Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Call for Input

I have this lovely table. It was $35 at a thrift store just when Patrick and I went to the thrift store looking for a table. It is sturdy, has three leaves that extend it to about 9 feet, and mostly solid wood. Mostly meaning all except the top layer. There is some sort of material on top that I think might be formica, but I have never had formica pointed out to me in person before. The table top just looks like pictures of formica I have seen and it doesn't seem to react like other laminate is supposed to react to attempts to iron it off (it doesn't work).

The paint on the edges of the top. 
Blogger thinks this picture should
go sideways, and I don't know why,
so I can't fix it.
I like this table in a lot of ways, though I must admit it may not be my number one pick of style if given lots of options. The main problem I have with it is that it apparently had a previous life as a craft table, and it shows. There are little bits of paint splattered all over the wooden parts. The formica, or whatever it is, is mostly free of paint, except one of the leaves has a bit of gold metallic paint on it. But now the question is, how do I refinish this table?

I know I can't stain the top and I am pretty sure I can't paint it, though it is true that that gold paint doesn't come off, so something must stick. Also, even though I think real wood is prettier, this coating is perhaps more practical for a dining table; it seems virtually indestructible. The top of the table is in good enough condition that I wouldn't have to do anything to it, but the edges of the table top that are wood are probably the worst looking part of the whole table.

I have many ideas and reasons for and against each. Some of my ideas are as follows:

fantastic brown paint drip all the
way down one leg.
1) Sand the legs and the edge of the table top. Then, try as best as possible to match a stain to the top of the table to use on the whole thing.

2) Sand as above, but then choose a much darker stain. This would make the center of the table a lighter color than the rest of the table, kind of like an inlay, except not really at all, especially since the lighter stuff will be up higher, not even with the darker stuff.

3) Try to match the edges of the top, like in option one, but paint the legs white or some other color.

4) Remove the entire top of the table, including the leaves. Straighten the legs (they are angled out) and add a new, rectangular top. Build new leaves as well. Then, stain or paint the table as I see fit.

I have been pondering this for many months, so I decided to open it for discussion to anyone who wishes to put in their two cents. Let me know which of these ideas you like best, or offer your own.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bye Bye Box Spring

When Patrick and I first got married, we decided to just buy a mattress and a box spring, and not a very expensive set at that. It turns out, it didn't even have springs in the box spring. If you ask me, that kind of defeats the purpose. The picture to the left is the only picture I took of it, it seems. In any case, it is gone now. Here is it's story.

Back just before David was born, all his baby stuff began to clutter our one bedroom. As a solution, I designed a bed frame, and then Patrick and I built it. It was designed to have the box spring placed on top, and since the bed was designed to have enough clearance underneath for a large box of diapers, this put the top of the mattress a ways in the air.

Monday, July 29, 2013


The other week we went to the first reunion for my parents descendants. They have 3 grandchildren form their 3 married children and we decided it was time. Like the reunions I had with my mom's side of the family growing up, we went camping.

A few days before we left, I was watching David crawl around on his belly and I realized that he was going to be absolutely disgusting on this trip. I own very few baby clothes since my wonderful sister has a boy about a year older than David and she graciously lets me borrow her son's cast hand-me-downs. I know she would not be so ridiculous as to be really upset if he ruined some clothes, but I still would feel bad about it. I needed a solution and it came in the form of some denim I had gotten from my grandfather's house a few days before; I made coveralls.

I used a pattern that my mother had sent me. It had patterns for a pair of overall type pants and a button up jacket included, but it did not have coveralls. It was also made for stretch knits, not denim. Still, I thought I could adapt it. I used the bottom half of the overalls, which kind of went out like balloons, and then blended the top together with the jacket. The front and back were each two pieces to allow me to make pants that would fit a baby bum and also put a zipper up the front. I used sleeves from the jacket. I made the whole thing big, because I wanted room to grow.

I originally had put snaps along the bottom like so many baby outfits. Unfortunately, I have not found snaps of a comparable quality to those on baby clothes. David always manages to burst his way out of the bottom by crawling around. I spent a while putting in the snaps, but then I took them all out. I had put David in to test the coveralls and he had all the snaps undone in less than a minute by rolling back and forth. I just sewed up the seam instead. The front zipper still allowed me to put him in and out, and, though diaper changes were not as easy, he stayed covered and his clothes clean.

I decided that David needed a collar instead of just and regular top and came up with making it a little like a NASCAR driver suit. I sewed on a stand up collar that overlapped in the front to snap. This was great because it kept everything from going down the front of his clothes.

His outfit was perhaps a bit warm for the middle of the day, but it really made life easier. The coveralls also made a very good bib. I did taking a high chair camping; I would totally recommend both. And I also brought a pack-n-play. I am apparently not much of a hard core camper when I have small children, but be it known that I still do not consider sleeping in a trailer to be camping. That is where the line must be drawn.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Globe Cake

After a family reunion discussion of my blog this past week, I have decided to ditch the new format because no one seemed to like it. Oh well. I guess that was a failed experiment. In any case, I haven't written in too long and have a few catch up posts to do. Here is one.

A few weeks back was both my sister-in-law's (the one who loves grasses, Alysa) birthday and also the day she was going to open her letter that told her where she was going on a mission. When her brother had opened his call, I had made some very fantastic dessert, the recipe of which came from my mother via my sister. Since it was Alysa's birthday as well, we decided the occasion called for cake. 

As many people post maps at these occasions so people can make guesses about where the person will be going, I had a flash of a brilliant idea. A few years back, my roommate Sarah (I had more roommates named Sarah than anything else, but this was one of them) and I decided to make a cake in the shape of the globe. I can't honestly remember whose idea this was originally, but I will say it was hers because it is quite likely. In any case, we did it. And it was fantastic.

The concept is actually quite simple, though the practice is a little bit more complex. It requires three boxes of cake mix or three batches of a recipe that makes two 8-inch round cakes. I always use boxed cake because frankly I have never found a recipe that I think is that much better that I find it worth it. I still get numerous compliments on my cake, but we will get to that in a second. 

You will also need two 8-inch round pans and a oven safe round bowl that is 8 inches round at the top. Mine is a Pyrex glass bowl. If you don't know if it is oven safe, I would recommend not using it if you are not willing to scrapped burnt cake and glass shards or melted bowl off the bottom of the oven, but you never know; it could be fun. Grease and flower the bowl really well. I mean really well. If you can't get it out clean, it won't work. You cannot crack the crust (so to speak) of the cake. You need that harder part for structure. I cooked my bowls at about 300 for as long as it took until I could insert a toothpick deep into the cake and it came out clean. This is a thicker cake and it will take a while. Repeat this with a second box of mix and make the third box in the rounds.  You need the cake rounds to fill in the middle of the two bowl halves (so it isn't squished looking like the picture above) as well as curve the top since the bowl has a flat bottom.

Now, for how I get compliments on my boxed cake. I stick it in the freezer almost straight out of the oven. As soon as the cake is cool enough to get out of the pan, I put it in the freezer. I didn't start doing this to make the cake good; it is a practice born from impatience as I frost my cakes while they are frozen and I don't want to wait around to have to put it in. Somehow, it also seems to lock in the moisture. 

Now, the first time my roommate and I did this, I overcooked one of the cakes in the bowl. It kind of got a pretty hard shell. Turns out, this actually helped structure wise. Though the cake did hold together with a less cooked/burned cake on the bottom this go around, it sunk some so it looked a bit like a hacky sack. Unfortunately, I didn't appreciate what the overcooking did to the texture of the outside. I should note that some people said they really liked it. Of course, most of those were college guys, who are not always known for culinary taste. In any case, that is an option. Also, you could take the sneaky route and switch one bowl cake for rice crispy treat. I leave it to you. 

When the cake has frozen, put it together. Put one bowl right side up and glue one round on top with frosting. Next, glue the other bowl upside down on the round. I also put frosting on the bottom in order to keep the cake from slipping. I put all of this on an upside down dinner plate covered in aluminum foil, my mother's cake platter of choice when I was growing up. I find they work rather well. It is also easier to frost the cake if you have one of those lazy Susan cake decorating platters to put the plate on. I don't.

Take the final round and roughly cut a circle that is the same size as the flat part on the top of the cake and glue it on top. If the cake is getting softer, you might want to pop the whole thing in the freezer for a bit before proceeding, but you will eventually just carve this cake piece into the domed top of the cake.  Cut off any other pieces of cake that seem to offend the shape, though be wary of cutting into the bottom round for the structure reasons I mentioned before. If you used rice crispy treats, have at it.

Next, we do what is called a crumb layer. It is basically taking your icing and covering the cake in a thin layer. It doesn't have to look pretty. In fact, it probably won't, but just cover it as best you can and pop the cake in the freezer. The crumb layer will keep the cake crumbs from getting into upper layers of icing. In this case, it also helps hold the cake together. You can see in this picture that this cake is already starting to sag a bit. I just pretended that this was a bean bag globe.

The next step is to frost the whole globe in your water color. I did a lighter blue this time than my roommate and I did back then, but I think both worked. At this point, you have conquered the first hard part.

When I did this second cake, I had forgotten about how time consuming this second part was. Fortunately, there was that clever person somewhere in the past that made up latitude and longitude. You will need to draw some on your cake now. I drew longitude every 30 degrees, but actually only did the Equator, Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn for the latitude. I used a protractor to measure the degrees on the longitude and marked with a toothpick a certain distance up from the ground so the latitude was even. I drew all these lines by rotating a clean plastic ruler around the cake.

Next, I put my middle school map drawing skills to good use. Back in 7th grade, I had to draw a map of the world. 8th grade, it was the United States. In 9th grade, I did the State of Washington, which was where I lived at the time. (I also had to draw maps of Africa, Ecuador, and Honduras at various times). I learned a little something about hand drawing maps--wisdom I will share with you now. First, it is tedious and time consuming. Second, it is really easy to get off a grid line if you are not careful (and even easier if you are drawing a globe). Third, computers will always do it better. And fourth, (but most important for sanity), as long as you follow the big squiggle shape with a shaky hand, no one can tell that the little squiggles are not quite right.

I began by drawing out the world with a toothpick and then filled it in with icing. I decided to do topography, but just doing all of them green would be totally acceptable. Since I got bored drawing, I would switch to icing, but then I got bored doing that, so I would switch back. In the end, Australia was a bit funny looking and I did just add some random dots in the south pacific that I figured could pass as a few different countries if they needed to. (My husband did give me some guidance there because he went to Fiji on his mission and knows the area a bit better than I do).

I chose to smooth out the icing in the ocean and hide the lines, but you could just as easily leave them. You could even pipe over the lines in another color to make them stand out. You could also make a political map with all the countries, though that would probably take a long while. I would love to see a picture of that one if you do it. Really, the possibilities are endless.

We made flags from paper and toothpicks and everyone got to guess. It was great fun and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Alysa got to eat the section with her mission, which is Mexico Pachua. Unfortunately, Mexico was one of the last places I did and was therefore one of the ones that I could not get to look quite right. But she looks happy, so I guess it didn't matter in the end. Congratulations, Alysa.