Thursday, April 26, 2012

Trash to Treasure, Part 2

What I started with for this project wasn't actually trash, it was a chair that Joe's grandparent's no longer wanted.  When we were visiting them last fall, we brought this beauty home with us since no one else wanted it.

My first thought was to paint it, but since the wood was in good condition I decided that it would be a good candidate for my first re-staining project.  My plan was to remove the old cushion and webbing that was the support for the seat.  Then I would strip the old stain, apply new stain, re-web the seat, get a new cushion and cover it.  The process started out pretty easy with ripping off all the old cushion.  There were about a million upholstery nails to remove, but I eventually got them all out.  Then I thought that I would just start sanding off the poly finish, but that wasn't working so well, so the project went on hold for a few months.  I knew that I needed to use some type of stain stripper, and that I would need to do that work in a well ventilated area, a.k.a. the garage, so I had to wait until the weather was warm enough.

Finally a couple weeks ago I dragged the chair into the garage and got to work.  The stain stripper was easy to use and seemed to do a nice job taking off the old finish and most of the reddish stain color.  Once I scraped off the stain, I waited (very impatiently) for the wood to dry, then I sanded it down to get it ready to be stained again.

The stain color I picked was called Jacobean.  It was pretty much the darkest brown I could find at Home Depot.  The only think that bothered me about it was how to pronounce the name, haha!  Is it JOCK-o-bean, or Ja-CO-be-an?  I just couldn't decide.  Anywho, I applied 2 or 3 coats of stain, I don't really remember.  Once the color was dark enough, I let the chair dry overnight before spraying on a couple coats of satin polyurethane.  

After the chair was all stained and polyed, it sat in my sewing room for about a week before any more work got done on it.  Then on a recent trip to Hobby Lobby I noticed that foam was on sale for 30% off so I picked some up.  Joe was in St. Louis for the Blues game this weekend so I spent my Saturday night and Sunday morning finishing the chair.  Getting the foam cut to size was fairly easy.  I used some newspaper to make a template of the seat and then cut out the foam.

Hey look, Pepsi is on sale :)

Not the best foam cutting job, but nothing that a little batting can't fix.
Next I covered the foam seat with batting.

The hardest part was making the final cover fabric actually look nice.  It took me 2 tries to get it to the point where I was happy with it.  The final step was nailing some upholstery nails.  Then on Tuesday night I decided to make a little pillow to put in the chair.  It just needed a little something.  Here's the final product!  It's sitting in our room on my side of the bed, with hopes of using it for reading.  Haha, who am I kidding, I don't really have time to read.  It will probably be covered in clothes in about a week.  Oh well.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Peanut Butter Blondies with Chocolate Frosting

This past weekend while Joe was in St. Louis, I came across a half used bag of butterscotch chips in the pantry.  I knew then that I had only 2 options.  Eat what was remaining in the bag, or bake something with them.  So I consulted the list of recipes that I'd saved from various blogs and found one that looked like it was made with pretty basic things that I had on hand, plus I could easily add the butterscotch chips.  The recipe that I chose was Peanut Butter Brownies by Bakerella.  I followed her recipe for the "brownies" almost exactly.  The only change I made was adding both chocolate and butterscotch chips, since they're the whole reason for this baking session.  Bakerella made a chocolate, peanut butter frosting for her brownies, but I just used some leftover chocolate frosting that I'd frozen from the topsy-turvy cake.  Once they were done baking I decided that they looked more like blondies than brownies, so that's what I've named mine :)  

They were super delicious, both with and without frosting.  Joe took them to work the next day and he said they were gone within 30 minutes after setting them out.  If you're interested in making the peanut butter - chocolate frosting (which looked really delicious by the way) then just click on the "Peanut Butter Brownies" link above.  Here's the recipe for the blondies:

Peanut Butter Blondies

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar 
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup butterscotch chips

- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9" x 13" pan.
- Add the dry ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
- In a mixer, cream the butter and peanut butter until smooth.
- Add the sugars and mix to combine.
- Add the eggs and vanilla and mix to combine.
- Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl and mix on low until combined.
- Lick the mixer beater completely clean.  It will save on your water bill.  I'm just trying to help.
- Stir in the chocolate and butterscotch chips.
- Spread into the greased 9"x13" pan.
- Leave enough batter in the bowl to have a couple good spoonfuls.  Then eat them.
- Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean.


I was kind of sad that I sent the rest of the blondies to work with Joe, because I didn't get to eat more of them :(  I guess I'll just have to make them again since I still have some chocolate and butterscotch chips!  I hope you all have a great rest of the week!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Baked Potato Soup

I made this soup the week after Easter when I was trying to find ways to use up some leftover ham.  My plan was to post this recipe right after making it in case some of you were also dealing with excess ham :)  Obviously, that didn't happen.  By now, you've probably eaten all of it or it has gone bad.  But just in case you froze some, this recipe is a super delicious and relatively healthy way to make a "baked potato" soup.  It's actually loaded with cauliflower and gets its creamy texture from being pureed.  There is some cheese added, but no cream or milk.  I concocted this recipe from a couple different places and adjusted them to fit what I had on hand, so it's sort of an original recipe.  Here it is!

Baked Potato (and Cauliflower) Soup

1 to 1.5 lbs potatoes - peeled and chopped
1 head cauliflower - cut into florets
4 T. olive oil - divided
2 T. butter
1 onion - chopped
4 cloves garlic - minced
4-5 stalks celery - chopped
4 c. chicken broth
1/2 cup cream cheese - I used some leftover mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar (plus a little extra for topping)
1 to 1 1/2 cup chopped ham
3-4 green onions, chopped
salt and pepper

Not pictured: the ham and the cream cheese. oops!
Preheat the oven to 450 deg.  Toss the potatoes with 2 T olive oil and season with some salt and pepper.  Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 15 min.  While the potatoes are roasting, toss the chopped cauliflower with the remaining 2 T olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Add the cauliflower to the potatoes that have been roasting, and cook for another 25 min.  Stir the potatoes and cauliflower a couple times while roasting.  Remove from the oven when they are soft and golden brown.

Towards the end of the roasting time, melt the butter in a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the onions, celery and garlic and cook until tender and translucent, about 6 minutes.

Add the roasted veggies and the chicken stock to the pot, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Simmer for about 10 min.

Then either using an immersion blender, or a regular blender, puree the soup until smooth.  If using a regular blender then just puree the soup in batches and return to the pot once it is all done.  Turn the heat to medium-low.

  Add the cheddar and the cream cheese to the pureed soup and whisk to combine and melt the cheese.

Add the chopped ham and green onions.  Stir together, then serve!

I hope I didn't leave out any important steps.  That's really the first time that I haven't been able to copy a recipe from another source.  Feel free to adjust it to what you like or have on hand!  I'd say this would serve 6-8 people.  Enjoy!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Happy Birthday, Dad!

I'm on the road again for a work trip, but this time the stars aligned and I was sent to Columbus, OH on Dad's birthday.  Conveniently enough, Columbus is only about an hour and half away from Mom, Dad and Grace.  I wasn't sure if I'd be able to see them since my flight didn't get in till almost 6:00pm and I'd be sharing a rental car with one of my coworkers.  But then this morning, one of my other coworkers told me about a great German restaurant in the historic German Village in Columbus, and I knew that it would be the perfect place to get together for Dad's birthday!  After a couple quick calls to Mom and Dad everything was planned and we met up at 7:00 tonight. 

The place we ate was called Schmidt's Restaurant und Sausage Haus.  Like I said, it was in the historic German Village area, and I think I could have walked around there for a few hours just looking at the cool old houses, cute little gardens, and adorable dogs behind the garden fences.  At Schmidt's we all opted to get the buffet so that we could sample several types of sausages and German side dishes.  Then it was time for what I was most looking forward to, GIANT CREAM PUFFS!  Grace and I decided to share a peanut butter fudge cream puff.  It was excellent!  Mom got the German chocolate cake and my coworker, Randy, got the coconut cream pie.  The birthday boy just sampled a little of everything :) 

About half way through dinner a 2-man polka band started up playing some fun music with just an accordian and a tuba.  They were even wearing lederhosen!  Then we spent about 30 minutes walking around the area near the restaurant looking at all those cool houses I was talking about.  I would love to come back and visit the German Village again.  I bet it would be pretty to see next year when we're up there for Christmas, (hint hint).  Well, even though it was just a quick visit, it was great to see Mom, Dad and Grace again.  Thanks for driving up to see me you guys! 

Now here are a few pics from the night.  I only had the camera on my phone, so I apologize for the poor quality. 

Schmidt's Restaurant und Sausage Haus

Bier = Beer, See you know plenty of German
Mm mm mm

Peanut butter fudge cream puff.  Double mm mm mm

I didn't try the German chocolate cake, but it sure looked delicious!

Guten tag!
Wheezin' & Squeezin'

Auf Wiedersehen!
Cute little houses

More cute houses :)

Hey there, little guy!

Definitely going to have to come back here sometime!
Have a great weekend, and once again, happy birthday, Dad!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Lombardo Home Journal

This past weekend while Joe was out of town for a bachelor party, I spent a lot of time cleaning house and decided that it was clean enough to get some decent pictures of all the rooms.  As most of you know, there's always a project going on at our house, and for every one that is in the works there are probably 100 more that I'd like to get done!  Most of these involve some sort of DIY project and acquiring various pieces of furniture.  Hopefully I'll be able to put a lot of these projects up on the blog, so I was thinking that if I share a list of projects that I have in mind for the house with all of you, then maybe I'll be able to hold myself accountable and be motivated to get things done.  So without further ado, here's a little photo tour of our house with a room by room list of projects!  I apologize in advance for the not so great pictures.

First up, the living room.

 - The "project" on the top of my living room list is NEW COUCHES.  If only we could decide what we want and how to arrange them.  
- Install built-in book cases around the fireplace.
- Find a TV stand or old dining room buffet to re-finish or paint for the TV.
- Make some curtains.
- New side tables and an ottoman.
- Artwork and other decorations.

Next, the kitchen.

- Eventually replace dishwasher, range and microwave with stainless appliances.
- One day I might paint the cabinets white.
- Make new curtains.

The dining room.

- Get a dining room table and chairs.
- Paint.
- Install bead board or board & batten up to the chair rail.
- Window treatments.

The front living room / current craft room

- Move all the craft stuff down to the basement :)
- Paint.
- Window treatments.
- Get a piano!
- Maybe some built-in bookshelves.

The foyer.

- Get rid of the black square! (I actually started that process today).
- Scrape off the "stained glass".  You can see it behind the blinds.
- New light fixture.
- Some artwork to the right of the door.

The guest bath.

Not a whole lot I want to do in here other than get rid of the carpet and put down some tile.  This picture really is terrible.

Guest room #1

- Repaint lamp and re-cover the lampshade.
- Curtains.
- Artwork / wall decor.

Guest room #2

- Move the bed frame from our room to this room so the mattress isn't on the floor.
- Not much else in mind for this room right now.

The master bedroom

- Make a padded headboard / bed.
- Paint the walls.
- Matching night stands.
- New dresser (or old ones to paint)
- Curtains
- General decoration and de-uglification.

 The master bath.

- Paint the cabinets and tub surround white like the trim.
- Paint the walls.
- Get rid of the carpet. Install tile.
- New towel bars and hardware.
- Minimize the number of hair products I own. haha

Geez, when I write it all out like that it seems like a lot more work than what I originally thought.  A lot of those things are long term goals, but I think others are things I can start working on pretty soon.  For most of the furniture, with the exception of the couches, I've been looking for used pieces at thrift stores that I can rehab into something useful.  Well, I guess it's off to bed now to dream about home improvement projects :)  Have a great week!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce

This next recipe came from the Pioneer Woman's website.  We've made it a couple times in the last several weeks and it's turned out great both times!  If you haven't ever heard of her, the Pioneer Woman is a blogger who has turned her blog into a hugely successful career.  She mostly blogs about food and her life on a cattle ranch in Oklahoma.  Anyway, now she has a food network show and has published 2 cookbooks.  There's hope for me! :)

This is a pretty simple chicken recipe that includes a deliciously creamy wine and mustard sauce.  Joe even liked it!  Here's the link to the original recipe, and if you don't want to click over to that page then you can just check it out here!

Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 T. olive oil
- 2 T. butter
- 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 c. white wine (or brandy, but I've only tried it with wine)
- 1 T. Dijon mustard
- 1 T. grainy mustard
- 1/4 to 1/2 c. heavy cream
- 1/4 to 1/2 c. chicken broth
- salt and pepper

Cut the chicken breasts in half length-wise so they're nice and thin.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook chicken cutlets on both sides until cooked through and golden brown. Place chicken on a plate and set aside for later.

Reduce heat to medium and add garlic cloves to the skillet.  Cook it for about a minute, stirring to be sure it doesn't burn.  Then add the wine or brandy to the skillet.  Be careful, it will bubble up and pop on you :)

This is after adding the garlic and wine.
Add the two types of mustard to the skillet and stir to combine.  Then pour in the cream and broth and whisk together with the mustard.  Taste the sauce and add any salt and pepper that you think it might need.

Then add the chicken breasts back to the sauce and let it all simmer together for a few minutes.  

We had ours with some roasted baby potatoes and a spinach salad.  I poured the mustard cream sauce over everything on my plate.  It was that good!  

I've got big plans this weekend to finally try out the ice cream maker that Joe's parents gave me for my birthday a couple years ago.  My flavor of choice is cake batter ice cream with leftover bits of chocolate cake and icing from the topsy turvy cake.  If it's a success, then you'll be seeing it on the blog in the next few days.  Have a great weekend!