Cement Table DIY

 

Cement table DIY 2

We had an old apricot tree that died a few years ago that I finally got around to cutting down.  I left the stump about 3 feet tall because I knew that I wanted to make some kind of table or chair from it.  The tree was not quite as old as our home, so a bit less than a hundred years but huge for an apricot in this area.  The stump was about four feet in circumference where I cut it off.  The tree ended up being mostly hollow, but it was not a total loss.  I flattened off the top as best I could with the chainsaw and then used my small electric planer to flatten a couple of high spots.

As I researched different types of tabletops, I quickly focused on concrete.  It is very durable, a good thing since this table will be outside all of the time.  Concrete can also be colored thru the use of tints and dyes added to the concrete when it is mixed.  It can also be colored by using acid washes after the concrete is removed from the forms.

There are tons of websites and videos on Youtube that can help you find a design that you like.  It was during this research that i found DIY Pete.  This is a great web site and a Youtube channel with tons of information that was instrumental in helping me end up with a beautiful creation.

This really is an easy project to do over a weekend.  You will only need a few basic tools.

  • Skill Saw
  • Drill with bit to pre-drill holes
  • Measuring Tape
  • Level
  • Paper Towels
  • Gloves
  • 5 gallon bucket
  • Paint Brush

You will need the following materials:

  • Melamine – 4 x 8 sheet
  • Silicone
  • Concrete – one or two bags
  • Concrete reinforcement wire
  • Screws
  • Acid Stain

All of the materials can be purchased at your local big box or local hardware store.  The sheet of melamine was plenty for me to make the forms for the table and for the two stools.  You will also need something to cut the reinforcing wire to the correct shape.  I used my angle grinder with a cutoff disc.  A hacksaw would also work, but is slow.

The first step is to cut the melamine to the size for your tabletop.  In the pictures below I will be showing the steps I used for the chair seats.  I found the chairs I wanted to use at a yard sale.  The tops were ok for use inside, but I wanted them for the metal frame.  I removed the chair seats and used them to get my measurements to cut the melamine.

I made the decision to make the seats thicker than the originals, partly for the added stability and to have a bit more material for the wire to reinforce.  Whatever thickness you use, don’t forget to add 3/4″ for the thickness of the melamine form.

Secure the sides of the form to the bottom of the seat form by first pre-drilling all of the holes.  The melamine can sometimes split when you screw directly into it.  Attach the sides, making sure to keep everything as flat as possible.

Use the paper towels to clean out the form.  Apply the silicone caulk around the inside corners.  You can use a caulk tool to smooth out any uneven spots or just use your finger.  Be careful to clean up any spills in the form.  Let the caulk set up while you mix up your concrete.

Follow the directions for your concrete.  Add the water first to your 5 gallon bucket.  This will help ensure that all of the concrete is fully mixed.  Slowly add the concrete, mixing it until you have about 1/2 of a bucket.  The concrete may seem a bit dry, but don’t add any water.

Pour about half of this mix into your form.  If you haven’t done so already, put your gloves on.  Press the wet concrete evenly around the form.

1541315 (1)Cut your reinforcement wire to size.  It should be an inch or two smaller on all sides when placed into the form.  Press it lightly into the concrete.  Pour the rest of your mixed concrete on top of the wire.  Spread it around evenly.  Use a scrap piece of wood to level your concrete in the form.  When doing this, it is critical that your form is sitting level otherwise your concrete will flow to one side.  Once everything is level, shake the form to vibrate any bubbles out of the wet concrete.  If you used a drill to mix your concrete, you will be surprised how much air will rise out of it.9641792 (2)

That is all for now.  Let your form sit at least a day before you try to remove it.

It is always surprising to me how fast the concrete will begin to set up.  After you have let it cure for a day or two, flip it carefully over.  Start taking out the screws.  Carefully pry the sides away.  At this point the concrete will still be quite soft.  If there are any blemishes or rough edges, use a sanding block to smooth things out.

I opted to stain the concrete with an acid stain instead of the dyes mixed into the concrete directly.  For staining the concrete, you will definitely want to be outside and wear some old clothes, gloves and safety glasses.  Wet the concrete with a cup or two of water.  Apply the stain according to the directions supplied.  For the stain that I used, I put it in a spray bottle to apply it.  Pouring the stain into a smaller container and using a cheap paint brush also works fine.  I used a couple of 2″ chip brushes from Harbor Freight to apply heavier coats in spots.  Also, remember that this is an acid.  Use the appropriate safety gear at all times.5909390

When you first apply the stain, it will foam and fizz.  The colors will not look at all like what you are expecting.  Don’t worry, the final color will not appear until nearly the end.  I found with this stain that I got a darker final color if I added a couple of additional coats of stain.

To rinse off the concrete I mixed a bucket of water and a small amount of ammonia to neutralize any remaining acid.  I lightly brushed this mixture onto the surface.  Follow the directions for whatever stain you end up using.

To seal the concrete I used a concrete sealer that I picked up at the local big box hardware store.  Just brush on a couple of coats and let dry between applications.

For the table I did everything the same as for the seats.  Although, for the umbrella hole, I sealed a small piece of pvc pipe in the center of the form.  I hope you agree that the final result ended up quite nice.  The table has been a great addition to our backyard.

Cement Table DIY

Silverware Drawer Organizer DIY

A magical thing happens the longer you are married.  The same may happen to those of you who are single, but I have not experienced that for many years.  Anyway, every time I open our silverware drawer everything in there seems to have multiplied.  There are more spoons and more forks!  Though I can never seem to find what I need when I need it.

We have had a small drawer organizer, like the ones you can get from Walmart or the local dollar store.  It is functional only if there is not a lot of items to organize.  Unfortunately, we passed that point quite some time ago.  Since each storage section is overflowing, Viv thinks it is ok to just dump the silverware from the dishwasher directly into the drawer.  Hey, it’s in the drawer.  Uggh!  It’s enough to make one pull their hair out in frustration.  Since I have no hair to spare, another option is called for.

Before

Before:  What a mess!

I figured that I could improve on the organizer and maybe even get Viv to put things in the correct spot.

I found a couple pieces of particle board that would work just fine.  After measuring the drawer and getting some suggestions from Viv, it was off to the garage to cut up the wood.Drawer Organizer - cut 1

After cutting everything to size, it was time for a trial fit in the drawer.

The test fit was a success!  She liked it.

Test fit and glue cut pieces in drawer.

Test fit and glue cut pieces in drawer.

Next I glued and stapled the pieces together.  I had to be careful at this point.  I did not want to put in too much glue or the squeeze out would have glued the dividers to the drawer walls.  Viv wanted to be able to remove the dividers periodically to allow for cleaning.

After

After:  Much better!  (and easier to put together than I thought it would be)

 

This entry was posted in DIY, Home.

Cheesecake Lemon and Raspberry Flower Pastry

Hello Friends,  It has been a busy summer here at the Smith’s.  We are loving this weather, Summer vacations, slumber parties and trips to the water park.  I was inspired by a video I saw on Facebook that showed how to create these flower pastries. I decided to fill them with lemon and raspberry cheesecake.  YUMMMMM!!  This is super simple and a real WOW.  Great for Sunday Brunch, my favorite kind of project.

Cheese Cake Flower PastryCheesecake Filling
2- 8oz package of cream cheese
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg

Take softened cream cheese and whip in the sugar and vanilla and egg with a mixer until creamy.

Raspberry jam
lemon curd

1 box -Puff PastryCheesecake flower pastry 1

Unfold and roll out puff pastry dough

Cheesecake Flower Pastry 2

Cut into 6 equal squares

Cheesecake Flower Pastry 3

With a small knife, cut the corners about 1/2 inch in.

Cheesecake Flower Pastry 4

Add a spoonful of cheese cake mixture.

Cheesecake Flower Pastry 5

Add a spoonful of raspberry jam or lemon curd.

Cheesecake Flower 6

Take two opposite corners and pinch together.

Cheesecake flower pastry 7

Take the other two corners and pinch them together. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Brush with an egg wash to get perfect golden brown.

Cheesecake flower #9

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 min or until golden brown.  The cheese cake will be soft when you first take the pastries out of the oven. Once they cool off they will set.

Spicy Cornbread Waffles

Ever had one of those days when you have worked all day and you feet are sore and all you want to do is sit down and not have to think about anything.  This is a simple recipe you can make as fancy as you want or just plain and simple.  I love a cornbread that is loaded with green chilis, corn and cheese, so if you make it a waffle iron and smother it with chili and cheese I am in heaven.

Spicy Corn Bread Waffles. www.ourlifeinspired.com

Cornbread:
1 box Jiffy Cornbread mix
1/2 cup milk
1 can diced green chilis
1 can cream of corn
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 egg
Mix just until combined.  Spray waffle iron with cooking spray so the waffles don’t stick and cook according to you waffle makers directions.  Mine is pretty old so I have to just keep an eye on it.*****Time saver tip-  Use your favorite canned chili and have dinner on the table in less than 20 min.Chili:
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Cup Onion- chopped
1 Tablespoon Garlic- minced
1/4 Cup Green Pepper- chopped
1/4 Cup Serrano Pepper- chopped
1 Jalapeno Pepper- Chopped
1 lb Ground Turkey
28 oz Crushed  Tomatoes
16 oz can Kidney Beans- drained
16 oz can Navy Beans- drained
1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Tablespoon Chipotle powder
2 Cups Chicken Stock
1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 1/2 Teaspoons Italian Seasoning

Add olive oil and onion and ground turkey to large pot.  Saute until onion is translucent and meat is browned.  Add peppers and garlic, saute an additional 5 min.  Add remaining ingredients. Simmer for 1 hour.

 

How to build a Wood Fired Oven

Backyard Oven

Beginnings…

So I had been baking bread for a number of years and collecting many recipe books on the craft of artisan bread.  Many of these authors discussed the different options for baking bread.  The topic of wood fired ovens kept popping up.  I was intrigued.  I had never thought about baking bread outdoors.  I guess it could be done in a dutch oven over a fire or with charcoal, but what was this oven that they kept talking about.

That stayed in the back of my mind for a while until one day at work (I worked in a book store at the time) I read an article in Mother Earth News that discussed how simple it is to build your own oven.  I thought that there is no way that it could be so easy.  After more research and finding that a “typical” masonry oven could easily cost tens of thousands of dollars, there was no way I could afford to build something like that (remember – bookstore).

If you follow the link above, you will see some great pictures and get some great instruction on building a very simple “mud oven”.  This may sound odd, trust me, I thought it was really weird at first.  I kept reading, then discovered that the author of that article, Kiko Denzer, had also written a book on the topic.  Build Your Own Earth Oven, has a wealth of information on how achievable it is for anyone to have their own oven.

 

Pizza Party at the Smith’s

Everyone NEEDS one of these is their backyard!

This oven has been one of the most rewarding projects we have ever done.  It was really fun to build as you can see here.   We have enjoyed countless Pizza Parties with Friends and Family over the years.  This oven will cook a Pizza in about 1-2 min.  Dave has perfected his pizza dough and marinara sauce recipes.  Dave tells me his marinara recipe is coming soon!

Dave starts his dough the night before and divides them into 200 gram dough balls.  That way it is easy to grab one and roll it out just as you need it.

Step 1: Roll out dough and place on a pizza peel with a little corn meal underneath.  Other wise you will not get it off the peel and into the oven.

Step 2: With a pastry brush, brush olive oil around the dough edge.
Step 3: Add marinara sauce. Leave about an inch border.

Step 4: Add a little cheese
Step 5: Add your yummy toppings.  The secret to this style of pizza is less is more.  Only use a few toppings.  I like to be able to savor the flavor of everything.  If you add too much or too many toppings the crust will not cook evenly.  Burnt edges and doughy center kills the pizza excitement quickly.
Add a little more cheese
Put pizza in oven and watch as it turns golden brown.  1-2 min
Make sure you keep an eye on it while it is baking.  You want to remove the pizza just as it starts to char slightly around the edges.  With a little practice you will be making the best pizzas of your life!
Slice it up and watch it disapear
If you are interested in building one of these, we would love to answer any questions.

#backyardpizzaoven

Ravioli Lasagna

I love a good Lasagna or Ravioli with a side of garlic bread.  So I decided to make both at the same time.  I call in Lasagna Ravioli.  It is a combo of my two favorite pastas surrounded with layers of tomatoes, spinach and melty cheeses.  

Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef
1 small onion,diced
1- 14 oz can of your favorite pasta sauce
1 carton of cottage cheese
1 egg
2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1- 10 oz package frozen diced spinach
1- 24 oz package of frozen cheese ravioliDirections:
Brown ground beef with diced onion.  Drain dripping and add pasta sauce. Set aside.  cook frozen spinach following package directions.  strain the excess water out and set aside. I a bowl combine cottage cheese, egg, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and drained spinach., set aside.

In a 9 x 13 casserole pan put 3/4 cup of the meat mixture in the bottom of the pan and spread around.

Next layer the frozen ravioli all over the pan. No need to cook or thaw ravioli
spread the spinach cheese mixture over the ravioli.
repeat the layers again until you run out of space in your pan or ingredients.  Top with remaining mozzarella cheese and bake at 350 for 35-40 min.

LuAnn’s Awesome Salsa

Picture

I have been addicted to this salsa for years.  LuAnn is Dave’s cousin and she is an amazing lady!  Her salsa recipe is soooo good.  I tease Dave and tell him one of the reasons I married him was so I could be related to LuAnn. I am so glad she allowed me to share it with all of you.  I plant lots of peppers and tomatoes in my garden just so I can make this salsa.  The best thing about this recipe is you can make it as hot or mild as you like.

6 qts tomatoes- peeled & diced
12 or more chilis & peppers (variety best) 2-3 should be jalapenos
6 sweet bell peppers (green and red)- chopped
3 onions- chopped
5 cloves of garlic- minced
3 Tablespoons salt
2 cups white vinegar
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cilantro

Where rubber gloves when removing seed from hot peppers and save the seeds to add later- they are what add the hotness.

In a large pot start to simmer the tomatoes, peppers, onion and garlic.  While simmering add: salt, vinegar, sugar, cumin powder, oregano and cilantro.  Simmer for a total of 45 min from start to finish. Add hot pepper seeds if desired. Add 5-6 Tablespoons of corn starch to a bit of water and stir into salsa to thicken.

fill up mason jars and cold pack 45 min for quarts or 35 min for pints.  If you are not sure how to cold pack.  It is really easy.  Here is a link to a free kindle book. 
        

Hope you enjoy this as much as we do.  Let me know how it turns out. 

Buckets of Love

Are you ready for Valentines Day?  It is a fun holiday to celebrate with the little ones.  I love to give the kids a fun treat for Valentines.  This is such a fun way to let them know they are loved and they can use the bucket to keep their pencils and pens in.
This fun printable is free for you to use.  Just click on the image below.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

This soup is a huge hit at our house.  It is full of yummy bacon, cheddar, sour cream and of course potatoes.  It is a definite comfort food.  Perfect for warming you up after being out in the cold.  This recipe can be made on the stovetop in about 20 minutes. It is also great in the crockpot in a couple of hours.
Ingredients:
1- 10.5 oz can cream of chicken soup
2 cups chicken broth
6 slices of bacon, crumbled (extra for garnish if desired)
1 small onion, diced
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 cup sour cream
1- 32 oz bag frozen southern style hash browns
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
In a large pot, saute onion in olive oil until translucent.  Add Chicken soup, chicken stock, bacon, garlic powder and frozen hash browns.  Simmer until potatoes are desired tenderness.  Add cheese and sour cream.  Once cheese is melted and sour cream is mixed in it is ready.  *don’t add sour cream until just before you serve.  If it gets too hot is could curdle.

To make in slow cooker place everything but sour cream in slow cooker. Stir together and allow to cook for 2 hours on low.  Perfect for cold winter evenings serve with a fresh roll or in a bread bowl.   YUMMY!

Last Minute Christmas Gift- Apron in a Jar

Do you still have some names on your list that need to be marked off.  This is a simple last minute gift.  Easy to put together and fun to receive.

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All you need is: mason jar, apron, cookie cutter, scrap of fabric for bow and a recipe. This time of year you can find aprons everywhere.  I found these cute ones at Seagull Book. I included one of my cookie recipes.  The free printables are attached.

Vanilla Bean Christmas Cookie Recipe. www.ourlifeinspired.com

 

Andrew's Chewy Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookie. www.ourlifeinspired.com

 

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Christmas in a Jar

The smell of oranges, cinnamon and other spices mulling on the stove is a definite sign that Christmas is almost here.  I love Cinnamon pinecones at christmas time.  I love the smell of gingerbread baking and watching the snow fall.  My mom would simmer this mixture on the stove when I was small so it always reminds me of my childhood and the magic of Christmas.

This year the kids and I decided to make a huge batch of simmering mix.  We started with a few oranges, lemons and limes.  Sliced them thin and put them in the food dehydrator.  If you don’t have a food dehydrator you can do it in the oven.  Check out this article at The Kitchn. We took a mixture of dried cranberries, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, star anise and whole allspice.  Mixed it all together and then placed it in small mason jars with the sliced dried citrus.  This is the perfect gift for the neighbors and you can make it way ahead of time because everything is dry.