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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Adventures in Crafting: Upcycling an Old Dresser Top

When we moved last month, we wound up buying quite a bit of furniture.  We're in a bigger place now so it was necessary.  We ordered 10 pieces from IKEA and built it all ourselves.  It was relatively well priced and just a little time consuming to put together.  There are a couple of pieces/things that we held off buying.  We decided to wait for a bit on non essential pieces.  We also wanted to see if there was anything we'd be able to make for ourselves. 

What we did do was try to salvage some of our old furniture to be used here.  We kept our bed frame, old kitchen table (which now houses our herb garden!), Baros' giant desk, a small coffee table and a couple of other small furniture pieces.

For some of our bigger pieces, they were either too broken or too big to fit into the space here so we tossed what we had to and took apart some of the rest so we could upcycle the pieces.

For example, we had two dark brown dressers in our old apartment (I never thought to take pictures of them intact).  They were pretty cheap when we bought them 3 years ago and the drawers were pretty beat up (screws loose, thin boards bent etc.) But, the tops were still in great shape.
We disassembled the dressers and took the tops, all the screws, the backboards and the drawer rails.  We had no idea what we would do with the pieces but figured that a plan would come to us.

Well, we still don't know what to do with the backboards and drawer rails but we came up with a plan for at least one of the dresser tops and the old screws.

We decided to do a little upcycle and turn the dresser top into an outdoor coffee table to put between our chairs on the deck. Oh man, it came out so very cool and I have to say it was pretty "easy" if a little time consuming.  I took 3-4 days to complete.  One of the coolest thing is that we really didn't spend very much money on this at all!  We had a lot of supplies left over and we only had to buy the wood for the legs (so under $10).

The first step was to sand down the top and sides of the dresser.  Unfortunately, the piece was not actually wood, but MDF with a very thin veneer covering it which means thatit wasn't waterproof. Since it's MDF, it definitely added some labor to our process.  Baros spent a day sanding the top and peeling the veneer off the sides.

the sanded dresser top... but upside down 

After a little research we figured out how to "waterproof" the MDF.  Baros dilluted some PVA glue with water and coated the top, sides and bottom.  Then we primed and sanded again.

Coated with PVA Glue and primer

We decided to paint the base black.  We painted one coat and sanded again to make sure it was smooth.  Then we added two more coats of black. 

the first coat of black paint

Then came the super fun part!  We splatter painted the surface.  Oh, man!  It was so fun. We used some sponges and random acrylic paint that I already had from past projects.  We started with some metallic blue, matte purple and plum and swirled it around.  We did some finger painting and used toothbrushes (from Turkish Airlines) to create some light splatter.  We swirled on some neons and splattered some white and glow in the dark paint.  Then we let it dry.... and I went back in and did some more because I can't stop myself sometimes.  I just felt like it needed some more in spots. And, let's be honest.  I was just having too much fun.
First round of finger/splatter painting

Once the splatter was dry, we then coated it with 3 coats of wipe on poly-urethane.  Several hours between each coat, so definitely time consuming but well worth it.  The colors really popped even more with the addition of the shine. We're in love with the top of our table.  I'm really hoping that we've water proofed it enough for outdoor use!  (I'll definitely update about that as time goes on!)
1st coat of Poly-Urethane
A different angle

 2 or 3rd coat of poly-urethane

The last thing we needed to work on was the legs.  We bought four 8 ft pieces of pine wood to create the legs (we're thinking of making a second table, and used 1 of the pieces to create a rack for our green screen).  Each was 1.5 in by 1.5 in by 8 ft.  We cut each leg to 2ft tall and then created 8 cross sections to support the table.  We decided that the 4 legs themselves wouldn't be stable enough for such a heavy  top so we created 2 long and 2 short supports for the top and the same for the bottom to really add some stability.

Once each piece was cut down to size, we sanded and stained each piece.  Unfortunately, we only have a hand saw with a guide soooo not every piece was perfectly precise but we adjusted with some additional sanding (literally we sanded so much during this process!).  One day, we'll have to invest in a miter saw to make our lives easier for any of these projects we may do.

We stained each piece and then sanded an extra round before staining one more time. 
Staining each piece after sanding

1st coat of stain

After letting the pieces dry we did 2 coats of the wipe on poly-urethane.

And then it was time to construct our piece.

This took soo much longer than I had been anticipating.  I, for some silly reason, thought we could just put the pieces together and screw them together and it would be a piece of cake... Nothing is ever that easy.  We had to use clamps and square up the pieces to make sure the legs were even and the cross sections were straight.  
Putting together the first leg and cross
Seeing how the legs sat in the bottom of the table

It was a whole process.  It also just took a lot of upper body strength since we used the screws from the old dresser.  They required using the Allen key and quite a bit of force.  And because we were squaring up pieces that were not fully straight and perhaps a few millimeters off, we wound up with one leg just a little shorter than the others.  For now we're using a small piece of wood to even everything out, but eventually we're going to add adjustable feet to the legs so everything can be level.  

Using Clamps to really get the legs together

Once the legs were put together, Baros added them to the base and screwed them in using 3 L Brackets (we'll have to go get a 4th but we only had 3 on hand that were the right size).  

It came together!!

It's beautiful

The final step was to fill the holes and level the legs with 3-d printed parts.  Baros did some measurements and spent a few afternoons printing the pieces. So now our table should be completely waterproof and the feet make sure that the table won't wobble on the wooden slats of our deck!

3-D printed feet and wood fillers

It looks pretty cool and it's water proof now!
We are so happy with how this table came out.  It's been outside for a couple of weeks now (I'm super slow to upload things!) and it still looks beautiful.  We spend a lot of time on the deck and it just adds to our comfort.  It's the perfect height for eating off of and it's beautiful to look at!  Could not be happier!

Enjoying our meal together

Our first meal on our new table: Shrimp, peppers on grits with soppressata on the side. 

Our final upcycled table is beautiful and perfect for us!  I'm in love with it and so is Baros!   It was time consuming but such a great, cheap upcycle! I'm excited to see what else we can upcycle/create!

We're going to enjoy this table

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Adventures in Baking: Strawberry, Blueberry Cinnamon Buns

On my way home from work (I just started back last week), I generally spend the hour in my mask listening to podcasts and scrolling through instagram looking at makeup (that I'll never be able to replicate), workouts (that I'll probably never try and recipes (that there's the hope I'll make!)  Sometimes I read (I just started Pet Sematary) but there are days where my eyes and stomach can't handle words on a page so scrolling does the trick. 

On Tuesday morning, during my scrolling I found a super enticing picture.  Blueberry Cinnamon buns.  They looked beautiful, the toasted color of the buns, blue and purple oozing from freshly backed blueberries, cinnamon and that lovely icing swirl.  The recipe touted for the dough was only 2 ingredients and my interest was peaked.  

Is it possible to make delicious cinnamon bun dough with only 2 ingredients?  Could it really be that simple?  

Actually, apparently,  yes.  Mostly.

When I got home on Tuesday, I asked Baros if he would enjoy having some blueberry cinnamon buns for after dinner, knowing full well that he loves cinnamon!  

So around 9pm I started.

I posted some pictures on Instagram and asked if you’d be interested in the recipe and the answer was yes!  Well, 88% said yes! I don’t know how many people voted but I wrote out the recipe

The recipe called for Self Rising Flour and Greek Yogurt.  That easy.  

Unfortunately, I only have all-purpose flour, so I needed 2 more ingredients to make it work. Baking powder and Baking soda.  I also decided to add about a tablespoon of light brown sugar for a hint of sweetness. We also don't have Greek Yogurt in the house so I substituted with Turkish Yogurt which has the same consistency but is a little more sour. You could substitute with American yogurt, but would either use less yogurt or more flour to adjust for the difference in consistency.  

Well, the cinnamon buns were delicious!  I will definitely be making the bun dough again. It's a sticky dough so you need extra flour on hand when kneading and rolling out, but other than that, it's super simple.  The dough comes together quickly and doesn't take a lot of kneading power.  

We don't have a rolling pin so we had to make-shift one with a glass bottle we use for water! Whatever works, right? But make sure to flour it and your rolling surface to avoid sticking! (Lessons learned!) 

I think the filling can be whatever you want it to be as well.  We had blueberries in the fridge, but since some of them died :( we decided to add some strawberries to our cinnamon mix as well. It was a beautiful and simple filling that baked up deliciously. 

Strawberry, Blueberry Cinnamon Buns 

Ingredients for the dough:  
  • 1 cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda 
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder 
  • 1 tbsp Light Brown Sugar (or to taste) 
  • 1 cup Turkish Yogurt 
  • Extra Flour for kneading and rolling out
  • Unsalted Butter to help get golden brown

Ingredients for the filling: 
  • 1- 2 cups of Blueberries (if frozen, let defrost)
  • 1/2 - 1 cup of Diced Strawberries (if frozen, let defrost)
  • Lots of Cinnamon 
  • 2+ tbsp Light Brown Sugar 

1. Preheat the oven to 350  F.  Line a 8 in or 9 in round cake pan with parchment paper and grease with a small quantity of butter.  
2. Mix the flour, baking soda and baking powder together.  
3. Once evenly blended, add in the brown sugar and yogurt.  You can use a fork or spoon at first, until the yogurt and flour mixture are incorporated.  When the dough starts to come together, you can tip onto a floured surface and begin kneading. (I don't have a lot of kitchen space so I actually kneaded it in the bowl but it's much easier to knead on a pre-floured surface.)  I also used one hand to knead and kept the other hand clean so I could add extra flour as necessary.   After kneading for a few minutes and the dough is less wet, let the dough rest covered.  
4. Create your filling.  In a bowl, mix the diced strawberries and blueberries, cinnamon and light brown sugar.  Baros created the filling and used a lot of cinnamon and around 2 tbsp of light brown sugar but you can really tweak to your tastes.  Our dessert was not super sweet which works for us, but you can definitely add more sweetness into the filling! 
5. Now, it's time to roll out your dough. Make sure there's plenty of flour on your surface first.  At this point, I turned my dough onto a floured sheet of parchment paper (it's what I had on hand), grabbed my freshly washed and dried glass bottle and started to roll the dough into a 1/2 in thick rectangle.  If you want more layers, you can roll it out thinner (but the bottle limited my ability!).  
9.  Spread a thin layer of your filling onto your dough.  Leave about a half inch of one side free of fruit to make rolling easier.  
10.  Start rolling your dough as tightly and evenly as possible starting from the side of the dough with more filling.  The wider your rectangle was the more rolls you will have.  
11.  Carefully cut your roll into  1 1/2 inch slices.  If your dough, is still sticky, coat your knife with some flour before each slice.  
12.  Place each slice into your lined cake pan.  They should not be touching as they will spread out. 

I later switched to a smaller pan since there was too much room for them to spread

13.  Bake for 20-30 minutes depending on your oven.  About 5 minutes before done, spread a small amount of butter to the top and place back in oven.  This will help develop a golden brown color and add an additional richness to the dessert.  
14.  You can eat fresh out of the oven or wait till it cools down.  Waiting let's the flavors meld... but they're so good fresh out of the oven!  

The rise on this was great and the flavor delicious.  I definitely recommend trying these as a quick cinnamon bun recipe.  I'm sure there are more complicated, richer recipes, but this is great as a super simple recipe!  I've never made cinnamon buns before and this was a great starting point.  I also really enjoyed the adaptability.  

What do you think?  Will you be trying?  Have you ever made such simple cinnamon buns? 

Monday, May 4, 2020

Adventures in Baking Quarantine Edition: Lemonies i.e. Lemon Brownies

Two weeks ago we had a ton of lemons in the house.  I think they must have been on sale!  So of course I wanted to do some baking with them.  I debated quite a bit about what I wanted to make.  I kind of wanted to make a lemon meringue or lemon curd but decided against it because it took way too many eggs (and we needed those for breakfast!) so after doing some internet searches,  I decided to try making Lemon Brownies, or Lemonies.

I'd never heard of them or tried them before so I looked up some recipes and got some ideas.  I wanted something simple and with easy cleanup and with minimal ingredients.  I took inspiration from Jenny Can Cook's Recipe.  It's a super easy recipe.  I adjusted the sugar to taste and added more lemon juice for a little more kick!  And at Baros' request, I added some chocolate chips to change up the texture.  I also chose not to make the glaze since we're minimalists on sugary toppings.

They were delicious and I would definitely make them again. 

Here's my version.



  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I might use light brown sugar next time for the color) 
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1/4 cup Turkish yogurt (Greek yogurt) (you can also use sour cream if you have it) 
  • 3 tbsps olive oil (I'm going to try butter or coconut oil next time)
  • Lemon zest from 2 lemons 
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice from 2 lemons 
  • Chocolate chips
1.  Preheat the oven to 350° F
2. Line a pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. 
3. Add all of the ingredients (except chocolate chips) into one bowl.  
4. Mix thoroughly until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Try to get it lump free.  you can mix by hand or use an electric mixer.  
5. Stir in the chocolate chips.

6.  Pour into the pan. 
7. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes.  Don't leave in too long or it will get dry!  
8.  Cool for 5-10 minutes in pan and lift out to serve.  

A glaze would be lovely for this recipe to add a little extra moisture.  But I really enjoyed the brownie texture without as well!  

This was a hit and really easy to make so I will be making them again soon!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Adventures in Baking Quarantine Edition: Soda bread (with Jalapenos)

We keep running out of bread.

It's just a Quarantine fact of life since we can't get to the grocery store regularly.  Bread is tricky at the store right now too.  Fresh bread is hard to come across in a lot of the neighborhood stores by us.  And if you do find bread, you can't really buy in bulk because if you don't eat it fast enough it can go stale or moldy.  We could freeze an extra loaf here or there, but honestly since I'm not working right this minute... I need to bake for de-stressing purposes! 

Luckily, Soda Bread is super easy to make.  It only takes a few ingredients and one bowl.  No yeast in sight.  I've made it a handful of times and it's gone really well each time.  

Typically most recipes call for Buttermilk, but with the quarantine that's a little bit difficult to come by so I found a substitution that works really well.  Milk combined with fresh squeezed lemon juice. The lemon juice curdles the milk slightly and replicates the consistency of buttermilk.  It's a great substitute.  

Since quarantine started, I've now made it three times.  

The first time was last week, and it was delicious!  I made a small loaf and it was great.  We ate some with breakfast and then left the house to run errands.  When we came home, we found it had met its demise thanks to our sweet little kitty who decided it was a hockey puck. 
Our first loaf in our new place!
all sliced up... before the cat eventually got it!  
So I had to re-bake it the same day.  It was not what I wanted to do that day but it's okay.  At least the cat was cute and the recipe is easy!  Thank goodness!   
Our bigger loaf!  
It was a success and we put the bread out of Maestro's path.  He's an incredibly curious kitty who gets into everything so we learned our lesson! 

We ate the second loaf with a bunch of different meals:
Green pepper and mushroom omelette with feta and toasted soda bread
Pumpkin Soup with a side of Soda bread
Today, I decided to make the soda bread again to go with our dinner.  We needed a little something to go with our left over steak and pepper stir fry. I even decided to add some jalapenos to the recipe!  Oh man, it's perfect!  Just a hint of spice.  

I've played with my recipe a couple of times and changed things around a bit.  I doubled the recipe to make a bigger loaf.  Here's my modified recipe!  The jalapenos are optional and can be replaced with any number of different ingredients depending on the flavor combinations you'd like.  

Soda Bread (with Jalapenos)

  • 2 cups milk
  • juice from 1 freshly squeezed lemon
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda 
  • 1 -1 1/2 tsp salt
  • OPTIONAL: 1 sliced jalapeno (or you can add raisins, walnuts or any other ingredient to the mix for a tasty bread!)
1. Stir the milk and lemon juice together. Let sit for 10 minutes until curdled.  
2.  Preheat oven to 400° F.  Line a  pan or baking sheet with parchment paper.  
3.  In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.  
4.  Gradually add the milk into the flour mixture until the dough just comes together.  You can use a spatula or other utensil to mix but mixing by hand also works.  The dough is quite sticky at first so keep a small stock pile of flour on hand.   
5. If you're adding jalapenos, , add them after
6.  Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead a few times.  Make sure the jalapenos are spread evenly throughout the dough.  
7.  At this point, you have two options.  You can either shape the dough into one round or you can cut the dough in 2 and shape into rounds.  
8. With a sharp knife, cut an x into the top of each loaf to release steam and help the bread keep its shape. 
It looks so beautiful going into the oven
9. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes depending on your oven and if you make one loaf or two.  Remove from the oven when golden.  Check to make sure dough is fully cooked in the center with a toothpick.  It should go into the dough smooth and come out clean. 
Perfectly baked!
10.  I definitely recommend cutting the bread while still warm.  It cuts so easily after being out of the oven for a little while (Don't burn your hands on the dough though!) Then you can eat while warm or wait for the loaf to cool and the flavors to really come together.  

We cut our loaf straight out of the oven while on face time with my Mom.  Social distancing is easy when you don't live together :(  I miss her!  We could have been baking together if not for this crazy quarantine. 

Beautiful slices

We ate a few slices each with our leftover stir fried steak and peppers with salsa and sour cream.  It was so delicious.  The bread itself is mild in flavor so it pairs well with a lot of different dishes. 

Dinner is served
The jalapenos really add to a great savory dish.  The jalapenos don't add too much spice but add a little textural element and a hint of heat.  It really matches a lot of the foods that my husband I cook together.  I can't wait for tomorrow morning!  We'll eat a few slices with our spinach omelette!  

Give it a try and let me know what you think!  What mix-ins will you try?   What do you eat your soda bread with? 

Monday, April 20, 2020

Adventures in Baking Quarantine Edition: Banana Coffee Muffins

We had a couple more overripe bananas to work with this week so I decided to make some Banana Coffee Muffins!

Baros wanted Banana Bread but we don't have a loaf pan yet so I decided to try muffins instead and add a little coffee to the mix. 

Hopefully, the muffins will also portion control us a bit... With cookies, we just eat them 1 or 2 at the time.  But then 15 minutes later, you can justify having another!  So maybe with muffins we'll behave.  (I can only hope!)

I went a slightly different route this time because we don't have much butter left in the house and I'm trying to avoid going to the grocery store.  So I used Coconut oil instead.  Maybe it's a slightly healthier version?  I'm not sure but they definitely taste good! 

I found the original recipe on a blog called Homemade Nutrition.  I'm definitely going to be checking out more of her recipes because they look pretty healthy! 

As usual I adapted the amount of sugar involved and ramped up the spices!  The original recipe called for whole wheat flour but we didn't have that so I stuck to all purpose flour. 

Banana Coffee Muffins


  • 2 medium over ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (melted) 
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp instant coffee crystals
  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk mixed with 1/2 the juice from a lemon (aka how to make buttermilk when you don't have any!) 
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda 
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • Crushed walnuts to taste/what you have in your house
  • 1 tsp salt (in retrospect, I think the recipe calls for the salt to enhance the flavor)
1.  Preheat oven to 375° F.  
2. In a large bowl, mash the bananas (or have your husband mash it!) 
3.  Mix with oil, eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and the "buttermilk mixture".  Whisk well to combine.  
4.  Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  Whisk gently until fully combined.  
5.  Place cupcake liners in a muffin pan.  The original recipe says to spray with non-stick cooking spray, but we don't have any so I skipped that.  However, I recommend spraying with the cooking spray as this batter when cooked seems to stick to the lining a bit.  
6.  Add 1/4 cup of batter to each liner.  Sprinkle with crushed walnuts.  For me, it made 19 muffins.  
7.  Bake for 14-18 minutes or until cooked through.  We don't have toothpicks so I just eye-balled it.  They rise quite a bit and look beautiful when done.  

The muffins came out moist and delicious.  I do think they need a hit of salt to bring out the flavors more but all in all they taste really good.  

I think I might make some whipped cream to put on top and that will really complement the flavors!  

And in the morning, I'm going to make some Dalgona Coffee because I think they'll match soooo well!  
Some Dalgona Coffee to drink with my beautiful muffins!

I would definitely recommend trying them.