Sunday, February 17, 2013

DIY and the future of Grass Harp

Grass Harp was on a long hiatus and before it went into semi-retirement, the blog was dedicated to food, either making of food or memories attached to food. While this blog will mainly be dedicated to food, I will also be adding some household projects and stories. Owning a house has been fun and a challenge. When I lived in an apartment, food, especially cake decorating, was basically the only creative outlet I had; now with a garage and a power sander, my creative nature has expanded. My office is the outcome of the sander and creativity.

In our apartment in Morganton, my office was literally a desk in a corner against a curved wall with some pictures hanging above it. I loved every tiny inch of that corner and wrote some of my best blog posts there.

Mona relaxing in my corner
 Now with the house, I had a small room to turn into an office; however, I didn't want to spend a lot of money on making it look great. I began to pour over decorating blogs and pictures of offices; after looking at the inspiration I decided on a purple and silver color scheme with splashes of blue. I also started scouring Craigslist for furniture. My first break through came from an old abandon elementary school (ironically enough the school's name was Bynum Elementary!) that had been purchased by two brothers, and they were selling all the stuff that was left over in the school. I purchased two wonderful bookcases that I will eventually stain a darker color, an old globe just like the one my father has in his office (it even has the Soviet Union on it!), and a chalk board. The chalkboard was your average wood with green board.
I am posting the side view so you can see all the little rods I had to sand and paint.
I put the sander to work and decided to spray paint the wood a dark purple, the rusted hinges silver, and the board black. The sander did the work in no time, expect for those stupid skinny rods. I had to hand sand those. To finish the look off, I placed two magnets I purchased in Vietnam over some of the screws. (And yes, I am aware that my cursive M looks like an N.)

I love the finished product. I will admit, however, that the chalkboard paint does not like to erase the best. I think I need an official chalkboard eraser.

My next major project was a new desk chair. My old desk chair was my grandfather's chair and it never fit under the desk. With such a small room, I could not have a chair that was floating in the middle of the room. I fell in love with a chair at Pier One with the lovely price tag of 120 dollars. Don't you just love it:?
Hello, my name is Dream Chair. Don't you want me in your home? 
You know the Pier One commercials were the merchandise talks to the customers and they bring the stuff home? Yeah, those commercials are not fictional. I promise this chair asked me in a very seductive voice to take it home. If a chair could have the mysterious-Fabio appeal then it would be this chair.

I almost fell prey to Fabio chair, but thank goodness logic took over and my mind reminded me that leather and cats are a no go. Instead, I went back to Craigslist and found a dumpy wooden chair with a huge bubble/ crack in the seat. (Sadly I don't have a before picture. It is safe to say it was ugly and covered in dog hair.) My sander and I went to battle. A couple of blue spray paint coats later and I had Fabio Jr. I still have to make a purple seat cushion for Jr. but I am in love with him. He is the same color as the original chair and as odd as this sounds, I love the way the chair creaks when I move around in it. It is a reassuring sound, reminding me to work or write.

Fabio Jr.

My next big find was an Ikea chair on Craigslist with the matching footstool. I am thinking about making a slipcover (aka, asking my aunt very sweetly to make) in purple.  I also got two old timey gold picture frames at a yard sale for 3 dollars that I spray painted silver and turned into mini cork boards.


 The circle frame needs to be finished. My favorite part of the whole office, however, is the wall of inspiration. I have a collection of black frames of all shapes and sizes. I have room to add more as I find more inspirational pictures and things. But for now the office looks like:

This is the view when you walk through the door. To the right is the wall of inspiration and to the left are the bookshelves. The Ikea chair is on the same wall as the door.

The bookshelves and globe came from Bynum Elementary School.

The Ikea chair. (My awesome aunt is making a slip cover for it!) My Beauty and the Beast poster had been in a closet for five years or so.

Sorry! A little blurry. It has my Vietnamese currency, a picture of Dr. Bennett, my grandfather's wire ring he made, and some other fun things.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

My First Cake in Over Six Months

So, as you can tell from my last post, we moved. We have unpacked, and we are homeowners. Before moving, we went on an Alaskan cruise, and I was out of town for a month long workshop and then went to Vietnam. (I need to blog about Alaska and Vietnam. They were wonderful trips.) All of that caused me to go about six months without making a cake! Me...the R2D2 decorator....hadn't decorated a cake in six months! With the house, I hadn't had time. Boxes had to be unpacked, new jobs positions, and visitors as well as leaving town caused bonding time for me and Evengeline the Tangerine the kitchen aid to be limited.

Well, lucky for me, I have very talented family members, and my aunt is a whiz at sewing. Her housewarming/ Christmas/ birthday presents to us was to come for a few days and make curtains. My mother was to be her sewing servant for those few days. I came home over the next few days to a flurry of string and fabric scraps as gorgeous curtains emerged from sewing machines. Before they came and before the kitchen table became sewing central, I made a cake for my aunt, because her visit coincided with her birthday.

I had elaborate plans of making a cake with white chocolate sea shells and light blue icing, but time got the best of me. Instead I used the left over fondant I had colored for a Christmas cake. (A cake that did not have a picture taken of it, so it does not get a blog is sufficient enough to say it was a cute and tasty Christmas cake.) I used circle cookie cutters to make two different sized circles. Then I used a toothpick to punch holes in the circles. The small circles got two holes and the big circles got four. On the bigger circles I pressed a shot glass down on them to give them a little lip that made them look more "button-ish." See...

I cheated and used a small tube of gel icing to "stitch" the words happy birthday onto the cake. The last step was to make a needle out of gray fondant; the gray had originally been used for ornament tops. It was fun to see colors that I associated with Christmas (red= ornament, green= tree, yellow= start) transform into a bright, completely non-Christmas birthday cake. I will brag on myself and say I really like how I used some of the smaller buttons as parts of the lettering for Happy Birthday.

I think by stitching the buttons onto the top of the cake really sold the circles as buttons and not circles with random holes. 


My aunt loved it and thought it tasted really good as well. (I used just a basic yellow cake recipe and added some almond extract.) I won't lie; the cake barely lasted through the three day visit!  And the curtains came out wonderfully; I like to think that the sugar rush from the cake helped increase productivity.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Did I tell you we moved?

I just looked at the blog: Oops. I haven't posted since September. Let me take a few moments to get some overviews:

September: I lived in a hotel with my husband. We looked at a lot of houses and my wonderful mother packed up our apartment.

October: We moved into our house; after our closing, I will never move again. Promise. We ended up buying a foreclosure in a very nice neighborhood; we literally ended up skipping the starter home and went straight to big house. Since it was a foreclosure, it was owned by Fannie May, and Fannie May was a pain. I took the day off so Trae and I could sign the paper work and then I would go to the house to start scrubbing; turns out the Fannie's lawyer forgot (aka was too lazy too) process some paperwork. Our realtor wasn't sure when we would get the keys. Mold was growing on the kitchen cabinets at this point and the moving van (Trae calls it the moving semi-truck) was due to arrive in 24 hours. My mother was already on her way with the three cats. Mold, cats and van, but no keys. We ended up signing the paperwork around 5pm hoping it would help speed the process along. The cats and mother rolled into town about an hour later and checked into a pet friendly hotel.

I went to work the next morning with the realization that one of two things was going to happen: either I was moving into a house or my stuff was going into a storage unit. I would know the answer by 11am. I taught and the during class, the phone rang at 10:32. The realtor's voice  boomed through the phone:

I HAVE KEYS! I am speeding RIGHT NOW to the house!

The van was already there, as well as my mother and very cranky cats. At 11:00, my mother entered our house and started overseeing the moving process. Three days later the kitchen cabinets were mold free and the house was clean. We could finally unpack. And unpacked we are! Everyone has told us that we have made record time in unpacking. (My theory is that since we didn't pack our apartment, we had no clue what was in any of the boxes and to find what we needed we just had to unpack them all!)

During all of this crazy trying to moving, closing from Hell, I found out that my mentor from college had surgery for cancer. The cancer, however, had spread and she did not have much longer to live. (Literally, I found this out two days after moving.)

November: I was lucky/ blessed  to be able to say good bye to Dr. Bennett. I visited her in the hospital, and we had a frank talk and shed a few tears. She died a few day later. With Dr. Bennett's illness and Thanksgiving, Trae and I were not home much to enjoy our new house.

December: This month was biter sweet. Dr. Bennett's memorial took place in Clemson, and it was lovely to see so many friends, but bitter-sweet. Dr. Elisa Sparks was so kind and gave me a picture from Dr. Bennett's office. The picture is one of a young, beautiful, confident  woman and she kept this picture of herself in her home office. It is now in my office.

January:  Um, no idea where that month went. A lot of people visited, including Trae's parents. They really like the house and fell in love with the Keurig coffee maker. (Trae's dad just bought himself one today.) I know I fit in a lot of DIY projects. My office was the last room to get completed in the house. In the apartment my office was literally as corner; now I have a room! I craigslisted and diy-ed myself into a lovely space.

 February: Hello! You are up to date! And now a few house pictures. Next blog will be DIY project filled.

Our Christmas card picture

Love those cabinets; I scrubbed them for three days.

Clem wants everyone to know she is the queen of the house. Her favorite thing to do now is meow while sitting on the stairs. When someone comes to look and see what is wrong, Clem gleefully looks at the person like "Yes! You are my minion!"