Sunday, April 26, 2015

Dining Room

One room at a time we are working our way through the craziness, and it is slowly becoming a home. The dining room is the only room we have all of the furniture for, (basically a table and chairs) so we began with that room. Paint, paint,  curtains, and more paint; that is basically the work that had to be done. Oh, and hanging a light fixture. So, here it comes, finished room #1. Woohoo! :)

We will take out the single door on the left of the mirror when we complete the kitchen renovations I think. But for now, I think it will act as a good barrier between the mess and the meals. :) 

Our table and chairs fit perfectly into this room and we finally have a wonderful place to hang our  copper (now a wonderfully oxidized turquoise) pendant light that we bought at the Restore almost 2 years ago.  

We have several very wide windows and we have discovered that curtain rods are ridiculously expensive.  It is a pole for goodness sakes... a bronze pole.  Why do I have to pay almost 40 dollars for it!?  I have some go-to places for cheap or second hand rods, but because we needed such a long one (120 inches min) I wasn't having any luck.  Thankfully, Simon is better at thinking outside the box about these things.  So, he made a curtain rod for me.  He will be writing a blog post on the particulars soon, because it was really an awesome project and a fraction of the cost of buying one from the store.  Here are a couple of close ups though.  

I took this photo to show that it is a solid piece, not the usual overlapping poles.  

I love how the dining room turned out.  It feels really nice to know that one room is complete.  Now, on to the next one.  

Kitchen Update

Lots of people have asked us lately how the kitchen is going.  We laugh because well... it isn't going anywhere for another couple of months at least.  We are currently saving money to pay for the renovations, and planning out exactly what we are wanting to do.
 I thought, though, that it wouldn't hurt to give a progress report.

The plan for the space, as I have mentioned in previous posts, is to convert the kitchen and one bedroom into a large, open kitchen and den space.  That will provide us with the open feel we enjoy, and a better entertaining space.  Before we moved in we tore down the wall that divided those two spaces and took out the chimney that was covered up inside that wall.  We have not yet taken out the fireplace completely, because it proved to be a job too big for mere human hands, and, pressed for time, we needed to wait to arrange borrowing/renting a power tool to complete the job.

Another pre-move in renovation that took place in this part of the house was the installation of a support beam on the ceiling and two corresponding wall beams.  The wall we tore down was a supporting wall.  So the second floor had to be reinforced one way or another.  We decided to make it a design feature, as well as a necessary aspect.  We found this awesome place called Old American Lumber.  They find old barns and churches from which to salvage floor boards and just any old wood in good condition they can get their hands on, re-milling it, and selling it.  Everyone we worked with was very friendly and definitely shared our passion for old wood.  We wanted some old wooden beams to use for the ceiling support, and two matching ones to frame the room and bring the two spaces together.  We ended up buying one 14 foot beam that measured 6'x8' and two 10 foot beams measuring 8'x8'.   Simon and a contractor we had met during our home buying process cut and installed the 6'x8' beam to support the second floor.  Our plan had been to use the other two as posts to support the beam, but after looking at them in person, we decided they would protrude from the wall too far.  Instead, we cut one of them down the middle and used the two halves for the side posts.  We, of course, were left with one full beam.  We do not have an exact plan for that yet, but I am pretty confident it will work its way into the renovations somewhere along the way.

Here is a close up of the beam.  It is a little darker in real life than it looks in this picture. 

 This is Buddy and Simon measuring and cutting the beams to size in our back yard.  

We had not planned to cut a beam in half, so we didn't have the perfect tool for the job on hand and we didn't want to spend another day on this project.  So they worked with what they had and it really turned out well.  I am glad we decided to handle cutting it ourselves rather than taking it back to the lumber place and having them do it.

Here is a halvsies shot.  The temporary supporting wall had to remain up until the ceiling was supported with the beam.  So this was the overlapping period.  You can see the top beam and the far right post are already installed.  
 Here is a close up of the left side (the kitchen is behind me) once the beams were all up and the supporting temporary wall was removed.

Here is the full, finished set.  Obviously, it will be a little easier to visualize once we have the wall by the door rebuilt (there was a pantry there that had to go when the wall came down) and the rest of the room and flooring finished.  All in all, we were really pleased with how the beams turned out and we were incredibly happy to have found Old American Lumber.  We have a lot of wood work we hope to do upstairs, so we will be going back to them for sure! 

The kitchen itself is very livable, albeit far from perfect. (it does look better now than it does in the above photo...)  It is, quite frankly, straight out of the 1940's, bringing with it all the glory that time period had to offer.  So, once the time is right, we will gut the kitchen, cabinets, floor, appliances (praise the lord) and all.  We have a pretty solid idea of what we would like to see happen in the kitchen, and we are in the process of figuring out what aspects are feasible in our budget, and what makes the most sense in terms of investing in the property.  Every penny we put into this house, we want to be able to get back when we sell it, and more.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Carrot Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Another perfect time to bake a cake: Easter!  Well, in my opinion, any holiday that revolves around a meal is fair game for cake baking.  The fact that we planned to spend easter alone, just the two of us, should not have to factor in at all!  
Carrot cake is probably my favorite type of cake, but I have always been a little wary to try baking one myself.  Something about the main ingredient being a vegetable made me feel like it could go terribly wrong.  But, this recipe sounded really simple and I have been on a roll with cakes lately so, I thought I would give it a try.  One benefit of baking for just you and your husband: no one will know if you flop :)
I first saw this cake recipe on a blog via Pinterest.  I changed a few things around, but not many, and only for convenience sake.  


3 cups carrots, finely shredded
1 cup applesauce (I used cinnamon applesauce)
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 eggs
4 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves

16 oz cream cheese, softened
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
6 cups powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 350°F. 

Grease and 2 four 8-inch round cake pans. Set aside.
Finely shred and chop carrots. ( I used baby carrots because I didn't have to peel them, and I had them on hand.  I also ran my carrots through the grating blade on my food processor and then re chopped them all briefly with the regular blade.  It gave them a good consistency I think)

In a large bowl, combine liquid ingredients.
Add in the sugars, whisking until combined. 
Stir in carrots. 
Add dry ingredients in several batches until well combined and no streaks remain. Divide batter between prepared cake pans.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5-10 minutes or until easy to handle. Transfer cakes to a wire rack and allow them cool completely.
Wrap cakes well in plastic and chill for several hours or overnight. 

In a large bowl beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla and cinnamon until well incorporated.  
Add 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time until fully incorporated. 

Ice the top surface of the bottom cake and then carefully place second layer on top.  I run a layer of icing around any gab that is between the two layers so it is more even and easier to ice the sides later.  
Then, Ice the entire cake, beginning with a large portion on the top and working your way out from the middle and down the sides.  I did a messy, whipped texture, because the frosting was so thick and sturdy.  Some frosting wont hold its shape well enough, but this frosting was wonderful to work with! 
Chill cake until ready to serve. 

If you follow the link to the blog, you will notice that the original recipe made a 4 layer, square cake, and called for 4 cake pans, containing much thinner cakes of course.  I strayed from this for 2 reasons.  The main one, I do not own 4 cake pans, round or square, and I did not want to have to bake 2 batches, cooling and cleaning the pans in between.  Second, 4 layer cakes contain a lot of layers of frosting.  And usually I just find them too rich; regardless of how delicious the frosting may be.  I still could have cut these two thicker layers in half and it would have yielded a 4 layer cake, although this was definitely less of a hassle, and probably cut down on the richness.  

As I said earlier, this frosting was really wonderful to work with.  Im going to definitely use it for other recipes in the future! However, the inside layers on the slices would have probably been more defined and prettier if I had done what you are supposed to do: Spread the frosting between the cakes, as well as a thin later on the whole cake, and chill it again before frosting the final coat. But I had waited long enough for the cakes to chill so they would be easy to frost, I didn't have the time or patience to chill them even longer.  Regardless, it turnout out well enough for a first carrot cake go-around.  
We ended up having another couple over for Easter lunch; Our friends Patrick and Diana, who, like us, don't have family in town or close by.  I also took the cake to our bible study group on Tuesday, so it was all eaten, and not just by me and Simon.  

Tripple Chocolate Buttermilk Pound Cake

I wish there were more occasions for  bakeing cakes.  I really enjoy doing it.  Simon and I just would not be able to eat an entire cake alone, despite, what would be, our best efforts, and most of it would  to end up going to waste. So anytime there is a party or get together where cake is appropriate, I volunteer.  And then the hunt for the perfect recipe begins.
Ever since Pinterest came along, I have a healthy stockpile of recipes waiting to be tried. One such recipe I have been excited to bake (and taste) I saw on the cover of  Southern Living Magazine a few months back: "Tripple Chocolate Buttermilk Pound Cake".  It looked like chocolate paradise so, I had to try it at my next opportunity. 
I took it to an "our job is done" dinner for our minister search committee, and several people asked me for the recipe.  So, here it is:


2 cups all-purpose cake flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa 
1/2 tsp baking powder 
1 tsp table salt
1 1/2 cups butter, softened to room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar 
large eggs, at room temperature 
1 1/4 cups buttermilk 
2 teaspoons instant espresso 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1 cup 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate morsels 

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate morsels 
3 tablespoons butter 
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 cup powdered sugar 
to 2 Tbsp. buttermilk 
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325°.  Using shortening, grease and flour  a 12-cup bundt pan. 
Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. 
Beat 1 1/2 cups butter in a medium bowl at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add granulated sugar, beating until light and fluffy. 
Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yolk disappears. 
Combine 1 1/4 cups buttermilk, espresso and vanilla.  Add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately to egg mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat at a low speed after each addition. Fold in bittersweet chocolate morsels. Pour batter into a well-greased pan. Sharply tap pan on the counter to remove air bubbles
Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack 20 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on rack.

 Prepare glazes:

Chocolate Glaze: 
Combine semisweet chocolate morsels, 3 Tbsp butter, and 1 Tbsp corn syrup in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave on MEDIUM power (50% power) for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until morsels begin to melt, stirring after 1 minute.  Stir until smooth.  Stir in 1/2 tsp. vanilla.

 Buttermilk Glaze: 
Whisk together powdered sugar, 1 Tbsp. buttermilk, and 1/4 tsp vanilla in a small bowl until smooth. Add up to 1 Tbsp buttermilk, if desired. 
Drizzle warm glazes over cooled cake.