! HOPEFULLY, I will have it done next week and can share!

Super simple DIY wall decor....

As I look around at my wall decor, I realize that MOST of it is thrift store, garage sale, vintage market pieces that I have collected and "upscaled" at some point in time.

Here I shared a quick update to my little gallery wall of favorite family photos....

Simple, inexpensive frames spray painted and new matting. I didn't even have expensive "custom" mats made...I cut bulk matting to fit the frame and then mounted the pictures on top of it!

I spent a fortune on these dining pictures 17 years ago and in my quest to transition from "dark and dank" to "light and bright" I gave them a little make-over....

I did spend a little more on custom matting, but I chalk painted the frames and deconstructed and changed it all out myself. A tad more expensive but faaaaar less expensive then going out and buying new matted pictures! You can pick up frames like these for pennies at thrift stores! Maybe the picture is ugly and the frame is "dated" but it really is a simple little DIY project that can make a huge impact! 

This super cool mid century dresser mirror was another DIY project I shared here

I love the fact that I can change out the wreath for the holiday seasons...I have one for fall (pictured) and Christmas, a Valentine's wreath and a cool little metal thing for the 4th of July! For "off-season" I have a simple boxwood wreath!

Now this is where I admit that I am a bad blogger....because AGAIN I failed to take any "before" pictures. So close your eyes and imagine...inexpensive little brown frames with pictures of a goose...or something stupid like that.

Again, a little KTSP treatment, a tiny bit of spray paint, a little inspirational quote printed on stock paper and PRESTO....

When I was at an auction last week I picked up two unfinished oak cabinet doors. Here I shared how easy it is to turn them into cute little chalkboards...perfect for a kitchen, mud room or the kid's room! 

Chalkpaint, chalkboard paint, a little cup pull to hold the chalk and again, PRESTO! 

(I even painted the cabinet doors in my garage with chalkboard paint so I have a place to write down supplies I need to pick up or projects I need to work on!)

My point? If you don't like your wall decor,  change it! Paint it, change out the mats, change out the picture. 

Make it pretty! Cuz life is too short to live with ugly wall decor!