Saturday, August 31, 2013

Shelving Crates

After we finished the pallet frame, we decided to check off another item on our to-build list, which would finish off our planned projects for the bathroom downstairs.  Samantha has had her eye on a number of pins for a while now, and we wanted to build some to display odds-and-ends in the bathroom.  This project also helped to balance out the picture frame on the other side, and hide some of the fixtures for our washing machine.

The construction part wasn't actually that complicated!  I think planning and stain took more time than the actual assembly and cutting. Samantha wanted a haphazard stack of crates, so the first thing we did was measure the rough outlines for how much wall space she wanted to use up, and then sketch out the crate arrangement she was looking for.  Then I went back to the measurements and figured out a size for each crate.

Initially, we planned to make the entire crate out of 1x3 lumber.  When I cut and laid out the first crate, though, we very quickly realized that the shelves would not be deep enough to safely display wide items, like mason jars. We ended up using 1x4s as the crate frame instead.

I cut and sanded all the boards right away.  I had already decided on the length and height of each crate, so all I had to do was cut two 1x4s and three or four 1x3s (depending on the final width of the crate) to the crate's length.  I calculated the length of the shorter 1x4s by subtracting the thickness of two boards from the desired width of the crate.

Next, I assembled the frame of each crate.  To do this, I clamped one of the short boards to one of the long boards, then nailed in through the long board's side.

Repeat on the other end of the long board

Isn't the nail gun sweet?  My lovely and thoughtful wife gave it to me for my birthday.  The entire week before my birthday, she kept me from starting this project because she knew I would want to use the new gun to assemble these crates :)

I should have used shorter (1-1/4"?) nails to do this ... but the nail gun came with a box of 2" nails, and I didn't want to run out to the store.  As a result, I had several nails deflect and pop out of the side, and I had to pull them out and re-shoot.

To square up the assembly when fastening the second side, I set my clamps at a bit of an angle (you can't see the other clamp, but it is angled in the opposite direction).  By loosening and tightening these, I was able to change the alignment of the box until it was perfectly square, at which point I drove in a pair of nails.

And now that the box is pinned in place, go back and drive in a few more nails for good measure (and because the new nail gun was fun).

Now that the frame is done, you can add the slats to the back.  Depending on the width of the box and the spacing you want between the slats, the number may vary - I decided to use a consistent slat spacing for all the crates. Find the center of the crate frame, then line it up with either the center of a slat or the center of a space.  The picture below is marked for the center of a slat.

 Nail the center slat(s) in place, then use spacer blocks to lay out the next slats.

On the first side, only put one nail in each slat.  Once you've finished nailing the slats into the second end, you can come back and put in a few more nails.  Doing it this way will make it easier to adjust the spacing on the second end. 

You can see the deflected nails I mentioned earlier: extract these with pliers / hammer and re-shoot.

Doing it this way will almost guarantee that the edge of the slat will not line up with the edge of the frame. If it falls short of the edge but is still close, I left it like that.  If it was sticking out past the edge like in the picture above, I ran it through the table saw with the blade just a fraction of an inch higher than the slat and with the fence positioned to cut just on the outside of the frame.

Here are some shots of the crates being arranged into their final configuration!

To finish off the crates, I used two coats of Minwax Special Walnut (to match the pallet frame already in that room).  That gallon of stain is the same one I bought all the way back during the Farmhouse Table build.

After staining, I wiped on a coat of Arm-R-Seal polyurethane. This is how I get rid of old socks - put on a disposable glove, slip my hand inside the sock, and use the sock as a rag to wipe on the finish.

To hang them on the wall, I found the studs and screwed straight through the back slats into the wall.  Definitely pre-drill the screw holes here - if you drive the screw straight through, you will probably cause a split or two and damage the finish.  Then all you need to do is add decorations!

Tool List:
Miter saw
Nail gun (or just hammer & nails)
Drill (to mount to the wall)

Crate Sizes:

Cut List:
1x3 slats - 36" (7), 32" (3), 22" (3), 18" (3), 40" (4)
1x4 top/bottom pairs - 40", 36" (x2), 32", 22, 18"
1x4 side pairs - 12", 10" (x2), 9", 8" (x2) - subtract the width of your top piece x2 from the initial length of the side piece, so that the with of the bottom piece, length of the side piece, and width of the top piece equal the measurement given here.

Inspiration Sources:
My House, My Home
Lilium Designs

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Two Weeks of Pinterest Meals

  I'm always looking for new meals to add to the menu and I often "pin" meal ideas on Pinterest, but I had a bunch that I hadn't tried yet. So, when I wrote out my menu for the last two weeks, I went through my "Yummy Things I Need to Make" board and picked stuff out to try! I find we spend less money on groceries if 1) I write out a menu so I know what to buy and make and 2) I shop once every two weeks. We usually cut it close on produce going bad, but it works well for the budget (which Andrew likes).

  Hope you enjoy what I learned, I know I had fun and it sure was yummy! :)

Turkey Burgers

 I'm always looking for healthy food to try and these Turkey Burgers caught my eye. They called for a fresh herb and I had gotten cilantro for another recipe so I used that. I got five burgers out of my turkey, we didn't need five so I froze the extra three for another meal. I normally use frozen ground turkey but I couldn't find it at Market Basket (they just opened a new one so I shopped there for the first time and couldn't find everything I normally buy). Frozen is cheaper then fresh and taste just as good but we made-do with fresh this time.

  Andrew grilled up the burgers and I made a big yummy garden salad to go with them, as well as some oven fries (an Every Day Food recipe).  They turned out yummy, I would definitely make them again! (Funny side note - in all my excitement to try Pinterest recipes I thought I had hamburger rolls in the freezer and I didn't so we just used English muffins, which worked just as well!)

Crockpot Brown Sugar and Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin

  The picture on Pinterest of this Pork Tenderloin looked so delicious that I had to pin it. I've never cooked (or for that matter, eaten) pork loin, but I'm game to try new things! The recipe called for 2 lbs of pork loin - well those things come in HUGE pieces so finding one small enough was hard. I didn't get a full two pounds but its just Andrew, Perrin and I so we made do with 1 1/2 lbs.
  I didn't read the recipe beforehand, so when I pulled out the crock-pot after lunch and looked at the recipe and saw it needed to cook for 6 to 8 hours, I was in trouble. I just ended up cooking it on high for 4 hours and it cooked well!
  I cut the meat in half so it fit in the crock-pot better and added a bit more water then it called for, since I was cooking it on high.

  It turned out BEAUTIFUL! The glaze recipe made a ton of glaze - I had enough to make the pork loin two times over. Maybe next time I will put the glaze on more than three times.
  Andrew's sister Johanna ended up joining us for dinner and we still had left overs - 2 pounds would easily feed six people.

  This recipe is a keeper! Andrew and Johanna both thought it was delicious, even Perrin gobbled it up! I served it with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli. It takes less then ten minutes to put together and then another ten to put together the glaze and then you have to baste it but nothing too hard!

It was soooo Yummy!

Corn Dogs and Baked Zucchini Fries

  You may not believe this but I've never had corn dogs before. When I saw this recipe on "Life as a Lofthouse" (one of my favorite food blogs) I wanted to try it! They seemed to take a while to make, I'm not sure if that was partly due to the fact that I was also making baked zucchini fries as part of the meal, or that it took forever for the oil to reach the right temperature (and I have a gas stove).
  Andrew thought they were very yasty, but I'd only make them for something special. They are too much work to go into the normal meal rotation (and not exactly healthy but we don't need to talk about that).

  The Baked Zucchini Fries were yucky - and I really like zucchini fries. They just tasted like bread crumbs! Maybe I need to add more spices to the breadcrumbs but more likely I need to try a different recipe. :/

Teriyaki Marinade for Steak

  Andrew's birthday fell in my two weeks of Pintrest, so I invited the family over for steak and I thought I'd try this Teriyaki Marinade out. It doesn't say in this recipe how much steak to marinade so I made a quadruple batch for my four pounds of steak. I allowed the meat to marinate for 48 hours, and it was great!
  I made potato and onion packets (a family recipe) and my sweet mother in law made a Greek salad. Andrew very much enjoyed his birthday dinner (and so did the rest of us).

Strawberry Cinnamon Rolls

  We often just eat leftovers on Sundays (since its such a busy day with Sunday school and church), so I didn't have a meal planned. I did make these yummy Strawberry Cinnamon Rolls to share with our Sunday school class. They were very good and a nice twist on Cinnamon rolls, I was even asked for the recipe (that is always a good sign that people like something).

Root Beer Chicken and Corn and Chickpea Fiesta Salad

  Root Beer as a marinade caught my eye because I'd been looking for something to marinate pork chops in, at the last minute I decide to try this with chicken like the recipe calls for. I only made a half batch of marinade and just kept flipping the chicken container over so that it got all over the chicken. The chicken turned out very moist and delicious - another win! 

  I made Corn and Chickpea Salad to go along with the chicken. This recipe serves 12 so I cut it in half. I also cut the oil in the dressing by half and it was still really oily.  I think if I made it again I'd cut the oil down to a 1/4 of a cup. The cilantro in the dressing totally made the salad!

Southwestern Stuffed Peppers 

  As a kid I hated stuffed peppers but somewhere along the line as an "adult" I had them again and liked them. These were a yummy twist on a traditional stuffed pepper with black beans, corn and salsa! I will definitely be making these again!

Grilled Cheeseburger Wraps and Grilled Corn on the Cob

  This were a nice twist on a burger, they were also from "Life as a Lofthouse" (great blog) and pretty easy to make. We also grilled corn, I've been wanted to try grilled corn for awhile and this was a perfect opportunity to try it! You start by removing the silk from the corn and soaking it for 30 or so minutes (this helps to steam cook the corn).

  Honestly the corn was kinda messy, you have the husk it after its cooked so there were bits of chard husks everywhere. It tasted the same to me, but my mother in law had joined us for dinner and she loved it! If you didn't want to heat your kitchen up on a hot summer day and wanted corn on the cob I'd totally recommend grilling it.

  Add some tomato slices and you have a healthy, yummy summer meal.

Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops

  I mentioned before that I was looking for a new way to cook pork chops and I saw this pin and thought "why not try this one?" I had all the ingredients needed for it so I went for it!
  They were pretty good! I had to cook mine for over an hour -  they were thick chops and I'm always worried that pork won't be cooked properly and we'll get sick.

  I served the pork chops with sweet potatoes and steamed zucchini, all in all a pretty good meal.

Crockpot Chicken Cordon Bleu and Easy Homemade French Bread

  I will admit I have made the Crock-pot Chicken Cordon Bleu before my two weeks of Pinterest. Its a yummy, easy meal and Andrew and Perrin both love it!  I'm not sure how much it taste like Cordon Bleu, but its a good chicken recipe. Instead of cream of chicken soup, I use a cup of milk and one tsp. of chicken 'Better than Bouillon' and pour that over the chicken, ham and cheese and then put the stuffing and more milk mixture.
  The french bread fits its name - Easy - boy is it! It took me less then ten minutes to make it - I had my Kitchen Aid do the kneading (I hate making anything with yeast if its not in my bread maker). The longest part is waiting for it to rise but honestly it takes ten minutes to make between the two risings. This is delicious bread, I have made it a few times since this - its a keeper! I'll never buy french bread again!

  See, doesn't it just look tasty - make it, you will love it!

Pear Spice Muffins and Pumpkin Zucchini

  We opened our home to a family friend so she and her bridesmaids could get ready for her wedding. I also offered to provide muffins and fruit for them to snack on as they were getting ready (no hungry wedding party on my watch). I'm always looking for "healthy" but yummy muffin recipes and these two fit the bill.  I pick them because I had ripe pears that I didn't want to go bad and my mother had given me zucchini and I had one can of pumpkin left (this seemed like a good recipe to use it on).
  Both recipes have whole wheat flour in them (and they were still light and fluffy). I substituted maple syrup for the sugar and some apple sauce for the butter - I did half butter and half apple sauce. They are both fabulous!!!! Even my sister in law who doesn't like zucchini thought the pumpkin ones were delicious! I'll be making both these again! (For some reason I only have pictures of the Pear muffins but I promise the Pumpkin Zucchini are awesome!)

Peanut Butter Granola Bars

  Somehow I never got a picture of these tasty treats! They are easy to make and yummy to eat! I had make these before this two week trial so I have made some changes to this recipe.
 I use....
4 Cups - Oatmeal
1/2 Cup - Unsweetened Coconut
1/2 Cup - Unsalted Peanuts
1/2 Cup - Walnuts or Pecans
1/2 Cup - Mini Chocolate Chips
2 Tbsp - Chia Seeds
1/4 Cup - Wheat Germ
1/2 Cup - Honey (I never could find Brown Rice Syrup)
3/4 Cup - Peanut Butter
1/2 Cup - Coconut Oil

  I throw the first eight ingredients in a bowl and mix them all together. I put the peanut butter and coconut oil in a glass measuring cup and pop it in the microwave for 30 seconds - it's a perfect consistency. Add the peanut/coconut mix to the dry ingredients and mix well. Then, put into a greased 9x13 pan and bake for 25 minutes at 350' just like she says in the blog!
  Cool completely before cutting up, sometime I even stick them in the fridge overnight before I cut them up. Once cut into bars I store them in the fridge. Enjoy!

  To round off our Pinterest meals I tried this Chicken Tacos recipe, made quite easily in your crock-pot. It was just a matter of putting all the stuff together in the crock-pot and letting it cook! Then before dinner I cut a bunch of veggies to go with tacos, the best part is that it didn't heat my house up!

  Hope you enjoyed my adventures in new meals - try a few of these and add them into your menu rotation! Enjoy!