It’s been a little while since we’ve published worked on a refinishing project, which honestly seems to be the most popular thing we do. We’ve been on the hunt for a while for some patio furniture we don’t detest. The problem is that it’s all ugly plastic or REALLY expensive. So we’ve kept our eyes out for something we can work with.

Finally this weekend we found some plain metal chairs. nothing special but the perfect base for a refinishing project. The chairs were $4.99 each, not in bad shape or rusted, and we bought two cans of spray paint at $3.50 or so each.

 

They started out black, with a few rust spots here and there. Still, they were stable and in decent shape.

 

Add a little paint…

 

And viola! They went from dud to fun in about ten minutes. We let the paint dry and set while we work on cushions for the seat and back (because hey, why not).

We haven’t made the cushions quite yet, but have our fabric planned out. This fabric was another Goodwill find at about $3.00.

 

I think this project will be a great start to spicing up our back patio. We have a really sizeable patio that is covered, which is nice, but doesn’t keep rain or snow or wind out. It’s nice for the summer when our house is sweltering because we have the stove, oven, and dishwasher running all day, and I’d like to make it more functional. I’m a super huge fan of the “outdoor rooms” you see set up at home improvement stores and such.

Don’t tell Katie, but I have designs on our outdoor space. I’m really tempted to put in a low wall around the slab and then put in canvas and vinyl or screen “walls” that we can roll down when it’s nice, and can go up when it’s not so nice. I think we can do it and it would be pretty much epic. I think it’s about time to recruit Father Burb and Father Burb in law to come out for a visit.

 

(Garden party last year, but you can see the space and get the idea. )

We’ve been quiet around Burbex recently. Rachel had nasal surgery last week, so we haven’t been up to any large projects. To keep you entertained if you’re bored in the mean time, here are a few fun pictures and small projects to keep you going:

Here you can see two of our syrups we made for soda. The brown color is the pineapple mint, which we talked about in another post, and is from the really fun cookbook, “Can it, Bottle it, Smoke it”. The pink syrup (which is almost gone!) is strawberry. This was an adaptation of the Strawberry Black Pepper syrup from the same cookbook.

We also made a small batch of mulberry jam last night, which can also be seen in the picture above. We have a mulberry tree in our back yard, but this is the first year we’ve been proactive enough to actually harvest some of the berries before the birds ate them all. Mulberries look and taste a little like blackberries, except instead of growing on an uncontrollable vine, they grow on a funny looking tree:

 

 

We’re also in the middle of a big project that is a part of our long, ongoing yard renovation:

Eventually all of the sod will be removed, and we will have a garden here under the cottonwood tree. You can also see from the state of our grass (dead!) how hot and dry it has been here in Colorado. You can also see were we have previously started the sod removal in this garden and never finished…

And last, but not least, we welcomed a new member of our menagerie here at Burbex:

 

This is Kazumi. He’s a nearly 2 year old retired Bengal. He’s settling in and bringing a little equilibrium to our wild household by giving Sora someone to chase around.

 

 

Sorry about the long absence. Our household manage to contrive to have company or to be on vacation for nearly every weekend in the month of May. As a result we got almost nothing crafty or home-related done for the entire month. So to feed your withdrawals, here’s a quick look at carbonating your own homemade soda.

The first thing you need is a flavored simple syrup. We made a pineapple mint syrup by macerating pineapple with sugar overnight and then cooking the syrup with mint. We had also made a blueberry lemon syrup through a similar method. Once you have your syrup, you want to funnel it into a clean glass jar.

This shows just the syrup in the jar. You want to dilute the syrup 1:2 with water, so your soda isn’t overly sweet. I had about 3/4 C syrup, so I added about 1 1/2 C water.

This is with the water added. As you can see, we didn’t have enough syrup to make a full bottle of liquid. You can leave the rest as open air space, it will not hurt the soda. Once you’ve done that, you want to add a TINY pinch of active dry yeast. This will react with the sugars and cause the carbonation. The next part is patience. It has to sit in a room temperature place for at least 24 hours, and up to 3 days. The yeast will keep reacting, so you shouldn’t leave it longer than that. We learned this the hard way. We left ours about 4 days, and it was kind of off the radar. Rachel went down to the kitchen, heard a funny hissing noise, and not thinking, opened the blueberry over the sink. She then spent the rest of the morning cleaning up blueberry soda off the ceiling, walls and floors. So really, don’t leave it longer than 3 days.

Once your three days are up, you can pop your soda in the fridge. This will slow down the yeast reaction, but not stop it entirely, so you still need to drink the soda you’ve made within a few days. The amount shown above is probably 2-3 standard glasses.

Also, if you want to look fancy, but not mess with your own carbonation, you can always make your syrup and add it to carbonated water. This is actually the method we use much more often as we usually have soda water around, and it’s less likely to make a mess if you forget about it.

 

Cracker Redux

April 2, 2012

Okay so we all saw what happened with the last cracker challenge and ultimately we were not super satisfied with the end result. They were too puffy and doughy. Katie and I both like super crispy crackers, so we tried something new.

Our basic recipe was flour, salt, and enough warm water to bring it together in to a dough. Like other doughs (think biscuits), you need a soft hand with it – work it too hard and it will get gluten-y and tough. Instead work it gently until it just pulls together. It should be springy to the touch and look about like this:

As you can see, I have some flour left over, but it came together with the right consistency without being too sticky. I let it be at this point. If it is still sticky and you’re out of flour, sprinkle in a tablespoon at a time and work it until it feels good. If it’s dry, do the same but with water instead of flour. Also for fun, we added sesame seeds to the dough, which added a nice toasty flavor.

Once your dough is ready, roll it out to whatever thickness you want. Because this has no leavening in it, they will be about as thick as you roll them with a very very slight increase in size maybe.  So roll roll roll.

You can see in the top corner I have a small bowl of flour for sprinkling, and a square-shaped cookie cutter. We did our crackers two ways: One was to cut out individual squares. The other was to roll a large slab and throw it on the pizza stone. Both ways worked equally well, although the pizza stone was faster.

Each cracker or cracker-slab was docked (poked with a fork – this lets the steam out), brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with crushed rosemary and a little salt.

Also because we had more space on the big slab cracker, we added cheese to see how that would work. Turns out it’s flippin DELICIOUS. Once the slab cracker is done, break it up in to shards. A pizza cutter worked okay too if you want more uniform pieces, but I’m impatient so ripping them up worked as well for me.

These crackers turned out to be delicious, crisp, salty, and amazing. I’m NEVER paying $4 a box of crackers again.

A Mary Poppins Moment

March 18, 2012

We may have already had one bird feeder here at Burbex. We were just excited to have more than little brown sparrows that we had when we lived in the city. We both come from a long tradition of bird-feeding families, though, and really, who doesn’t like some more birds. We do, and the cats REALLY do. So, based on a cute idea we saw on Pinterest, we set out to make a few more bird feeders.

We started with 3 glass globes from light fixtures that we picked up from the Re-store for $2 each (We had a little incident with one, which is why there are only two feeders in the last picture). We also got some metal rings from Joann’s and some small chain from Lowe’s ($.59 and $6.97 respectively).

For our first attempt, we tried to make three hanging chains, and attach them all to the ring. From there, we hung it from a hook, and inserted the globe.

The problem with this feeder is that the chains don’t stay in one place on the ring, so if you get anything out of balance, you can have a catastrophe. This is what happened to our mysterious missing globe. We ended up tying little pieces of string around the ring to help the chains stay in place, and we ended up with a version of this design that does work.

 

For the second design, we decided to try for something a little more stable. So instead of using the metal ring on the bottom, we made a loop of the chain, and then attached the ascending pieces to that. The links on the bottom loop keep the ascenders from moving around the loop, and it is more stable.

 

So in the end we have two cute bird feeders, and we bought two more globes this weekend, to replace the lost one. Because our goal in life is to make sure our cats never lack for entertainment.

Homecoming

February 11, 2012

With the addition of Twirly to my tool cavalry, I decided it was time to build them a home. I have to throw out there that I LOVE playing with my tools and building things. This doesn’t mean that I’m good at it in any capacity. This is a basic recipe for a toolbox that I’m sure you can do better than I did.

I started with a 24″ wide piece of 1/4″ plywood. I cut two long-side pieces 24″x10″ and two side pieces 10″x8″. Finally, I cut 1/2″ strips to create a stop, so that I could add a set-in shelf to the box. The shelf was the same dimensions but 3″ tall.

As you can see, I cut the tops of the side pieces to a point. This was so that I could insert a dowel later to create a handle. I’ll also admit now that I didn’t account for edge and what that would add to widths, so there are places that I had to re-measure and re-cut to account for that. Oops. Live and learn I guess.

Next step was to glue the stops on to the sides. I did this so that I could secure them with prior to assembling my box.

I used wood glue and clams to hold the stops in place until they dried.

Once the stops were in place, I began assembling the edges, to get the basic shape of my box.

As you can see, everything is together. I forgot to mention that I made a bottom to the box and the shelf. Just measure your frame and tack it in with finishing nails. I’ll also note that the plywood is hard and prone to splintering, so don’t get discouraged.

Once it was all together, I went ahead and gave her a pretty coat of paint. Red for the outside, white for the shelf. The tools fit in perfectly.

I haven’t put the dowel in yet because a) I’m not sure I left enough room at the pointy parts to do it and b) I don’t have a paddle bit for my drill with which to make the holes. We’ll see if that ever happens, but that is the intention.

For now, my tools have a home. Oh! And here’s a picture of Twirly, since this project was brought to you by the letter T.

Don’t Sink This Project

January 31, 2012

If you’re at all like me, I kind of need an excuse to do the really grody (can you still use that word?) chores, say, like cleaning under the stove. I’ll get to that in a minute.

This past week/weekened, father Burb visited the BurbEx and helped us out with a number of projects, for no other reason less than because he is a foot taller than either of us (thanks for closing the heating vents!). He also brought a circular saw in to the household. This will allow us to get SO much more done! (read- very excited).

The first project we decided to tackle was to rip out the floor under our kitchen sink. Because we have had so many plumbing issues, the floor was saggy and nasty, so I thought it would be a nice surprise for Katie to put in a new floor. The most perplexing thing about ripping the floor out was discovering just how much of our kitchen (and house for that matter) were built in place. It makes it somewhat harder to do some of this because I’d hate to have our sink fall out because we moved a piece of molding, you know?

Anyway, the floor came out distressingly easily by breaking out the rotting away wood.

Anyhoo, you can see the floor being ripped out piece by piece. Perhaps the funniest part of this is that we found an interesting piece of wood. The guy that owned our house prior to us was a real “do it yourself-er” except that he really kind of sucked at it. Shortcuts and shoddy work, which is what we spend so much of our time fixing now. Anyway, the support wood stuck under the floor included this little gem.

“CA” are the first two letters of dude’s last name. It appears he was practicing his wood burning skillz before “fixing” the sink.

Once all the old floor was ripped out, we took measurements so that we could cut our new floor. Because the old floor was built in place, it was one solid piece around a pipe. We had to do two pieces to accommodate.

Yay! Twirly! I love my new saw. We decided to use quarter inch plywood for the new floor, as we had bracings running along the edges that held a groove for the floor to be set in to. We began by cutting the two pieces of the floor.

As you can see, our fancy saw horse is made up of our recycling bin. After cutting the two main floor pieces, we had to measure and cut out a chunk on each piece to fit the pipe. I made two cuts on each side, and then we used a screwdriver and rubber mallet to score and pop the piece out.

Once the pieces were completed, we were able to set them in to the floor space. However, the bracing with the quarter inch groove was not properly cut or something because the floor did not quite fit. We had to do some jiggering and have a slightly incline floor. Oh well.

You can see that these were winched in and then we used the rubber mallet to tap them down in to place. Once the floor was set in, it was snug enough to not really need any additional bracing or support. I added one piece of 2×2 along the left edge under where the board is because we cut the smaller piece of floor above, and it needed a support to sit upon. Otherwise, there was structure in the middle as you can see, and running along the right-hand side.

Once the floor was in, since it was too cold out to paint, I got cheap dollar store contact paper that will serve just fine for now. Again, cut to size, peel back the backing and place the paper down.

Done!

HOWEVER!

This tale comes with another epic story. Remember how I said I needed an excuse to clean under the stove? Well it came as the result of one of our cats engaging in mischief. When we first moved in to our house, we lost one of our cats for about three days. We couldn’t figure out if she got out, was hiding, or what happened. It turned out that there is a hole that was cut for no apparent reason that we can determine, in the back side of the sink and neighboring cupboard. That gave the cat space to get behind the cupboard and under the counter.

Initially, father Burb and I stapled some dipped chicken wire in to place. We threw a cat in the cupboard and she wasn’t able to get back there.

Done and done, so we thought. However, we underestimated the sheer panic and strength of a desperate cat, and she ripped the wire right down and got behind the cupboard.

Fine we said. We’ll take the food away when we can’t monitor and she’ll have to come out to get some. After a day and a half, we tried reaching back there and bodily removing her. However that didn’t work because the gap behind the counter was shaped like an L”

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Well, that’s supposed to look like an L. Anyway, she would hide back behind the corner where our arms, vacuum, tape measure, and other assorted items just couldn’t reach. We tried wet food, where the smell would drive her out after two days of no food. No luck. Finally, I decided that desperate times called for desperate measures.

I looked at possibly popping out a wall of the cupboard or something but again, because of the built in place nature of the entire construction, that wasn’t possible. I then began to wonder if it would be possible to pop the side panel off. Again, shoddy construction was a possibility. So after the third day, we pulled the stove out of place, cleaned under it, and then I began removing nails from the side panel.

Gross counter. Don’t worry, we cleaned it.

You can see the space behind the cupboard.

And the hole she got through.

Ultimately we got her out by prying back (rather than removing) the side panel, and when we could see her, I blew canned air at her. She did NOT like that so she ran to the other side of the L, which then allowed Katie to scare her out with the tape measure. She took off like a shot, and then I screwed in a piece of board I had cut to the right size, just for this occasion. No more hole, no more stuck cat. She’s now pouting in the cat tower.

I can’t wait to build more things, so we’ll definitely keep you posted on that.

xo-

Rach

Please Be Seated

January 18, 2012

This here, is a bench.

Not only a bench, but an ugly bench. We picked it up because we always need more seating and such and figured we’d do something with it eventually. Well, eventually finally came, after the inspiration of our new bed pillows. We picked up a new bench fabric at the same time and figured now was good. The bench was about $5, and the fabric I’d guess is around $10, and the trim another $5 maybe. Of course, Katie could say differently if she wanted.

Anyway, reupholstering is another thing that makes a piece of furniture look pretty snazzy and it can be simple to do. This bench required unscrewing 11 screws, removing staples, stapling new fabric, cutting said fabric, and hot glue. Not bad.

First, take your object and disassemble it. This was a pretty straightforward project, but if you are doing something a bit more complicated, be sure to track your parts and order so that you know how to get it back together at the end.

Once the top was off, we removed the staples holding the black fabric and the mustard fabrics on. The black fabric is basically to keep the raw edges from showing underneath. Remove your staples carefully if you want to preserve this piece of fabric. I find a flat-head screwdriver or needle-nose pliers are best for removing staples.

Once all the staples are pulled out, you should be able to lift the top fabric off.

Underneath, hopefully you find foam or padding that is in good shape. If your foam is in tough shape, you can get new padding, glue it down, and you’re good to go. Ours was in good shape so we just recovered over the existing padding. The white in the corner is some extra padding to help fill out the foam, which was missing a chunk in the corner. We also were left with the frame. I’d like to paint our frame at some point but we didn’t have a good color at the time.

Next, take your new fabric, lay it out right-side-down and place the bench top on it upside down. Staple one edge with a staple gun, starting at the corners and middle, and filling in the in-betweens.

Next, pull your fabric under so that it is tight. You want it to be tight so that you don’t get loose fabric on your cover. It may take a buddy to help keep it tight while you staple.

Now, there are a couple ways to go about the corners, which I think is the trickiest part. You can measure and cut your corners ahead of time, and sew them in to the right shape (Make a cut from the corner in, then fold together and sew), as was done on the old cover. You can ease the corner around like fondant and avoid a crease, or you can miter the corner by folding it. We chose to miter it.

Once stapled, you can clean up your fabric edges if you want, or place your backing (old or new) on the bottom and staple it. Then, reassemble!

Our final touch was to add a decorative trim around the bottom. In our “final pictures” it hadn’t been glued on yet, but I basically took a glue gun and glued it to the bottom of the top piece (not the frame!).

Voila!

LET THERE BE LIGHT

January 16, 2012

So yeah. One of the things that annoys me the most about being a homeowner is that we inherited all the bad taste of the previous owners. Let’s just say they liked wood. A lot. Anyway, one of the small things we’ve been doing to really spruce things up and give it our flare is to replace the lighting. SO much of it was so tacky, it’s awful…and the top of my priority list was to remove the fugly fan that lived downstairs.

To set the stage, I’ll say that we probably have seven foot ceilings, so it’s kind of low to begin with. Then there was a giant monstrosity of a fan, with wicker inlay and flower-shaped glass shades. Teh awesome to be sure.

Halsey

Kind of like this one.

So we decided to get a nice and compact light that would provide plenty of brightness but MUCH less visual space.

Zoomed: Style Selections 4-Light Chrome Flush Mount Fixed Track Light Kit

Now, I kind of like replacing our lighting fixtures because it makes me feel like a badass. The first step was to shut off the breaker. ALWAYS do this. It hurts to get shocked. Once you’ve had someone else touch the wire to make sure its off (just kidding..kind of), start taking pieces off. We started with the blades, then shades then the fixture, then the ring, then the remaining pieces.

After removing all the pieces, you should be left with an inset box with two to three wires. One black one, one white one, and one that is usually the ground, and is often green.

It’s a little hard to tell in this picture because the plate is in the way, but the far right wire is black, the middle is white, and the third is a copper wire on the left.

We removed the plate because it was a right pain in the ass.

Next we removed the components of the new light. We put up the initial bracket-

The dust ring is disgusting. I’m also not sure why I look so concerned. Don’t worry, I didn’t cry.

Next twist your wires from the fixture to the wires in the box. White to white, black to black. Make sure they’re secured, then twist a nut on to the end to secure it. You can also wrap it with electrical tape.

Next the ground wire, or green wire should be either screwed under a green screw (as in this case) or wrapped around part of the metal framework.

Our screw was green and said GRND so we knew where to go. The wire was wrapped underthe screw, which was then secured.

Then the fixture goes on to the bracket. Screw it on, place the shades on, the bulbs, and voila!

We wound up with a light I wasn’t embarrassed to own. I chose the moveable track lighting to spread the love since this one light covers a large space. It’s a nice way to spruce up a drab looking area.

For most of us, our bedroom is the core of our personality as we express it through our houses or apartments. However, it’s also one of those spaces that isn’t really public once you’ve moved out of your college dorm room. What that means, at least for us, is that while we have individual things about our bedroom that are awesome, we also have areas that are pretty neglected and that we haven’t done much about. One of those areas was our bed. Upon leaving college we upgraded from a futon to a real mattress and box spring, but we’ve never had a head- or footboard, or any kind of matching bedroom set. So, one of the things we’ve been contemplating lately is doing something to make our bed look a little more grown-up and finished. We have plans for a headboard, but it’s been a trickier project than originally anticipated, so in the mean time, we went with decorative pillows.

We got 2 27″ square pillow forms to add some height and a generally finished look to the bed (Sora thinks she adds refinement as well). We then got some fabric. The fabric was a great find, it was on the bargin rack at Denver Fabric for $6.95 a yard, plus it’s intended to be curtain panels, so it was double wide. We got enough fabric for both pillows for about $6. The one downside is the fabric isn’t  as durable as you would usually use for something like a pillow. It’s definitely not a cuddle-up, fall asleep and drool kind of pillow.

To make the covers, I used the simplest pillow cover known to man-the flap pillow. I took a length of fabric long enough to cover the pillow, and folded it over hamburger-style, leaving 6-8″ overlap on one end. I then sewed up the sides to make a shape like an envelope.

From there, I just stuck the pillow form in, and folded the flap inside (think of a letter that you want to close and be able to open again later). Because these aren’t functional pillows I didn’t worry about making it fasten, however, if you wanted it to fasten, you could add buttons for a visible embellishment, or velcro on the inside for an invisible hold. The only other detail was to finish all of the raw edges. They’re mostly out of sight, so I just serged along all of my edges, but they could be zigzag stitched or folded over as well.