Sunday, August 5, 2012

Stair Remodel... Step by Step Part 4 The Details

We're getting so close! Here's a sneak peek at the bottom half of the stairs. We've come a long way baby! (And the next project will be the handrail since the current one looks even cheaper and uglier now that the stairs aren't so ugly, but I don't think my husband is quite ready to discuss that just yet. Hehe.)

Before and After
While the hubby worked on sanding and staining the second landing, I caulked all of the edges along the bottom stairs. I then taped off all the edges. I really hate taping. I usually just wing it and go over the edges with a small brush, but since we spent all that time on the stain I didn't want to ruin it. 

With the tape done, I started to paint the risers and molding. We used four coats of Valspar Ultra Bright White in semi gloss.

Yet even with all that tape, I still managed to get paint on the treads. Fortunately, I picked up some of this latex paint remover which I sprayed on the "accidents" and scrubbed off with a soft grout brush. 

We also picked up some Bellawood floor cleaner from Lumber Liquidators which got the treads nice and clean. I learned the hard way NOT to use Pledge on the steps. 

Below is a picture of the closet door that is next to the stairs. The "white" (aka Swiss Coffee) on the left is the existing color of all of the doors and trim in our house. The white on the right is one coat of the Ultra Bright White. BIIIIIG difference. So I spent six hours repainting all the doors and trim downstairs to match - and though that was a detour from the main stair project, it really brightened up all of the rooms downstairs. 

Meanwhile, on the upper half, the hubby was installing the LAST tread!!! 
We reached the top of Stair Everest!!!

So we still have to do the same thing on the top half as we did on the bottom, but here's the finished bottom pic (the molding on the landing isn't done yet, I'll get that when I do the top). 
No more plywood steps woo hoo!!! 

And here's one of the whole thing (you can see the left side hasn't gotten molding yet. 

Almost done!  We are already planning our vacation (and I am secretly planning to knock out the half wall and put in iron balusters...).

I'll hopefully make a final before and after post soon!

See the whole project: 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Stair Remodel...Step by Step Part 3...The Landings

As I mentioned in the last post, when we got the landings in the middle of the stairs, we got stuck. First off, we needed more tools. This is how we acquired a nail gun, an air compressor, and this nifty $35 tool from Lowe's that turns your circular saw into a table saw. I scored the Workmate off of Craigslist for cheap but wasn't willing to pay for a full-on table saw.

The retrofit treads we'd been using were thinner than standard flooring, so we couldn't put a tread at the front of the landing and line up matching flooring.

The solution? We went to Lumber Liquidators and ordered unfinished oak flooring with its own stair nosing.

We had to sand down the plywood landing, because it had glue and paint and raised spots that had been previously hidden by the carpet.  

The nosing is a special piece that has an overhang in the front and a groove in the back for the flooring to fit in. The hubby cut and dry-fitted all the boards first. Measure, measure, measure. Don't be surprised that your walls aren't actually straight. 

To secure the boards, he started at the back. Using Bostick's Best (recommended to us by the flooring guys at Lumber Liquidators), he glued each board down. He then shot nails at an angle along the tongue of the boards - shooting them this way means NO nail holes in your flooring!

Next up - sanding! We started with a heavy grit sand paper (60-80) to wear down the variations between board heights, then finished with a fine grit (200) to create a really smooth surface.

As with the treads, we did three coats of stain. Minwax Mahogany above and espresso below to create a warm dark brown.

Once dry, we added new baseboards, filled in nail holes and caulked all the edges. 

Ralph surveying the day's work. Tomorrow I'll be touching up the wall paint and painting all the trim white. We didn't have false stringers on our stairs, so we created the look of some by taking half-round molding strips and running it down the length of the steps. We're going to paint the risers, the molding and the triangular space along the steps bright white tomorrow once all construction is complete. 

I'm loving how it looks!

And, since I wanted to paint the trim bright white, I will have to paint all the doors and existing trim bright white as well...because apparently they are all a shade of Swiss Coffee...which, when side by side, is definitely NOT bright white. The fun never ends. 

We WILL get this done this weekend!!!

See the whole Project: 

Stair Remodel...Step by Step Part 2 - Treads and Risers

We started this project back at the end of March and then our work schedules got crazy and we only were able to work on it a bit at a time...which made it feel like we were going to live with OSB stair treads for the rest of our days.

But the hubby had some "use it or lose it" leave and so he stayed home this past week and made some real progress.

First, staining the treads. We did 3 coats of stain with polyurethane. We couldn't find an exact stain that matched the rest of our wood in the house - the premixed ones were either too red or too black - so we made our own by doing one coat Minwax Bombay Mahogany and two coats Espresso. They recommended three coats since it was for flooring and would be used heavily.

Each coat had to dry for a minimum of seven hours. Once dry, we scrubbed with steel wool to rough up the surface and applied the next coat. The stain, as you can see in the picture, was very drippy and made quite a mess.

* Use disposable gloves
* Vegetable oil will remove stain from your skin

We had to do fourteen treads total, so we did the seven bottom ones first. Since the front of the tread has trim that hangs down, we balanced the treads on canned food while we painted. I'm so excited to have this done - I was missing all my pumpkin!

Next, the risers - the vertical parts of the steps. This was an unexpected challenge. We needed boards that were 5/8" thick and since I wanted to paint them white they needed to be smooth. Wood ones at the box store were rather $$$, so we went with 12' MDF boards that were the exact height we needed (7.25" I think) and then cut those to the right lengths. It was more cost effective to get the long boards since we could get 2 risers out of every board.

Once we were halfway up, it was time to tackle the landing. Since you have to build your stairs from the bottom up, we couldn't continue onto the top half of the stairs without the landing. And the landing brought with its own challenges...and so, the landing stayed unfinished for 3 months...

See the Whole Project Here: 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Clean Eating Chocolate Banana Pie

When it's 100+ degrees day after day, I love having a cold but calorie-light treat.

I found this recipe in Clean Eating and had to try it. I'm pretty happy with it. It tastes like chocolate banana ice cream and is super easy to make. The actual recipe calls for you to make your own crust...I just went with the pre-made Graham cracker crust.
* 5 small ripe bananas
* 1 cup coconut milk
* 1 tsp vanilla
* 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
* Graham cracker pie crust
* Dark chocolate cut into small shavings
* Crushed unsalted peanuts
1.  Blend bananas, cocoa powder, coconut milk and vanilla
2.  Pour into pie crust
3.  Top with chocolate shavings and crushed peanuts
4.  Freeze for 4 hours and serve (if frozen for longer than 4 hours, thaw in fridge for 30 min. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Red(dish) Velvet Cupcakes

For the 4th of July I was inspired to make red velvet cupcakes. I have no idea why. I've never made cupcakes before and suddenly I found myself smitten with the idea of making them.

So I googled a Martha Stewart recipe and got to it.

Cake Ingredients: 

  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (I cut this in half)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp red gel paste food colour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp distilled white vinegar

Frosting - I used premade frosting but you can make your own cream cheese frosting


1. Preheat oven to 350F. Mix cake flour, cocoa powder, and salt together. Don't wear black during this process. I got it ALL OVER myself.

2. In a mixer on medium high speed, whisk together sugar and oil until combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Mix in food color and vanilla.

Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in 3 batches alternating with 2 additions of milk and whisking well after each addition. Stir together the baking soda and vinegar in a bowl and add the mixture to the batter and mix on medium speed for 10 seconds.

SCIENCE! It's a cupcake volcano!
 4. Pour into cupcake cups until 3/4 full. 

5. I tried out a tip I found on Pinterest. Preheat the oven to 350F. Pop your cupcakes in there, reduce the temperature to 325F, and bake for 25 minutes. Apparently this is supposed to make your cupcakes cook up taller and fluffier. I have no idea why, but it seems to have worked!

They're so fluffy!!!
They didn't turn out very red but they turned out very delicious. I can deal with that. I went kind of light on the food coloring. So I supposed they're just chocolate velvet cupcakes.

7. Icing. My nemesis. I don't like icing; it's too sweet. But these cupcakes are for someone else, so they needed icing (otherwise they're pretty much just chocolate muffins). As I mentioned above, I used pre-made cream cheese icing. To make it fluffy, I beat it in the mixer for a few minutes on high speed. 

Silky sugar
 8. I had big dreams of making beautiful swirls on each cupcake with a pastry bag but my nozzle was too small so it was taking forever to frost each cupcake. After three of them, icing squirted out the top of the pastry bag, all over my hands and the counter. I don't have the patience for that sort of thing, so I resorted to a knife. It wasn't as pretty, but hey, that's why I threw some sprinkles on there. Distract the hungry masses with some color and hope they just focus on the taste of the cupcake. 

Have a great Fourth! 

Saturday, June 30, 2012

DIY Americana Wreath

Somehow the first half of the year completely flew by. Not sure how that happened. I realized this past week that July 4th was coming up quickly and I had wanted to decorate for it this year. Well, with only 4 days to go, it didn't make sense to go all out or spend a lot of money. 

So I hit up Michael's and obtained some crafty supplies. The benefit of waiting to get July 4th things until July is that the stores apparently put it all on clearance. In fact, when I asked about red garland, I was told to check the Christmas aisle, which they were just setting up. 

Grapevine wreath $5
Red and white flowers $3.50 each
Flag $1
Burlap garland $5
Rit Tan fabric dye $2

Always check Michael's for online coupons. While I was waiting in line I pulled up a 40% off a single item coupon and a 15% off entire purchase coupon on my phone so I spent even less.

Since I wanted a more vintage look I soaked the flag in the dye for about 40 minutes. Perhaps tea would work just as well, but the fabric dye did the trick.

While that was soaking, I cut and fashioned a large bow out of the burlap garland, and then wove the flowers into the grapevine. The bow is held together with some strategically placed elastic bands that are hidden by the middle loop and then attached to the wreath with a safety pin and twist tie. Why? I didn't want to mess with a glue gun. 

Once the flag was "aged" to my liking, I arranged it on the wreath. I sawed off the long part of the stick with a hand saw. This extra stick is actually now supporting the convex fold of the flag. I also sprayed a little fabric starch onto the flag to stiffen it up. Since I didn't use any glue in this project I was able to tie a ribbon to the top and hang it up straight away. I feel like it needs a little blue - maybe a few stars - around the bow, but I'm worried that would be too much. Thoughts? 

Happy Independence Day!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Spicy Eggplant Lasagna!

I love lasagna, but the traditional version is not exactly diet friendly. So here is my "healthified" version, which I like even better!

* 1 eggplant, sliced into thin circles
* 1 zucchini, sliced into thin ribbons
* 1 package of mushrooms
* 1 large jar of pasta sauce (I like the extra veggie kind)
* 1 cup low fat ricotta cheese
* 1 cup low fat cottage cheese
* 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
* Low fat provolone cheese slices
* Minced garlic or garlic powder
* 1 egg white
* 1 lb Italian Jennie-O lean ground turkey
* 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
* Whole wheat lasagna noodles
* 1 bunch kale or rabe


1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Boil pot of water. Add rabe/kale to water and blanch for 4 min. Pour into strainer and run under cold water. Once cool, chop into 1" pieces.
3. Brown turkey in skillet with red pepper flakes.
4. Add kale to turkey and cook for 2-3 minutes.
5. Blend cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, 2 tbsp parmesan, garlic, and egg white. I use my Magic Bullet.
6. Coat baking dish with spray.
7. In the dish, layer:
    * Sauce
    * Eggplant slices
    * Half of the cheese mixture
    * Half of the turkey/rabe mixture
    * Eggplant slices
    * Sauce (I like to add some more garlic powder, oregano, and red pepper here)
    * Mushrooms
    * Zucchini slices
    * Remainder of turkey/rabe mixture
    * Lasagna noodles (or substitute with another layer of eggplant)
    * Remainder of sauce
    * Provolone cheese

8. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
9 Remove from oven, sprinkle on Parmesan, and cook for 20 minutes.

Delicious! And all those veggies will fill you up!

**Can be made ahead of time and frozen. Place lasagna in fridge to thaw overnight before serving.