Sunday, June 18, 2017

Decorating the Ceiling....

 This post is about decorating the ceiling...  and it is surprising how much some ceiling decoration can add to a room!

A few years ago, we removed the popcorn ceilings in the house... WHAT a HUGE job that was! It was so worth it though, and lightened the rooms nicely.

After removing the popcorn ceilings, we painted the ceilings a white paint that reflected the light back to the room. The rooms were so much nicer after that.

Having painted ceilings meant that we could also decorate the ceilings. :)  I don't mean decorating them in a busy way, but some accents can add to the room.

This post shows some of that:

What a Difference! Master Bedroom

 This picture shows a medallion I painted on the dining room ceiling several years ago. At that time, the walls were a ragged gray and green and we loved them. ( You can see a picture of the wall from that painting job, here:
 Big Painting Project

I did not want to paint it again when we painted the room, so I left this medallion the way it was... and added to it.

 The blue walls made me want to add some blue to the ceiling, so I left the original white medallion on the gray ceiling, and added blue touches to make the medallion larger.

 The white part shows up better in the light since it is a glossier paint than the blue, and I actually like it that way, though I wouldn't have planned it like that.

The blue paint I used is the same paint as on the wall, but you can also use a stencil paint that is close to the color of the wall.

I also added a border around the inset of the tray ceiling and it seemed to tie it all together.

 I used a regular stencil  and repeated the design.  I used that stencil in various ways on the medallion also.

 I kept the design rather simple and only in the two areas as I did not want to overwhelm the room, but rather just accent it.

We all like how the ceiling turned out and have had lots of comments from visitors who also like it. One comment was that it has a French look.  That's fun to hear.  :)

What a blessing to make such a change for very little money...  stenciling is a frugal way to decorate our home.

Another post you may be interested in:

Family Room Project: Ceiling Design

 #StencilingTheCeiling  #CeilingDesign #StenciledMedallion

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Brownies with Peanut Butter Center

 Chocolate and peanut butter just seem to go together. These brownies combine them in a wonderful way.

A chewy fudgy brownie with a peanut butter center in the middle of each one.

I mixed up my homemade brownies in one bowl and my peanut butter mixture in another.

I put about half of the brownie batter in a greased pan.... and then spooned the peanut butter mixture all over the brownie batter. 

After putting the peanut butter all over, then cover it with the rest of the brownie batter.

 Smooth it as much as possible... it doesn't need to be perfect.

Time to bake it...

 All baked.

 Put chocolate chips all over the top of the hot brownies. Let them sit for about 5-10 minutes or just until melted.

When melted, use a table knife to spread the melted chocolate over the brownies. This will make a quick and easy "frosting" layer.

Now, they need to cool. This part takes quite a while... especially if you are impatient to taste that chocolatey-peanut butter goodness!

If you try to eat them at this point, you will need to eat them with a spoon... and you will probably burn your tongue.  Yes, there is a reason I know this.   😊

This plate of brownies was made after the brownies had cooled on the counter for an hour or so. I was sending some to work with my husband the next day and needed to get them done before bed. They were still so gooey... and not at all cooled off.

They look pathetic. It is MUCH better to let them cool.... but my husband said his co-workers loved the brownies.  :)

 TIP- One dessert my family LOVES, is hot brownies with ice cream on top. These Brownies with Peanut Butter Center would be delicious that way... and would make a wonderful dessert for company. 

When they cool... and chill... they look more like this:

 What a great snack...  brownies with peanut butter centers and herb tea. It is great out in the garden also.

The flowers in the vase are yarrow, thyme and radish tops that have gone to seed.... they are so pretty.

By the way, when an elderly friend was in my garden and saw radishes that had gone to seed, she asked WHAT those were doing in there.  I told her that they were pretty and so I was letting them stay. I liked the pretty lacy look of them in the garden and since I didn't need that area at the moment, I left them. She gave me a look that told me she had NO idea what I was talking about. She said she always takes them out of the garden before then. I guess it is the artist in me that enjoys that.... it was funny though.... and I am enjoying them in my vase also.


                            Brownies with Peanut Butter Center

1st Bowl....
  1 cup melted butter
  3/4 cup baking cocoa
  2 cups sugar........................................... Mix together
  4 eggs
  2 tsp vanilla............................................ Beat in
  1 cup flour
  1/2 tsp salt
  1 cup chocolate chips..............................Mix in...Put half of this mixture into a greased 9" x 13" pan.

2nd Bowl
  1 1/4 cup peanut butter
  1/4 cup melted butter
  1 cup powdered sugar..............................Mix together. Spoon this mixture onto brownie layer.

                                                                    Spoon the rest of the brownie batter over the peanut butter.
                                                                    Smooth it out a bit. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30
                                                                     minutes. Bake a little longer if needed.

                                                                    Take baked brownies from oven. Sprinkle 1 cup of
                                                                     chocolate chips over hot brownies. Let sit till melted. This
                                                                     should take about 5 minutes. Then spread the chocolate
                                                                     over the brownies, like frosting.

                                                                     Let cool, then cut. These are a wonderfully rich treat.  😋

 These are not hard to make, but they taste really special.... and have been greatly enjoyed by all who tried them.

I used bittersweet chocolate chips in them this time, but semi sweet or milk chocolate would be delicious also.

This is a recipe that was an experiment, but I will definitely be making it again... my family loved it! :)  If you are short on time, you could use a store-bought brownie mix for Bowl 1.

TIP... When using a store bought brownie mix, instead of using the oil it calls for, use butter. The flavor will be much better! 

 This is a good recipe to hang onto until you need a dessert or snack that is just a bit more special... like to take to a potluck, or serve for dessert.

Thank you for visiting... I hope you have a wonderful week! 

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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Improve Curb Appeal: New Wall & Sidewalk

 We had some patio stones in this area with pea gravel around them, for several years and it was better than mud, BUT it really needed to be replaced. This was especially true in the last couple of years when the paving stones starting shifting and tipping because of tree roots. We took many of them out because they were not easy to walk on, but then we had.... mud, when it rained.

This project was a big one and had been put off for a long time, but finally we decided to get on with it and I was glad to get the project started.

 The guys dug and cut out tree roots and dug some more.

Next step was to put a layer of limestone down as a base...  I don't remember how much they did, but I think it was 3"-4" deep.

Next was the rebar. This step is important to keep the sidewalk and driveway level with each other and prevent settling.  The guys drilled holes into the existing sidewalks and the driveway and made a grid of rebar.

 Finally, we were all ready and the Cement Pouring Day had arrived!

We had gone over instructions so that everyone knew what to do. We had to do this fast since the truck would only be here for 1 hour for the price they quoted us. Any time over an hour would be $90 more each hour and we didn't want to pay that!

We had our hand tools all ready.

We had all of the long tools ready too. We didn't know what all we would need, so we tried to have everything we could think of for the job.

We had never done a big cement job like this before... and this was in the FRONT of the house too, so it HAD to be successful! Pressure.

Son #2 had done research on line for this project and we talked several times leading up to this project on what to do.

 We waited and then the truck pulled up and we all sprang into action, ready to rush.

We couldn't get to work though, since the cement truck driver had to check the cement and get it ready for our job. So, we waited some more.

We did a little more tamping of the stones... that's why the tamper is there. 

We had 3  wheelbarrows all ready for this and people assigned to "man" them.  

 Time to dump cement and rush for the next load. Son #4 on the wheelbarrow here and Son #2 working the cement.  Son #3 is at the wheelbarrow being filled and will bring the next load... and I am on the wheelbarrow next in line after him.

Moving along as we added so many wheelbarrow loads of cement. It was hot and we were rushing so fast.

We started to wonder if the 2 yards of cement we had paid for would be enough. We rushed through hoping it would be plenty.

 We were doing another project at the same time... stabilizing a brick retaining wall.  My husband and Son #4 ended up doing most of this job.

We kept watch on how much cement was still needed out front. Rush rush rush. Our hour was ticking away....

We were getting close to the end of the sidewalk... though we did have to go around the corner yet .... the retaining wall curves, so we made the new sidewalk go around that curve.

Cement was almost gone, but it looked like we would be okay. I talked with the cement truck driver and told him I was sure he could tell we had never done this before and that we didn't really know what we were doing,  as I laughed with relief that we were getting done within our hour AND we had enough cement.

He said we were much more prepared than most professional jobs he delivers to. He was REALLY impressed with our work. Wow!  :)  

Still rushing to pack the cement in and smooth it off before it sets up too much. This step was not as easy as it looks!

Closer to the road side of the project, we were still packing the cement in and filling low spots and getting it level with the driveway and city sidewalk.

 We were all taking turns using hand tools and working the cement. I was doing my part here... We were getting to point of wanting and needing a break, but we still needed to hurry.

The picture below shows Son #3 working the corner closest to the house.

 Son #2 is doing finishing work here... smoothing the edges and making the cuts.

This son headed up this whole job...  and that gave him experience while also helping us. We have done many many home school shop projects like this. Dad pays for the materials (Usually, we have to save up money for the project before we do it, but that is part of life, too.) and the kids(and the whole family!) learn new skills. A win win.  :)  Son #2 has already graduated a few years ago, but the principle still works!

 It looks great!  We were surprised how great it was turning out...  Like a "real" sidewalk! :)

By the way, our two daughters also worked on this project... not as "hands on" as the rest of us, but their work was so valuable to the project also.

They helped with tools, cold drinks, snacks, and encouragement.

In this picture, you can see the house numbers by the front door... hard to see, but they are there. Those are shown in the post:    Make Your Own House Numbers

Wow, the sidewalk.. and the brick wall  sure added a LOT to the look our our house. We have had some visitors who do this kind of  work and they were VERY complimentary of the job.

It has been so much nice to use that sidewalk instead of stepping stones or dirt.

The rock wall was a project that Sons #2,3,4 did... they did a great job and the sidewalk made it look finished.

By the way, we bought all of those wall bricks off of Craigslist, which saved us a lot of money on the project. They are not always on there, but if you are needing some, it can be a great place to check for some at about half of the price from the store. 

We added a strip of garden around the inside of the top of the brick wall and I added hostas, dianthus and crocus, so these two projects have really added to the curb appeal of our home. We get many comments about our landscaping...  but we don't spend a lot of money on it... someday, I will do a post on tips to do that.

I was really thankful for the way this project turned out and I was even more thankful that it was a family project and we all worked so hard on it together. Son #1 doesn't live here anymore and he didn't work on this project, but he still gets involved in others, like this one that he did mostly on his own and we have sure enjoyed using these wonderful bookshelves!

Family Room Project:Adding Built-In Bookshelves

Thank you for visiting today.  There are so many projects that can add to the curb appeal of a house.. some are small and easy and others are bigger and more involved. I would love to hear, in the comments, what you have done(or plan to do) to improve your curb appeal.  I hope you have a great week.

Improving Curb Appeal-Mailbox

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Table Top Becomes Courtyard Patio!

Our new Patio- Courtyard... made from a salvaged patio table top.

We had a patio table top someone had gotten rid of... it was metal with tile and was beautiful, but there were no legs.

There was a broken tile on one side, which was why the people didn't want to bother with it. We figured it would still be good as a table if it had a base.

After all, it was a beautiful table top! 

 We were going to sell it, but then I had an idea. I tend to think "outside the box" especially for garden ideas... and I wondered, "What about turning this tabletop into a small patio?" I knew my guys would shoot the idea down, but I voiced it anyway.

 I was surprised when I mentioned it first to Son #2 and he thought it was a possibility.. then to my husband and he liked the idea.  They checked it over and agreed it would be strong enough since it was metal with tile on top... and they agreed it was a good idea. Wow! So we looked for a good place.

 We decided on the area outside of the back garden... it's an area I just haven't ever figured out what would be nice there. We have some surprise lilies at the back, but it's just one of those areas we don't use much at all.... SO... I asked about putting it there.

You can't see it very well, but it's the best picture I could find.

 I drank tea while I contemplated how this project should be done. I enjoy tea on the deck in the morning.

 What fun that my husband was willing to do the project... and started right away.  :)

 The digging has started!  First, my husband put the table top on the ground where we wanted it and then cut into the grass all around the edge, making a pattern.

After he lifted the table top off, he started digging out the center and put the dirt into the wheelbarrow.

 Son #4 was working on the project also and here he is putting the table top down on the dug-out area to test it. They did this a few times.. and that table top is HEAVY!

They took it back off and dug some more.

When they had enough dirt off, they added sand. (They used sandbags that were leaking from being carried in the back of a pickup all winter. Then new ones can be used next winter.)

Another test... getting closer.

By the way, the center of the table top has a hole for a patio umbrella, so my husband used a can lid and caulk to seal it to the bottom and it is working well. I plan to paint it to match the brown in the center section, but haven't yet.

Dirt was added under to finish up the leveling process.

Okay.... it's done...  now what? It looks okay, BUT now it was time to make it look nice.

It's not a large patio... only 5 feet in diameter.....  so there isn't a LOT of room, yet I wanted to add something to make it inviting... and useful.

I added a chair and table... both are plastic. I didn't want to take a chance on using metal that may be too sharp or heavy for the patio. It is a table top, after all.  :)

I also didn't want a leg to get stuck down in the spot where the hole had been for the patio umbrella.

That was better... but it needed something.

Next I put a hanging basket of flowers and some lilies. That was better, but the hanging basket of flowers was newly planted and didn't show up much. Plus, overall it didn't look right yet. More brainstorming..

 You can see the small patio out there, but it looks uninspiring... and it NEEDED something.....

We had an old gateway arbor not being used.... it's not in perfect shape, but I really liked how it tied the area together. We opened the gates and left them open so it provides a nice backdrop to our new little patio area.

I also put a hanging pot of purple petunias ( a gift from my husband!) in place of  the other hanging pot and it added that "pop" of color that really helped.

I have thought of putting a wrought iron decoration on the fence inside the arbor area, but haven't found anything yet... it will have to be something I already have or something at a very cheap price from a garage sale. I will wait and see what God provides... or will use it the way it is. Either way, I like it.  :)

 Here you can see the patio area with some long thin garden beds in front.. that "bush" is our peas! They did great this year!  :) 

 The next picture shows looking through the pea plants. 

We like our new little Patio Courtyard area. Now, the area that was a bit of an eyesore, has an appeal all its own.

I have looked out the window two different mornings, so far,  to see my husband using the new Patio Courtyard to read his Bible.  :)

I'm really enjoying our new little Patio Courtyard and I love how it looks.

There's always something to do when you own a house.. something to fix... or to fix up. It's amazing how sometimes just a small change can make a big difference. It's also nice when the supplies are free! It doesn't always happen, but when it does, it is extra special.  :)

The morning sun on the backyard gardens is so beautiful. I love this time of the year. Thank you for visiting....  I hope you are enjoying gardens and growing things also.

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