Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lace Candle Jars - Pinterest Winter Challenge

Much to the dismay of my darling husband, I have been collecting glass jars to hold candles since I used them to light the pathway of my 26th birthday BBQ. I recycled most of them when we moved but then started over again. I have even made purchase decisions based on the jar size/shape. Before you put me in the crazy pile, I should point out that I am generally not interested in cleaning gross jars so my collection is not much larger than 10 and, a you will soon see, most are tea light friendly. I love the simplicity of the glass jars for illuminating my balcony in the summer. So, when I saw this pin I knew I had to dress up my jar collection
Mason jars wrapped in lace with a votive candle inside

In the past, I have been overloaded with inspiration after one of Sherry and Katie's Pinterest Challenges. However, I never had a project to add. This time I have two which came together in the right time frame to participate. In this post, I will detail my new candle holders. The other project is the final reveal of my white and grey chairs which will get their own post. If you want to read the rules and check out the hosts and other participants head over to YHL for over 600 links and be prepared to get sucked into the creativity. You have been warned.

Full disclaimer, I have since unregistered myself from Pinterest after reading a couple of articles pertaining to the legal protection of its user agreement. Specifically, the company puts all the risk onto users for any potential copyright infringement. This recent Forbes article links back to a couple of others and explains the situation pretty well, comparing Pinterest to Napster. I don't want to rain on the Pinterest party but I just do not feel comfortable promoting a site I am no loner happy to use. 

So, with the above inspiration photo in mind, I headed out to my local secondhand shop in search of a doily or two to spruce up my jars. In life, this was a spontaneous project that I did not intend to blog so I don't have before photos of jars (think small olive and sauce jars) or the doily I ended up buying (it was yellowed and stained but large enough and with distinctive patterns I could cut out. 

This is a really simple project that can set the mood for a casual evening get together. It also seems to be a popular addition to an outdoor shabby chic styled wedding. Most importantly it is cheap and easy with a capital E. Here are my jars in action:


You will need:
Modge Podge (or any brand of decoupage glue) 
paint brush (small but does not need to be fancy as you will ruin it with glue)
glass jars (save these as you use them)

My total cost was 0.50 EUR cents for the doily! I had the glue and brush from prior use and jars are all recycled. 

So, once you have gathered your supplies, set them out so you have a feel for the different sizes and can approximate what bits of the lace pattern you want to use on each one. I started by picking a non-stained section of lace and snipping it out. I found it was super easy to separate the patterns in my lace so that is what I did. You can see my inspiration photo used a more delicate lace and just wrapped it around the jar. If I had bought new lace by the yard, this would have been fine but since I used an antique doily that may have been created by hand, the pattern was larger and more defined and I wanted to really highlight its intricacies. So, I snipped, figured out placement and then brushed a thin layer of glue on the jar. I then stuck the lace on and applied a thicker layer of glue over it. Keep in mind that the glue will make the fabric thicker, feel free to use that to your advantage in designing the jars. In the jar below, you can see, I left a bit of the fabric standing over the top. This bit was fully covered in glue so it would stand on its own like that. For fire safety, I will only use a small tea light in that jar to be sure the flame is no where near the fabric.

My lace doily had three distinct patterns. The parts that looked like flowers, the parts that looked like paisley and then a cross hatch pattern in the middle. You can see a bit of an imperfection in the center of the large flower below. This was the biggest flower and fit perfectly on my largest jar so I decided I was fine with the imperfection. After all this was a recycled project and I was going for an antique look for my cake party anyway.

Here is the finished product acting as a centerpiece on my dining table. I think these little guys will get to stay indoors now. You may notice I mixed in a few non-lace covered candle holders, both types are from IKEA. While the tall candle stick is an orphan since its mate broke a couple of years ago and has since been discontinued, the small tea light holders can still be purchased and are the flip side of the holders used in the first photo with purple candles. They cost less than 1 EUR each and can be used for tapers or tea lights and I love this about them.

And that's it, low effort, high impact. Now that I used these jars, I will recommend only using tea lights inside them. I used small pillars (also from IKEA) in 3 of the bigger jars and by the end of the day noticed the rims were black. In the photo below, those flowers are in a vase but it looks like they are in the largest jar which may be a great alternative use for these. 

Did you also make something for the latest Pinterest challenge? Add a link in the comments...I want to see. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Last Weekend

 Last weekend I had a cake party. More appropriately and in German, I invited some friends over for "Cafe und Kuchen." Cafe und Kuchen is a German thing in my mind and I associate it with Omas (grandmas). It's essentially eating cake and drinking coffee in the afternoon, so I have no complaints about the concept but I think the Oma association comes from the fact that they are the ones who have time for such a thing. To be fair, it is mostly a Sunday afternoon thing for most. Anyway, enough rambling I am no expert, I just like cake...and coffee...and friends. So, I decided to organize a cake party of my own. P was here for the weekend and kindly drove me to a supermarket where we bought lots of ingredients for an afternoon of baking.

I planned to bake 5 cakes in all, 4 using authentic recipes from German Omas and one following a recipe from the internet, Guinness chocolate cake as a nod to the upcoming St. Patrick's Day that Germans do not celebrate. Last summer, for my birthday, my wish list included baking items and family cake recipes and my colleagues really came through. However, this was the first time I was getting around to actually trying to bake these cakes. Unlike the internet, family recipes tend to have less instruction and leave more room for interpretation which was pretty intimidating for me. Also, each cake called for 4 eggs so 30 eggs, 1.5 kg of flower, 300g nuts, Guinness, cream, and lots of sugar later I had everything I needed to spend the day baking. And then this happened...

Luckily that had nothing to do with my baking. I dropped a flower pot that had been holding spare change while moving something in the kitchen. The kitchen which I had so thoroughly vacuumed just hours before. You can also see we have replaced the industrial strength wet/dry vac with a Dyson which is A-mazing. Minor set back but moving on to cakes...

I found the inspiration for this Chocolate Guinness cake online and it did not disappoint. It was rich and moist and even though I made mine in a different pan than suggested, I did not have a problem getting the intended results. I didn't get leftovers either as P took the rest to his office. I will make this again even if it is not near St. Patrick's day.

This is a Fanta cake, make with Fanta orange soda. It kind of looks like a volcano so I just went with it when adding the glaze and let it pool at the base. The cake and glaze both have a slight hit of orange but more in the way that it tastes fresh than in an overwhelming this is an orange flavored cake. It is also very moist and tastes like a classic birthday cake. We got to enjoy the leftovers for breakfast at our department meeting Monday morning.  The only part I would change is the frosting. I think an orange butter cream using either a fresh orange or orange buttermilk would be better than the glaze. I would also try this as a cupcake.

The apple cake and whipped cream. I cannot take credit for this as I was too lazy to peel apples so this only made it onto the menu when P volunteered to do the peel removal. This is a German classic. Unlike an apple pie, this is actually half cake topped with the fruit of 6 apples. It was moist and delicious and there were sadly no leftovers. This was the winner for best cake best on the basis of the small piece of the cake chart remaining (my guests were mostly researchers, and the German term for a pie chart is cake chart, you really have to turn your nerd on for that one).

The last cake is not exactly a cake and I have no idea what to call them in English. I made the dough on Saturday, balled it up and refrigerated overnight. On Sunday I rolled it out and made the egg white and nut filling then cut, filled and rolled like mini croissants before popping them in the oven to bake. I had lots of filling leftover so I tried to make some meringue cookies in my whoopie pie pan which turned out to be an epically delicious fail that got washed down the sink because I didn't grease the pan first. The actual dessert was delicious and approved by the recipe owner.

In addition to baking, I had fun setting up the party. As I mentioned the idea of a cake party makes me thing of grandmas, I went with a bit of a vintage theme. I was super excited to buy an antique tea pot and some matching dishes (top left corner of below photos) for the occasion. P thought they were redic but I love them. I also picked up a lace doily and deconstructed the lace to decorate my jar collection. I think I will write that up in its own post for the current Pinterest Challenge since I got my inspiration for that from the internet.

The final cake I do not have a solo shot of is in the bottom left of the above photo and it was delicious. It is lovingly referred to as Oma Kuchen. It's a dense cake with raisins and chocolate bits. I love it for breakfast and it pairs so well with black coffee. I will be making this again for sure, it is also on my mental list to bake for Christmas in RI. I think nuts would be a great addition and cranberries could substitute nicely for raisins.

All in all, there were zero cake fails which makes me so so happy. We also successfully entertained 15 people in the living room and everyone had a place to sit. This Kuchen party did not turn into a K├╝che party! 

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Chairs 2 and 3

When moving in with a partner, most people have the problem of duplicate belongings. Two beds, 2 TVs, an extra sofa, 20 glasses, 12 coffee cups, it's a great problem to have. When moving across the Atlantic to your first  apartment as a couple after previously living with roommates, you don't have that problem. In fact, we had exactly the opposite problem. We had nothing. To be fair we had some things. I brought a down comforter (the only thing light enough to vacuum pack in my suitcase. P had a full set of ugly brown dishes (which I still use 5 years later), a 2-person love seat, a life sized cardboard Yeti, an outdoor light fixture, a terrible framed poster of abstract 90s styling and two computers. You may notice we were lacking many essentials, we didn't even have a kitchen sink! As i got acquainted to the BYOK philosophy of Germany apartments, we got "lucky" and scored a free kitchen from friends of P's family who were upgrading. You know the catch is we had to remove the kitchen and it was 3.5 hours away. The whole family got on board, thankfully that included an Uncle who is a master carpenter, and we tore that baby out and loaded it into a U-Haul (but of course not because U-Haul is not in Germany). The U-Haul overnighted at P's parents' as we made the drive home to prepare for its arrival the next day. While there, P's mom took the occasion to unload some furniture she thought we could use. Included in this surprise furniture was a pair of bentwood chairs with cane seats. They were well worn with a dark wood stain that had all but been worn off in places. But, they matched each other and they were perfect because we were planning to host Thanksgiving and had a serious shortage of seating. We used them in Braunschweig, we took them with us when we moved to Mannheim and then we packed them up and moved again. They were thrown about, stepped on, left on the balcony, and generally abused. I never gave them a second glance. Then I started getting my found chairs in line and realized these guys could use a good makeover. This weekend, I hand sanded each of them and applied a couple of coats of white lack to each. 

Since the majority of the chair was a round surface, I used a round brush instead of the foam roller. I made this decision based on the photo on the package of brushes/foam rollers I bought. I think I may break out a foam craft brush for a third coat if there any remaining brush strokes when the paint is fully dry but so far it is looking good. In the photos below, you can see the difference between one and two coats. The closest chair has two coats in case that difference was not clear. 

These two babies are still in progress, hopefully I will have a chance to finish them sometime this week. I noticed the last photos I uploaded from my phone were terrible quality. I loved the Polaroid effect thanks to a Retro Camera app but it did not translate well to the blog. These were also taken on my phone without that app. Hopefully they turn out better. I am still waiting for Instagram to make a droid app. So, anyone else engage in any painting projects this weekend? Any chair make overs? I just found some internet inspiration for a whole new type of upcycled chair but I am trying to resist it until I have actual free time. Anyone know when Instagram becomes Droid friendly?