Tuesday, September 2, 2014

before + after: marble top dresser makeover

Kathleen and I found this great 1960s Distinctive by Stanley Furniture dresser on Craigslist a few weeks ago for only $75. It had a few dings and a laminate top that didn't match the finish of the wood, but we loved the style of the dresser and the cool little knobs. Plus, it was so well-made and otherwise in great condition, and the grain on the drawers and sides of the dresser was beautiful. We couldn't really refinish the top so we decided to indulge our marble obsession and cover the laminate with marble contact paper.

supplies used:

marble contact paper
Minwax oil-based wood stain in Honey
foam brushes
Minwax Wipe-On Poly in Clear Satin
cotton rags
Black & Decker Mouse Detail Sander
Diablo 80 and 120 grit sandpaper
Rust-Oleum Ultra Cover Clear Gloss
Plaid Brass Liquid Leaf
1/2 inch paintbrush

Since the wood didn't have a lacquered finish, we decided not to strip it and went straight to the sanding. We removed the stain with 80-grit sandpaper and then used the 120-grit to smooth everything out.

After sanding, we applied the stain with foam brushes and wiped it off with paper towels after letting it soak in for a few seconds.

We let the stain dry for a few hours and then applied the wipe-on poly with rags. We applied a second coat after two hours and a third coat after another two hours.

We really loved the original hardware on the dresser and have had great success using liquid leaf on other metal projects so we gave the knobs and washers a good scrubbing, and then they got a quick makeover with 4 coats of brass-colored liquid leaf.

After the dresser and knobs had dried overnight, we applied the contact paper to the top. When we first pulled it out of the box, it honestly didn't look like much, but as soon as we stuck it down, it looked great. The paper came with a handy little tool that made the application very easy. We found it worked best to pull away just a few inches of the backing at a time and use the tool to push out the bubbles towards the unrolled paper. We worked with a few inches of overhang on each side so we didn't have to worry about pulling the paper up and repositioning if we got off track. Then we smoothed it against the edges, trimmed off the excess with a razor blade, and folded it under.

To finish the corners, we cut a diagonal slit between the front and side flap towards the corner, stuck the excess from the front flap to the side edge, and stuck the side flap over it. Then we straightened up the edge with a razor blade. We used the tool to tuck the side flap under the top of the dresser and sliced off the excess with a razor blade.

As far as refinishing furniture goes, this was the easiest project we've ever done. It only took us a weekend to complete and the finished product is exactly what we envisioned. The total cost was about $140 after supplies. The marble contact paper doesn't look real when you put your eyes a few inches from it and inspect the veins, but from a normal standing distance, it actually looks like a piece of marble. We're so pleased with the dresser, and we can't wait to share the total room makeover it's a part of!

tray- West Elm
carafe + glasses- CB2
marble paper- Paper Source
frame- Ikea
candleholders- tutorial here
sheepskin rug- Leatherhead

Thursday, August 28, 2014

currently loving: wallpapered ceilings

Terris Lightfoot Contracting and Kelly Deck Design via Home Adore

Copper Geyer Design via Apartment Therapy

Lolita Cafe in Ljubljana, Slovenia, designed by Unique Hospitality Concepts

Not too long ago, I complained about the ceilings in my (previous) apartment. Well, I'm allowed paint at my new place (thankfully--two rooms were a somehow-neon baby blue and another was purple with a hot pink accent wall), but there's just one problem: popcorn ceilings. Everywhere. So much popcorn. Even the bathroom wasn't spared; in fact, it got a double dose with the popcorn continuing halfway down the walls. Though I swiftly painted the walls (a lovely serene gray), I can't do much about the ceilings except dream. I still love the simple contrast of a solid colored ceiling, but I've fallen in love with the idea of taking it a step further with a painted pattern or even wallpaper.

Friday, August 22, 2014

brewing kombucha at home

I've been enjoying kombucha for a couple of years but at 4-5 bucks a pop, it was becoming an expensive habit. After doing a little research, I decided to start making my own. If you've never had kombucha, it is a slightly tart and fizzy beverage made by fermenting tea with a SCOBY, or symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. Fermenting the tea creates a delicious drink with tons of healthy probiotic bacteria which is great for digestion. I've always been intimidated by homebrewing, but it turns out that making your own kombucha isn't hard at all. All it takes are a few basic supplies and about 30-45 minutes each week to create your own delicious and affordable kombucha.

On Supplies:
I recommend using a 1-gallon jar for brewing your kombucha but you can also use two 2-quart jars and two scobies if you prefer. For bottling my kombucha, I just used bottles I had saved from store-bought kombucha, but 16-ounce swing top bottles work very well. You can get these from almost any brewing supply store. You can also use mason jars or juice bottles, as long as they are airtight (you can check this by filling the container with water, sealing it and turning it on its side. If it doesn't leak, it is airtight enough.) For your first brew, it is best to use black tea or a mostly-black tea blend until your scoby gets a little stronger. After that, you can experiment with green, white, or oolong. Oily teas like chai, Earl Grey, or Ceylon teas should not be used to brew kombucha.

Preparing Your Kombucha

1 gallon glass jar
cheesecloth or paper towels
rubber bands
small saucepan
large measuring cup (an 8-cup measure works well)
6 16-ounce glass bottles
4 32-ounce glass jars for flavoring (optional)
small funnel for bottling

12 cups of water, divided
4-5 teabags or 4-5 teaspoons of loose tea and a tea sachet
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of starter liquid or plain kombucha
1 scoby (I ordered mine from Kombucha Kamp via Amazon)

Add 4 cups of water to a small saucepan over high heat. When water boils, remove from heat and add tea bags. Steep tea for 5-10 minutes. Remove tea and stir in sugar until it dissolves. Let mixture cool for 10-15 minutes. Once tea mixture has cooled, add it to the 1 gallon jar. Pour 8 cups of water and 1 cup of started liquid or plain kombucha into the jar. Gently place the scoby in the jar and cover with cheesecloth or paper towel and rubber bands. The mixture will need to ferment in a dark, ventilated place for 7-10 days. During this time, the scoby may move to the bottom or side of the jar, which is completely normal. On the 7th day, taste the kombucha by dipping a plastic spoon or cup into the jar or poking a straw down under the scoby. If the mixture does not taste ready, continue to taste it each day until it is tart enough for you.

Flavoring and Bottling Your Kombucha

Once your kombucha has finished fermenting, you can bottle it or ferment it a second time with fresh or frozen fruit, juice, or herbs to add flavor. I like to mix and match stone fruits, berries, lemon juice, and ginger to flavor my kombucha. Some of my favorites are blueberry peach, mango raspberry, mango ginger, and lemon ginger. I don't use exact measurements for adding fruit, but it is recommended to have about 10-30% fruit and 90-70% kombucha or 10-20% juice and 90-80% kombucha for each bottle/jar.

Once your first batch of kombucha has fermented to your desired taste, create another batch of the four-cup tea and sugar mixture following the previous instructions. If you are creating flavored kombucha, prepare your fruits, herbs, or juices. If you are using bottles with a small mouth, make sure that the fruit is chopped finely enough to fit through the mouth or puree fruit in a blender or food processor. Remove the scoby from the 1-gallon jar and set it on a clean plate. Pour 1 cup of the finished kombucha into a measuring cup and set aside. Add diced or pureed fruit, herbs, or juice to clean 16-ounce bottles or jars. Pour the finished kombucha into the bottles through a funnel. If you are bottling plain kombucha, line the funnel with cheesecloth or a paper towel to strain out yeast strands. Leave at least an inch of room at the top so the bottles won't explode. Seal the bottles and store in a dark cabinet. Prepare a new batch of kombucha with the new tea mixture and 1 cup of reserved kombucha like the first batch and store in a dark, ventilated place. Let the bottled plain kombucha sit for 2-3 days to carbonate and then store in the fridge. The flavored kombucha should ferment for 1-2 days before rebottling.

Once the flavored kombucha is done fermenting again, you are ready to bottle. Working with one flavor at a time, pour the kombucha into a measuring cup through a strainer or cheesecloth. Rinse the bottle and pour the finished kombucha back into the bottle through a funnel. Seal the bottles and place back in a dark cabinet to carbonate for 2-3 days before placing in the fridge.

Your scoby should grow another layer with each batch of kombucha. Once the scoby gets very thick, the new layers can be peeled off. They can either be thrown out or composted, used to start another brew jar, or you can give them to a friend with 1 cup of plain kombucha to start their own brew. The scoby may also develop dark brown spots or strands, or translucent white patches, all of which are normal. If your scoby grows fuzzy white, green, orange, or black mold, the kombucha and scoby must be thrown out. If you think dark or white patches are mold, make sure you look at pictures of moldy scoby before tossing it out. If you need to put your kombucha on hold, you can let a batch ferment for up to 6 weeks and either throw out the batch (except for the 1 cup needed to start a new batch) or save it to use in place of vinegar in the kitchen.  Kombucha Kamp and Cultures for Health are both great resources for troubleshooting your scoby and more information on brewing and flavoring kombucha.

Note: Since it is a fermented drink, kombucha does contain a small amount of alcohol (about 0.5%). When flavoring with fruit or juice the kombucha should not sit un-refrigerated for excessive periods of time as it will yield a higher alcohol content.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

summer sunscreen review

If I were going to list my favorite topics of discussion, sunscreen would come in second place (right after the hilarious/adorable/annoying-but-still-precious things my cat does), so this post will be a little longer than usual. I'm very pale, so unprotected sun exposure burns me pretty immediately, but I am ultimately concerned for the long-term health (and, yes, future appearance) of my skin. There have been so many advances in the technology of active ingredients, and even more in the formulas of sunscreens; new versions are no longer chalky, thick, or greasy and some are actually delightful to use. And since we know how damaging unprotected sun exposure can be, there's no reason not to use sunscreen!

Before mini-reviews of the sunscreens I used on vacation, I'd like to make a few notes about sunscreen in general. First of all, I have no trouble using chemical sunscreens (like avobenzone and oxybenzone), though many find them irritating to the skin (they can definitely be more irritating to the eyes though!). Those with sensitive skin might prefer mineral (or "physical") blockers like zinc oxide. These ingredients have a reputation for leaving a white cast on the skin, but newer formulations have decreased that effect. I typically prefer the feel of chemical sunscreens (which work, in simple terms, by absorbing and filtering the rays rather than reflecting them away from the skin, as physical sunscreens do). Most sunscreens these days are broad spectrum, meaning they protect against UVA and UVB rays. While both UVA and UVB cause burns and skin damage (aging and cancer) UVB are primarily responsible for burns while UVA rays can penetrate deeper, causing damage that will be apparent later. SPF is a measure of protection against UVB rays only, and it refers to the number of times longer it will take for your skin to burn than if it were unprotected. I think it's a pretty illogical measure, honestly. For example, on a day when I could get a sunburn in 25 minutes, SPF 50 would protect me against a burn for 1250 minutes, or almost 21 hours. The sunscreen doesn't actually last that long, and the SPF doesn't reflect protect against UVA rays (which are less likely to burn me but are still damaging), and the sunscreen doesn't block 100% of rays anyway. In other words, SPF 30 does not protect twice as well as SPF 15; it actually probably only provides an additional 4% or so of protection. SPF 50 only provides about 5% more protection than SPF 15. That said, I like a high SPF--50 is great. That extra bit of protection seems negligible, but I burn easily and would like to prevent as much damage as I can. Don't let a high SPF mislead you though--you still need to apply generously and apply often. Finally, I'd like to mention vitamin D. A common excuse for not wearing sunscreen is the need for vitamin D, which the body can only produce with the help of UVB rays. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, some bodies need only 5 minutes of exposure per day, and some skin can't even produce the daily recommended amount. Furthermore, over exposure to to UVB rays can even deplete vitamin D levels. Vitamin D can be obtained through diet though, which may be a more reliable way to get enough. It occurs naturally in many foods, and many foods are D-fortified; or you can take a vitamin D supplement. A doctor can tell you if your vitamin D is low, and the best way for you to get enough. They'll also tell you to wear sunscreen!

Now on to the sunscreens!

1. Neutrogena Beach Defense Lotion SPF 70
The fragrance put me off at first; it's a very artificial citrus scent, like a cleaner.  However, I was generally pleased with its performance. I like the SPF 70, it feels great on the skin, and it did prevent sunburn. It stung quite a bit if it got in my eyes, though, and it's a little pricey per ounce.

2. L'Oréal Advanced Suncare Invisible Protect Dry Oil Spray SPF 50+
I love this sunscreen. The sunscreen comes out in a good, directed mist (nothing like the useless aerosol cloud of the Quick Dry Sheer Finish) and is slightly viscous. It rubs in easily and feels lightweight and wonderful on the skin. The longevity is great, as is the actual sun protection. The scent is kind of strange, but pleasant; it has a mild "sunscreen-y" smell (like the Coppertone Water Babies I used as a kid), but with a good dose of an artificial almond-lemon fragrance and a hint of carrot. (I'm not crazy, I promise.) I would not call this a "dry" oil though; after rubbing it into the skin it won't be slick, but it will feel like you've applied a rich moisturizer. So, wearing it on the beach meant a layer of sand was sure to stick to me. For everyday use, I love to use this on my legs and arms.

3. L'Oréal Advanced Suncare Silky Sheer Face Lotion SPF 50+
This stuff has been my favorite for about a year now. (I mentioned it here; it has since been renamed and repackaged.) My facial skin can be a little picky, and because this provides such good protection I didn't feel the need to switch to something with a higher SPF for a week at the beach. It's lightweight, not greasy, and absorbs completely. I use it daily on my face, neck and chest, arms, and the backs of my hands.

4. Coppertone Sport High Performance Lotion SPF 50
The Coppertone is very no-frills, but highly effective. It is truly water-resistant, and kept my skin protected whether I was in the water or just sweating on the sand. Lightweight, with a light classic "sunscreen" smell.

5. Aquaphor Lip Repair + Protect Broad Spectrum SPF 30
Finding a lip balm that offers more than and SPF of 15 is a challenge, so I was pleased to come across this one, especially at a great price. The squeeze tube is great for summer, too, since it won't melt like a stick or pot.

6. NO-AD Sport Lotion SPF 50
This was my boyfriend's pick. In his words, "it's simple and it works." It takes some effort to rub in, but it isn't too perfume-y, it's lightweight, and has a great SPF. Plus, it's a great value; a 16-ounce bottle is about the same price as sunscreens half its size. NO-AD is a little hard to find in stores around Louisville, but it's easy to find online and in stores near beaches.

7. L'Oréal Advanced Suncare Silky Sheer Lotion SPF 100
I found bottles of this sunscreen with its old name and old packaging on sale, but the formula is unchanged. I love the high SPF, and the fragrance is nice and this lotion feels lovely on the skin. It is pretty thick, and takes a little bit of effort to rub in. I had two big problems with this product. First, while it leaves no white cast on the skin immediately after application, after a while it starts to...seep back out of the skin. Then you're left with bright white sunscreen on your skin, especially around "bends," like the crook of your arm or at the wrist. Second, that effect was exacerbated by sweating, which isn't exactly helpful for heavy-duty summer needs. This stuff is also pretty pricey per ounce. However, I will continue to use it for something like my afternoon commute, when I need short-term sun protection and won't be sweating. I won't repurchase this at full price.

8. L'Oréal Advanced Suncare Quick Dry Sheer Finish Spray SPF 50+
I thought the spray might be convenient, but it's just the opposite. It requires a lot of shaking (with that metal mixing ball clacking around), it can't be applied directly to the face, and the product comes out in a large cloud rather than a directed spray, so a ton of the sunscreen is lost to whatever is nearby. I like the scent and the way it feels on the skin, but I will not repurchase this. This spray is also really expensive per ounce compared to other, better options.

Monday, August 18, 2014

et cetera

long exposure of the beach at night 

boats along the dock in Morehead City 

pretty sunset on our last night

boats on the sound

rainstorm over the ocean
A handful of shots from our vacation a few weeks ago.

Friday, August 8, 2014

fancy finds: marble

While marble has always been a highly sought-after material for flooring and countertops, lately we've been seeing it crop up all over the place in many forms. From the light switch plates (that would look great against almost-black walls) to the somewhat unconventional pendant lights, here are some of our favorite marble finds.

1. graham and green pendant lights
2. cb2 marble shelf
3. crate & barrel french kitchen utensil crock
4. menu & andreas chunk of marble candleholder
5. floor & decor light switch and outlet plates
6. ckp marble knob
7. fort standard trivet
8. west elm clint mini task lamp
9. h&m tray

Thursday, July 31, 2014

amaretto sour ice pops

The amaretto sour has a perfect blend of sweet and tart that is ideal for a frozen treat. This version isn't too sugary, though, so there's no need to worry about overloading on the sweet before it melts.

Amaretto Sour Ice Pops
1 cup water
3/4 cup sour mix (recipe below)
1/4 cup amaretto
1/4 tsp grenadine

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Distribute among the wells of your pop mold and freeze overnight. Enjoy!

Sour Mix
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed

Heat water and sugar in a small pot on the stove. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Add the lemon juice, cool, then store in an airtight container in the fridge.

We had so much fun putting together this series of boozy ice pops (and eating them), and we hope you enjoyed it too. See the whole series here!