Jason and I have a bit of a problem with clutter control, especially in the form of paperwork and mail. Bills, magazines, store coupons, pamphlets, receipts for items we may be returning, and who knows what else tend to pile up in various spots around our house. And they drive. me. CRAZY. They tend to mostly accumulate on the family room floor, and I’ve been looking for a good way to corral the mess for a while now.
The papers we pile up are mostly things that need to be taken care of “soon” but not immediately. Bills due at the end of the month, magazines we can read at our leisure, coupons we can grab next time we head out to that particular store, and so on. If they’re things that need to be taken care of immediately we take care of them, and if they’re things that need to be filed for record keeping, we have a permanent safe spot for those as well. It’s those in-betweeners that get us. We needed a good temporary solution for them, beyond being stacked in the way in our living areas — something to keep them accessible when we want them, but out of the way in the meantime.
Enter the magazine end table. Built with a V-shaped caddy in the middle of the legs, these are meant to hold — can you guess? — magazines. But I thought, wouldn’t this be the perfect solution to our paper pile problem? We could deposit the “deal-with-this-soon-but-not-right-now” papers into the caddy, and they’d be out of our way for the time being, but close enough to subconsciously nag us and not let us forget about them. (Gotta pay those bills on time.) We also were in need of a new end table in the family room, so this solution seemed perfect.
The only problem? It seemed really difficult to find a magazine table that didn’t look extremely dated, extremely weird, or wasn’t extremely expensive. Call me a cheapskate, but I don’t like to spend exorbitant amounts of money on furniture, especially something small like an end table. I kept my eyes peeled for a good option, but for months I found nothing. I had almost given up my search when one day on my lunch break at work, I went to the thrift store down the street on a whim. It must have been fate, because there I found a solid wood, perfect height, simple but beautiful magazine table for just $10. Its finish was quite damaged, but the table itself was sturdy and in good shape. With no hesitation I bought it, and drove by after work to pick it up.
It’s been sitting in our family room, in use as an ugly, sad-looking end table, for a month or so, waiting for us to have time to refinish it. Over the Thanksgiving holiday I finally found the time to tackle this project, and I found myself with a new tool in my arsenal to boot.
To remove the old finish, I decided to sand it instead of using some kind of chemical stripper, primarily because it’s winter here now and there’s snow on the ground (we were dreaming of a white Thanksgiving this year, apparently), so I wouldn’t be able to use the stripper in a well-ventilated area. To begin the project, I sanded the flat top with 80 grit sandpaper…by hand. It took me a good 40 minutes, and my wrists were absolutely exhausted, before I admitted defeat. I was also completely covered in nasty wood/varnish dust, as was the surrounding area in the basement. I went back upstairs and informed Jason that we needed a random orbital sander, like, now.
I was half joking, but we spent a little time researching our options, and then found ourselves at the hardware store half an hour later. We didn’t need anything incredibly heavy duty, in fact, we didn’t have many specific requirements other than that it must have an option to hook up our shop vac for dust collection. After comparing our options in-store, we ended up with a Porter Cable version, on sale for under $50. After hooking everything up at home, I gave it a cautious first try. Let me tell you, I’m hooked. I don’t know how I’ve done this DIY thing for so long now without having a random orbital sander at my disposal.
The dust collection is nearly flawless. The only time I get any dust in the air is if I happen to pick one side up off the work piece for a second while readjusting, or if I’m hanging over an edge and thus not all the dust collection holes on the sanding disc are covered. If I have it flat and fully in contact with a surface (which is the case 99% of the time), there is not a single speck of dust that I could find that came free. I did still wear a dust mask as a precautionary measure against that other 1% of the time when there might be dust. The other thing I really like about it is that the power switch is covered in rubber, which keeps dust out of the mechanism, thus prolonging the life of the switch.
My only complaint is that I wish it had a second option for holding. Some of the higher end models come with a side handle in addition to the flat palm area on top, and I find myself wishing ours had that because I end up with “claw hand” after a while of gripping this.
Anyway. I was able to thoroughly sand all of the flat surfaces with incredible ease. I’d say it took me about thirty minutes or so to sand all of the flat surfaces, with a couple breaks in between to let the shop vac cool down and/or give my cramping hand a rest. I ended up sanding away not only the varnish, but the old stain as well, taking it back to the bare original wood. I didn’t have any plans in mind for keeping or getting rid of the old stain, I just figured I’d see how easily it came up with sanding. Turns out, very easily, so I’ll be staining this again as well as adding new poly.
With the flat parts sanded, it was time to do the curved sides, detailed edges, and corners where the sander couldn’t reach. And of course, this part I had to do by hand. Already so spoiled by our new power sander, I hated hand sanding even more than I usually do. It took another couple of hours to sand these final small parts by hand, and I was left with sore shoulders and an aching back.
So here she sits, fully naked, ready for the next step. With the hardest part of removing the old finish out of the way, all that’s left to do is the much easier “finish” sanding with gradually finer grits of sandpaper, before it’s time to stain and poly the table back to life.
Do you have a preferred random orbital sander? What do you like about it? Have you ever gotten a new tool and immediately wondered how you had lived without it before?
As I mentioned yesterday, one of the small unexpected hitches at our “Friendsgiving” party was that the chicken Jason made for dinner took an hour longer than expected to cook, thus delaying dinner by an hour after our guests arrived. No one seemed to notice or mind this, largely due to the fact that we had plenty of drinks and appetizers on hand to feed people’s need to snack. Had we not had these hors d’oeuvres available, there may have been a hunger-driven revolt by our guests.
Along with the standard cheese and crackers, pepperoni, and chips and salsa, we had one stand-out snack that was a crowd favorite: baked brie with cranberries. This was a recipe I had seen many years ago and had always wanted an excuse to make, but never really had one. With the Thanksgiving theme of this party, I knew this cranberry-filled dish would be perfect, and I was so excited to try it out.
It’s an incredibly simple thing to make. All you need is seamless crescent roll dough, a wheel of brie, and a few spoonfuls of fresh cranberry sauce.
Roll your sheet of seamless crescent dough out onto a small baking sheet.
Next, slice the top rind off of your wheel of brie. The rind is edible so you can leave the rest on, but slicing the top off ensures that everything gets all nice and melted together.
Place your brie in the center of the crescent dough, and top with generous spoonfuls of homemade cranberry sauce. Please don’t use the stuff in the can. Cranberry sauce is incredibly easy to make — I use this recipe, without any of the optional add-ins; just water, sugar, and cranberries — and the flavor of homemade is so much more delicious than the wobbly cranberry gel-in-a-can. That recipe uses a whole bag of cranberries, but you won’t need nearly that much for this brie bake, so you can use the rest for your Thanksgiving meal, or freeze the leftovers to save for another time.
Lastly, fold the crescent dough up around the brie and cranberries, pinching everything together in the middle. I started with the corners and then pinched any loose sides up.
Bake at 375°F for about 30 minutes, until pastry is golden-brown. Allow it to cool on the cookie sheet for ~10 minutes, then transfer to a serving dish. I used a small glass cake stand to add some visual interest and height to the table.
Normally I’m wary of recipes that call for this crescent dough, because it tastes so distinctive and everyone can tell, “Yep, this was made with crescent dough from a tube”. But, really and truly, the telltale crescent roll flavor is barely present in this tasty dish. The brie and cranberries are the stars of the show, and the crescent dough is simply a crusty, flaky, mild backdrop to the main flavors. No one will ever guess you used pre-made dough for this.
This appetizer was met with rave reviews by all of our guests — one friend even told me that she had to restrain herself from going back and getting seconds, thirds, and fourths so that she didn’t spoil her dinner. This is the perfect quick and easy dish to bring to a family dinner this holiday season, and it’s adaptable for other fruits too. Don’t like cranberries? Try apricots, strawberries, blueberries, figs, anything you can dream up. For a shortcut if you’re short on time, you can even use regular old jelly, jam, or preserves for the filling.
What’s your favorite go-to quick-and-easy appetizer for a holiday get-together? Have you ever tried baked brie?
Being that much of my day job revolves around WordPress development, often times the last thing I want to do when I get home is log in to my own blog and deal with more WordPress. Sometimes by the end of a work day I feel that if I see the words “Media Library” or “Widget” one more time, my brain might explode. I’ve been utterly swamped the past couple of weeks, and it has led to much exhaustion and general burnout when it comes to the thought of spending more time in front of the computer screen. Hence, the lack of posts here lately.
Instead we’ve been busying ourselves with other things: catching up on our overflowing DVR queue and much-needed veg-out time, repainting the family room (I’ll share more about that soon), and most recently, preparing for and hosting our first dinner party, appropriately dubbed “Friendsgiving”. The days leading up to the party were a whirlwind of cleaning, cooking, and general preparations. The party was on Saturday, and (according to our guests) it was a great success. From our perspective there were a few minor problems (like a chicken that took twice as long to cook as we expected, delaying dinner by a full hour), but no one else seemed to notice or care. Our friends are a pretty adaptable, go-with-the-flow bunch (thank goodness for that!), so as long as there was booze, snacks, and good conversation (all of which there were plenty), everyone was satisfied. As the night went on I was making mental notes of what went well, and what we can do better next time, so that when our next party rolls around we’ll know what to do to avoid those minor bumps in the road. I don’t think that I’m experienced enough to share any party planning tips with you just yet, but I do have some party-related things I can talk about.
Today I’m here to share with you our simple yet elegant table decor for the party. Being that it was Friendsgiving, I wanted to stick with a warm, harvest-themed vibe, using as many things as I could that we already owned.
The tablecloth was the only thing we had to purchase for this setup, and I picked it up on sale at Target for a mere $14. After a thorough ironing, it was ready to go, and its deep red color and shiny gold leaves set the stage for the whole table.
I used our everyday placemats, and our shimmery Lucille Gold dinner plate pattern complemented the table perfectly. I knew when we registered for those plates as wedding gifts that they would serve many different holiday tables very well, and they proved themselves yet again with this setup.
Now for my favorite part: the centerpiece! I had picked up those mercury glass candle holders at Target a while ago and was just waiting for an occasion to use them. Two are gold and two are silver, but the colors are so subtle you can barely tell the difference when they’re lit. I’ve had a bit of an obsession with metallics lately, and these tea lights were no exception.
The flowers were just two inexpensive grocery store bouquets that I trimmed and arranged myself in an already-owned vase when I brought them home. I loved the accents of purple and the eucalyptus, and the glitter-covered orange swirls added a nice unexpected touch of whimsy.
This just goes to show that you don’t have to spend a lot to achieve pretty, inviting table decor for the holidays. Decorating is probably my favorite part of preparing for any gathering, and I can’t wait to have our friends over again for — you guessed it — “Friendsmas”!
Did you throw, or attend, any “Friendsgiving” or similar celebrations this past weekend?
Our living room has been many things since moving in: staging area for moving boxes…
Sad empty room…
And even a graveyard for all the furniture we didn’t want anymore. Yep, our kitchen island lived in the living room for a good three or four months during and after our kitchen renovation before we finally sold it on Craigslist.
The one thing it hasn’t been? A living room. Comfortable seating, extra storage, and cohesive decor are just some of the things that this room had been lacking. With the holidays on the horizon, and the potential for hosting guests increasing, we knew that the living room needed to step up its game if we were going to be entertaining anyone anytime soon.
Inspired by our recent tours of historic homes in the area, our main goals for this room were to create a seating arrangement that encouraged conversation, create a space that was comfortable and inviting to sit in, and bring some calm sophistication and warmth into the decor. We started by establishing a color palette (which we ended up veering from slightly, but it was still a good jumping-off point) and ordering new curtains.
Hanging the curtains turned into touching up the paint, which turned into putting another full coat on all the walls because we had a lot of bare spots we hadn’t noticed before. Once the paint dried we tried out a not-so-obvious seating arrangement and ended up loving it, so it stayed that way.
Progress seemed like it slowed down, because no matter what we did to the room, there was an elephant in it that was dragging the whole thing down: the navy blue sofa cover. Luckily our new cover arrived just in time, and it made a huge difference in the room. With the new sofa cover we could finally see our vision coming together, and the door casing we installed added some much-needed character to the space.
Just last week the crowning piece arrived, our vintage Broyhill Brasilia chest that I scored for just $40 a few years back. With this final furniture item in place, we were able to clean up the dust, fluff the pillows, perfect the decor, and finally today I’m here to call the room “done”.
Here’s the finished DIY door casing. I hope to have a tutorial for this up sometime soon!
We even have a proper place for our record player and speakers now! Our records are currently living on the shelf of the sofa table, waiting to be alphabetized. Eventually we want to build a cabinet to house them, to replace the small table that the record player is sitting on now, so that we don’t have to go to opposite ends of the room to select a record and then play it.
For the decor, we decided to bring in warm tones like red and brown, and plenty of wood furniture, to ground the space and add a cozy factor. I love the way the colors play off the neutral-green walls (Brown Buzz by Valspar). We kept the wall art simple, with two large sepia-toned prints: one of Northern Point by Andrew Wyeth, seen above, and one an old photograph of Carnegie Lyceum, a.k.a. Carnegie Hall, which came folded up in Chicago’s Live at Carnegie Hall record set, which we hung above the Brasilia chest. We also hung a mirror at the far end of the room behind the couch, so that it reflects light from the window and also reflects the print of Northern Point from certain angles.
We also utilized lots of metallic accents to bring a touch of modern into the room, and peppered throughout are sentimental pieces such as photos, my wedding bouquet and our cake toppers, some inherited items from family members, and the “P” cork letter that I crafted from the corks from our winery wedding.
We are thrilled with how this room came out. It’s a room that has barely gotten any use since we moved in (unless you count being used as a junk room “use”), but now that it’s finished, we’re using it quite frequently. I’m writing this post from the living room couch! I like to come in here in the evenings to read or write and enjoy my evening cup of tea while Jason watches TV in the family room. It’s definitely meeting our desire for a comfortable, cozy, calm space, and we can’t wait to entertain our first guests in the new space. Who wants to come over? I’ll make butternut squash stuffed shells for you.
As seen on…