Friday, December 31, 2010

I'm in love.

I think I just found someone who has figured out how to marry my love of bright ridiculous colors with the serenity of antique white. My mind is blown and I'm really freaking excited to start reading her blog. I was introduced to it by the fabulous Layla Palmer of The Lettered Cottage in her year end favorite room re-do post and my heart is on fire. I know it sounds extreme, but it's true. Her name is Meg and she has a blog called Whatever which I love. You have to see her room redo post from last January. I want to look at every picture of this woman's house and figure out how to pull off the same kind of awesome. Let's hope Austin likes it too.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Homemade Christmas doughnuts? Sure, I can do that.

My husband has an irrationally high level of faith in my domestic abilities.

At least that's what I tell myself. The alternative is that he makes ridiculous requests just to see if I'll attempt them. He thinks nothing of asking if "we" (meaning I) can do things that most people think of as too difficult or time consuming to even consider.

To be fair, I am pretty freaking domestic. I don't think about it most of the time because it's my life, but then people come over and gawk over making fresh mozzarella and cracking out home canned sauce for pizza and I remember that not everyone does that.

Maybe his expectations aren't that irrationally high.

A couple of days before Christmas he asked if we could make these beer donuts he found a recipe for in BeerAdvocate. In my head I thought, "Are you freaking crazy? Why should we make doughnuts? I don't even think I've ever deep fried anything in my life. And do you have any idea how much is involved in this process? It has to raise like three times and it will take hours. I really don't want to."

Did I express that out loud?


I said, "sure."

I'm a sucker for that man. He's just so damn cute and really doesn't seem to know how hard the thing he's asking you to do is considered to be by most people. He's so adorably ignorant you feel like you're not even trying if you don't at least try (which technically you aren't). So you try. Then he wants to make several different kinds of donuts. You know, so there is some variety. Nevermind, the fact that it means you have to do all the work multiple times.

Turns out, as usual, he was right. I"m a domestic rock star and I pulled it off beautifully. I think he got the impression that I felt like this project was a lot to take on when I suggested we only make one kind. He helped make two.

Christmas Eve, after visiting his grandmother and making dinner I made a Christmas spiced mocha and we started the doughnuts. I'm not a night person so I figured it was a good preemptive strike. I knew this was going to be a several hour long project. Luckily, it involved a significant amount of waiting time while the dough was rising and I had time to devote to finishing up and wrapping some Christmas presents for the next morning.

By midnight was had two dozen beautiful homemade doughnuts and matching doughnut holes in Map-Ale Bacon (An ale based doughnut with maple frosting and crispy bacon on top) and Black and Tan (a Pale Ale doughnut with a Stout glaze). We used Tallgrass Ale in the Map-Ale Bacon and Tallgrass IPA and Buffalo Sweat in the Black and Tan.

Pretty tasty.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas and guess what.

I'm now officially a person who has made homemade donuts. It's our new family tradition and I'll post all about it later, but right now I need to finish off a couple more gifts before I head to bed.

Merry Christmas everybody!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

If you want hilarity don't look at this girl.

I haven't posted lately. I've been too busy Christmasing. That, and most of the projects I've been working on are of a gifty nature and posting them on the internet prior to their opening spoils the surprise.

As of today, Christmas is very nearly under control. I think. Lets hope.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Talk about a good day.

The AJPA accepted the first article from my dissertation research, we've had Ajax for three whole years, and today is my official Ph.D. graduation date. I just need to bake those chocolate bacon chip cookies and I'm ready to party.

Friday, December 17, 2010

DIY Closet Organizer Reveal: You can have your duffel bag back now.

I finished the closet up yesterday morning. I thought about posting a "so close and yet so freaking far" commentary after Tuesday's building. I got most of it done, but I ran out of shelf supports.

It doesn't sound like that big of a deal, but when the whole point of the exercise is to cease keeping your shoes in a pile and your socks and underwear in a suitcase, a closet organizer which is mostly finished, but still retains these two key features isn't much good. It looks like a real closet organizer though.

Except for the pile of shoes still on the floor and that damn suitcase. There's also a duffel bag full of shoes farther in on the floor behind the wall. I borrowed it from my mom when I moved my clothes out of storage in her house.

I looks a lot better in comparison to the before.

Wednesday I had to make a run to Wichita for a very important item and I picked up more shelf supports on the way home. My shoes now all have a happy home and a new pair of friends I picked up on the trip.

That's them on top. A fancy new pair of green Chucks. They only had one pair in the whole store which was on clearance and my size. I took it as a sign. Almost as fabulous as my monkey sock slippers and those glorious goldenrod peep toe pumps with the leather buckle down towards the bottom.

We haven't shifted much of Austin's clothes into the closet shelving, but I'm thinking maybe, just maybe, my underwear might have a home in the dresser someday. A girl can dream right?

I'm going to paint the whole thing out when I paint the bedroom and add a couple of more shelves, but to be honest, I was totally over the whole thing by the end of the day on Tuesday. I ended up spending about $140 on wood and a box of shelf supports. More than some people spend on their closets I'm sure, but only 20% of the cost of the systems I planned if I bought it from that website.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I made a plan for a DIY closet organizer: you can't live with your clothes in a suitcase or strewn across the floor forever.

Well, I guess maybe you could. I have for over a year now. Between moving back from Atlanta before Thanksgiving last year and the day we moved into The Parsonage on Nov 5th I didn't have a closet (or dresser for that matter) where I was living. I had a closet at my parent's house, but working four hours away and then being married to someone who lived four hours away made it a little less than convenient for storing the clothes I actually wanted to wear. Austin offered me some space in his dresser, but that just meant his stuff ended up in laundry hampers.

I finally had a closet, however, the closet in the master bedroom is, shall we say, less than functional. It was clearly a misguided DIY attempt which includes no shelves and a single bar which is supported in the center by a rather cobbled together set of boards and requires a board across the opening around 4 1/2 feet high.

Confused? Try the picture.

That white strip of board is even with the back of the door to the closet (like the doors rest against it and it blocks access to the top. I took off the sliding 4'x6'6" mirrored doors so you could really see what was going on and because I needed them off to be able to get the carpet out (It's all coming out eventually, but for this week I'm just taking out the bit that's in the way of the new closet organizer). As you can see, this organizational system is NOT working.

This closet needs help and when I saw Ana White's DIY Simple Closet Organizer I got inspired.

Then I found a website selling closet organizational systems while image searching closet organizers trying to come up with the perfect plan. It lets you put in the measurements of your closet and tell it what kind of doors you have (it really does make a difference in how your closet would be organized most functionally) and then provides a customizable closet organization plan. Here's mine.

And with the walls.

Not sure how they knew our master bedroom is currently that pale shade of peach. Not for long. I have plans, but that is a project for once our clothes have a home.

Pretty shnazzy, huh? It's got a whole lot of shelves and a double hanging system on one side for The Hubs and a split between double hanging and tall hanging with shelves (the maxi dresses have to go somewhere) on my side. Our closet isn't actually as deep as they assume and the shelves on the side are going to face inward instead of forward so I can actually access the things inside them. I'm also putting the bottom half of the shelves closer together for use as shoe organizers on both sides and making the whole system shallower to work in our less than standard depth closet.

Note the price tag on this little number. Ouch. I'm planning to build mine for significantly less. I haven't gotten to the lumber store yet today, but I have ripped out that carpet and cleaned up the floor underneath. I'm waiting on the electrician to come fix the outlets in the upstairs (yep, the ones that were supposed to be rewired as part of the sales contract on the house). As soon as he shows up and I let him in I can take the dogs for a spin around the park and get cracking on this project.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Did I mention I got new chairs too?

The last major item in the dining room overhaul was the addition of a fabulous set of chairs.

My mom found them on craigslist in a town a mere 2 1/2 hour drive from my house. The chairs were on the way to The Parsonage from my parent's house, but I decided I needed the stuff I was still keeping at their place more than chairs. I mean, do you really need dining chairs to host Thanksgiving?

Yeah. You do.

So my parents loaded up their vehicle, drove all the way to my house (a five hour drive) and the next day drove another five hour round trip to pick up chairs.

Ask my mom about the process of haggling for these guys. It's a good story. I don't know how much she paid, but they had to have spent at least $40 in gas to pick them up. They were our housewarming gift.

Just ignore the dining room overhaul chaos in the background and how red the first coat of stain on the table looked. This post is about the chairs and all that other craziness has been dealt with.

My dear mother removed every last bit of plastic and upholstery from all eight chairs (nine if you include the straggler. I didn't get a picture of it before it was recovered) and suffered a few staple injuries as a result. She recovered them complete with new foam and batting and a wonderful floral print I found on clearance.

While she was at it I painted the pale ones with some Heirloom White spray paint. We left the dark wood ones alone since they matched the color the table would be. Yes, I had that much faith in my mom's staining abilities.

I was right.

That's the straggler in the background. He moved up to the guest bedroom after Thanksgiving was over.

Nice gift, huh? My mom has a ton of talent and can always see the potential in a good piece of furniture.

And with that, I think I have officially upheld my promise to cover the dining room overhaul. Let me know if I missed anything.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Finishing old projects and starting new ones.

The other major effort (besides embracing levity) I'm working on at the moment is finishing up old projects before I start even more new ones. I tend to start more projects than is really advisable and it makes me feel overwhelmed and less creative even though it's generally my creativity that comes up with all these projects in the first place.

A big one, that I haven't been good about, is actually explaining and showing off about the dining room overhaul. It was a big deal and it hasn't gotten the credit it deserves. Until now.

I give you the chandelier is all it's holiday glory.

This glorious piece has a bit of a story behind it. I originally found it at the ReStore in Wichita, one of my favorite home shopping spots. It has great stuff for insane prices. Things usually need a little love, but I've got tons of that so it works out.

When I originally purchased it for $12.99, it looked like this.

One of the bulb sockets was broken and it clearly needed a little help. I replaced the bulb socket (really not that big a deal, just unhook the wires from the old one and hook up a new one). It was a $2.97 fix. It put me at a 16ish dollar total. I also invested in some several coats of spray paint to get the look I wanted (three to be exact: copper, leather brown, and an antique brass which I lightly sanded to give it an authentic antique brushed brass finish).

Then I took down the ceiling fan (I have a whole sermon about the wrongness of ceiling fans over dining room tables. I mean seriously, I don't want wind blowing on my food), cut the plug off the cord (you can do that), and put up the chandelier with a ceiling mount I picked up for $4.97 bringing the total up to 25ish, give or take some spray paint. I know, it's getting to be a seriously expensive 13 dollar chandelier.

Still, it looked great and I was quite satisfied with myself.


Then, a couple minutes later sparks flew out of the ceiling and the lights went out. Not good.

Turns out I blew the dimmer switch in the wall. Don't ask how that results in sparks from the ceiling. I'm not sure, but apparently it does. An electrician was coming to the house to deal with another issue so I had him take a look. He agreed with how I wired it up and figured the dimmer switch was just old and happened to go out. He put it a new one and all was well.

A couple minutes later the sparks repeated and the new dimmer switch was burnt out too. It smelled like smoke and everything. Cool, but not good. We determined it must be something in the wiring of the chandelier itself and I figured I had spent enough on his time dealing with my 13 dollar chandelier that I should figure that out on my own or I might as well have bought the $219 one I was faking.

I was so frustrated at that point I didn't even look at it until my parents got here. My daddy made it work and all was well. We reinstalled it and put in yet another new dimmer switch. No sparks and its been weeks. I think it's good this time.

I haven't gotten a bill yet from the electrician so God knows how much this thing actually cost me. Lets hope I saved a buck or two.

The new project is this hat.

I saw it in an antique store and had to own it. It spoke to my soul. I had no idea what I would do with it, but that didn't really matter. It fit the "I absolutely love it" category and thus was purchased (for $7 in case you're curious). I was sure I would find some great thing to do with it.

I did. It will be embellished with my wedding veil as well as some flowers and displayed in it's full glory in my room.

The room is coming along quite well by the way. I'll post about that some day, but I have projects to work on and I've been typing for too long as it is.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I'm having a party.

In case you missed the memo I have a life coach and I've been working on creating my best life. It's really fun and has great homework, like this week's be crazy, ridiculous, and rambunctious. Levity is one of my core values and I'm going to honor the crap out of it.

I'm also going to work on my YESes and NOs. I'm finding out what they are and living them. Today I realized the I needed to add "waiting to celebrate" to my list of things I will not do any longer (i.e. a NO).

When something awesome happens you have to celebrate it right then. If you hold off, the moment passes and it just feels contrived to celebrate it later. Kind of like throwing your birthday party three months later because that was more convenient. It's silly and you don't really feel like you're celebrating your birthday anyway.

As a result of this, my homework also includes throwing a party to celebrate the completion of my Ph.D. It's a pretty fricking big deal and I haven't been acting like it because I don't feel like I really have one yet even though my adviser, George Armelagos (who is a pretty big deal in his own right), called me Dr. Campbell Hibbs. I don't technically have a Ph.D. until Dean Tedesco signs off on my degree.

I don't know if that has happened yet or not. Funny huh? You do all this work for years and write this huge dissertation and send in all this paperwork and then you don't  get an email when the dean actually signs the stuff. Talk about a lack of closure.

My graduation date, however, is Dec. 18th. By then I can be assured that the dean has signed and I do, in fact, have the right to reference myself as Dr. Amber Campbell Hibbs. So I'm throwing a party on the 18th.

It's about the worst possible time of year to throw a party. People are crazy busy with The Holidays and whatever, but you know what? I'm not waiting. I'm having my party the day I know I have a Ph.D. and that's that.

I hope you can come.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Holy frick.

Ana White commented on my table. I mean, I posted it to her facebook page so I dramatically increased the chances of that happening and she has to say nice things so people will keep reading her blog, but she said nice things about my table and I'm pretty sure they were genuine. That is all.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

No, you're not too old to write to Santa Claus.

Some people don't seem to think Santa Claus is real (like my husband for instance). They're wrong.
Obviously, the Santas children line up in the mall to tell there Christmas wishes to aren't real. That would mean there are hundreds or thousands of him. That's just silly. The real Santa goes to the Macy's in New York City. My sister told me so and she saw him.

I suppose that's why Francis Phacellus Church of the New York Sun knew he must.
Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
I certainly believe in love and generosity and devotion and I believe just as strongly in Santa Clause.

I'll be writing him a letter today and you should to. Since he goes to Macy's anyway they set up mailboxes to collect people's letters. Why they mail them instead of just sending them all to the New York store so he can take them back to the North Pole with him I'm not really sure. I bet it has something to do with baggage fees. If you can't go to a Macy's store, you can send him one online from their Believe 2010 site. You can also make up a pretty letter to print and bring to the store mailboxes.

For every letter they recieve they're donating a dollar to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. So go ahead, write your letter and tell the non-believers in your life you did it "for the kids." Santa doesn't mind.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy Chanukah!

I field weird about that C. Is it bad to just call it Hanukkah? And why is there only one K when you spell it with a C? Help me out here. I'm not Jewish. But that's kind of the point of my post. 
Oh, and yes Wikipedia'd it. Now I know it has to do with complication in the writing in English of a Hebrew word. I'm sticking with the H version. It's supposedly the classical Hebrew version. Works for me.

I was reading Simple Abundance this morning and the day's reading was about Hanukkah and it's importance regardless of your claim to or lack of faith. She (Sarah Ban Breathnach) was talking about the origin of Hanukkah as an expression of authenticity in the face of adversity. Things we should all think about celebrating. Especially Christians considering the importance of the Maccabean Revolt against the Hellenization of religion to the maintenance of the Jewish faith into the time of Jesus. I read up on it. In case you hadn't thought about it, Jesus was a pretty devout Jew and he definitely celebrated Hanukkah. Wikipedia also claims the eating of fried foods and cheese is traditional. In case you need extra incentive.

The thing that caught me was the notion that God (or Spirit, or the Universe, or whatever you believe in) will provide all that you really need. Maybe that's oil for a lamp, your parents coming to the home improvement rescue, or a pile of sugar cookies. The point is the same. Faith in that fullfillment improves the quality of your life and should be celebrated.

So, in honor of Hanukkah and my faith in the continued satiation of my needs, I will be having latkes  and some Hebrew Origin Pomegranate Ale at some point before the 9th. After all, faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rustic Dining Table I Built from Free Plans: A blog post is better than a Thank You card, right?

UPDATE: I've created a whole post with the explanation of the changes I made to Ana's original plans here.

Long time family friends, Dennis and Clarice Perret sent us a check as a wedding gift. We used the money to make a new dining room table. I remembered Clarice saying how much she preferred giving practical gifts. I hope she thinks this beauty fits the bill.

I know. I built that. With just a little help from my husband (he offered, but I wanted to do most of it myself) and a ton of finishing from my mom (I was over it by that point). She's a trooper.

I started from Ana White's design and adapted it a little. I put the stretcher supports back on the outside and added the extensions like the original.

I also switched out the 2x6 top for 2x8s (#2 Douglas Fir because they're cheaper and have more character than #1) and attached them all from the bottom; I didn't want to deal with concealing screws on the table surface. The switch meant the boards on the sides are attached only on the innermost 3 inches. I drilled up through the 2x4 aprons and used 3 1/2 inch screws every six inches to make sure they were secure.

I sanded it until I was pretty sure the risk of splinters was eliminated, but it was far from perfectly smooth. After pre-stain conditioner, it got a coat of Minwax Red Chestnut (procured for free from my local Household Hazardous Waste facility - if you live in Kansas you should check yours out. It's usually associated with the County Weed Department and just might have exactly the paint or stain you want for free. Just wait until you see my free paint kitchen). The result was a little too red so my mom saved the day with a coat of Provincial and sealed it with wax. It's a tough finish and I'm not taking any special care of it. The goal is for it to look like it's really old, not pristine.

It's a whopping 43 1/2" x 96", 126" with the 15" extensions on either side. Yep, that's over ten feet long. Our dining room is 12'x17' so it fills the space much better than its predecessor.

I think its a significant improvement. It was great to be able to have all the food and nine people around the table at Thanksgiving without feeling cramped. With extensions it seats 12. It's a serious table.

So, thank you Dennis and Clarice. Your gift is both infinitely practical and beautiful. We both really appreciate it and we can't wait for you to be able to come to dinner and see it in person.

-Amber and Austin

Seth - In response to your question. I made two 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" notches in the end boards and attached 2x2s to the extensions that went through those holes as well as a couple of 2x2 supports. I'm not sure if that's clear at all. It looks basically like this from the bottom.

And without the extensions it looks like this.

Hope that helps.


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