Front Door Blues, Part I

The other weekend E and I got an itching to whip out those paint brushes again and tackle a weekend project. We've been slowly and steadily tediously painting the wood trim throughout our house, and already painted almost all of the walls when we moved in two years ago, so there really isn't that much left to paint. But after reading a few other home improvement blogs (like this one) I felt inspired to spruce up our front door. After all, the front door is actually quite an important part of your house, and according to feng shui experts, is where energy flows in and out. Not to mention it's the first impression someone gets of your house, so why not make it reflect a little of your personality or style?

Although I love the idea of cheerful yellow door, we have beige siding, so that wouldn't help the door pop. Since we have a red roof we thought a red door might work well, but we ended up choosing a dark blue to add some depth to our house. In case you're curious, a blue front door in feng shui represents water and abundance, and is thought to invoke a sense of security, tranquility, and trust. (read more here). We'll have to let you know if we agree, after we test it out!

Here's the color we chose: Planetarium (the darkest chip)

Helpful tip: use a hammer and nail to punch little holes inside the can. This way the lip of the can won't get caked with dried up paint, especially if you plan on reusing the paint on a few occasions. 

Here's our supplies, thanks to the advice of the guys in orange (aka the Home Depot paint station workers)

Behr's Premium Plus Ultra Paint and Primer in One
High density foam roller
my handy dandy sherwin williams tight-spot short-handled brush

And here's what we started with (house numbers removed for safety reasons, and I have no idea why there's a can of bug spray on the front steps or why our little "fisher-price" light is on ... can't wait to update that, although Evan claims it's cute):

We're planning on getting a new storm door somewhere down the line, possibly from a used or outlet store like BMO. It would be nice to actually show off the new blue door with one of those full-glass storm doors. 

Let the painting begin!

Now here's where we started singing the blues ... the blue paint didn't cover very evenly! I don't know if it was using a dark paint over white, the foam roller, or some other unknown problem, but this is what the door looked like after about 2 or 3 coats and then five full coats:
It's safe to say this door needs a few more thin and even coats before we can call her done. Hopefully after I work on her a little more this afternoon, she'll look something like this (minus the wreath and the fancy molding):

Needless to say, to be continued ....

Blue door on brick house from here.

Pumpkin Millet Muffins

I know, it isn't officially fall yet, but we had frost this morning, so I think now is a perfectly suitable time to whip out your comfy vest, fall boots, and your pumpkin puree. 

Now, let me introduce you to my friend Pumpkin Muffin. Well, more specifically, Pumpkin Millet Muffin. This millet muffin is much like it's cousin, regular pumpkin muffin, but with a little added CRUNCH.

You start by toasting the millet in a skillet until it starts to pop, and then you whip up the rest - easy as pie muffin? Ok, that was beyond corny. Or millet-y perhaps?

You see, this is what this type of fall treat can do to a person - cut me off now!!!

Ok, just one more bite ....

Pumpkin Millet Muffins

1/2 cup millet
1 egg
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk (preferably whole)
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 can pumpkin
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin tin.
Heat large skillet over med-hi heat. Add millet and toast, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and just beginning to pop (3-4 min). Transfer to plate.
In a large bowl, whisk egg, sour cream, milk, butter, pumpkin, sugar, brown sugar - set aside.
Whisk flours, baking powder and soda, salt, cinn, etc. and cooled millet in medium bowl, then fold into egg mixture until combined. Spoon into muffin tins.
Bake 22-25 minutes. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then transfer to rack.

For a little behind-the scenes action, here's the baker of these wonderful muffins. As you can see, he is a little excited as well. ... I have a feeling we'll be eating these again soon!

Barrels of Fun

Last week I teased you with a few photo hints as to what we've been up to in our backyard. I bet some of you guessed it, but just in case you're in need of an extra hint, let me just say that I had that ol' polka song stuck in my head the entire time we worked on this project. You know, the one that goes like this: 

Roll out the barrel, we'll have a barrel of fun
Roll out the barrel, we've got the blues on the run
Zing boom tararrel, ring out a song of good cheer 

Now's the time to roll the barrel, for the gang's all here 

Except that this wasn't a beer barrel. Notice the telltale red markings?

... We found ourselves a genuine Napa Valley-original WINE BARREL. 

And we had big plans in store for said wine barrel. Evan had this project on his mind since earlier this spring, so after months of thinking and brainstorming, we were finally ready to get her rolling ...

But before we go too crazy with corny barrel jokes, let me back up a minute and explain a few things. Namely, what we were planning. Since moving to the south Minneapolis area two years ago, we noticed some houses sporting rain barrels situated right under eaves-troughs, waiting to catch the rain. They usually look like this. In case you haven't heard of a rain barrel before, they are quite simply containers (although often of the barrel shape) that harvest the rain water from your roof - then with an attached hose you can water your backyard. These big ol' barrels are known to ease the pain of water bills that spike in the summer due to garden watering, and they're good on the environment too. (I read somewhere that lawn and gardening watering makes up 40% of household water use in the summer!) But we didn't want a big piece of plastic sitting in our yard. If we had a bigger house with a more discrete area where we could hide the barrel or even camouflage it, perhaps we would've rolled with that (there I go again!), but the way our backyard is situated, the barrel would be right in prime patio real estate, so we wanted to keep her looking nice. In fact, we even hoped we could make our new barrel add to the aesthetics of our backyard.

So Evan started looking on trusty ol' Craigslist and soon found that there are a few wine barrel dealers in the Minneapolis area (like this one). We ended up going with By the Barrel, run by a young couple out of their garage. (Their house was pimped out with all sorts of barrel things ... even a rotating composter! Consider us inspired!) Every year they get a shipment or two of barrels straight from wine country out in California, where they are a dime a dozen, then they sell the barrels here where they are more of a novelty. I didn't know this, but vineyards only use a wine barrel once before sending it on it's way (due to flavors soaked up by the wood) so Cali is abundant with used barrels. What a great summer/weekend side-job! I think we might just have to start taking trips to California and selling them ourselves! Just kidding ... maybe. 

We picked up our barrel from By the Barrel for a grand total of $140, and that included a DIY rain barrel kit: a connector piece with a filter, and two spigots, one with an on/off valve. $140 for a 59 gallons barrel didn't sound too bad to us, but we do realize it will take us a while to start seeing enough water-bill savings to offset that cost. For the sake of comparison, we could've gotten a completely finished and ready-to-use barrel from the Barrel Depot for $199, or we could've picked up a similar kit from them for $129 - but they were a little further away for us and we just got a better vibe from the By the Barrel folks (friendlier and easy to work with). The lesson we learned is that barrels are simply pretty pricey (unless you trek out to wine country). But making a decision that in the end would benefit the environment and also add to the aesthetics of our backyard was the payoff we were most excited about - not the dough we might save in the next few years (which would be an added bonus). And it does feel good to be a little industrious and self-sufficient!

So we happily stuffed our barrel in our car (it juuuust fit, whew!), and headed home enjoying the wonderful vino aroma wafting through the car (good thing we didn't get pulled over!). This is the second time our new hatchback Prius has come in handy! Check out how we used it earlier this summer, here.

Evan wanted to keep the barrel in our house for some continual aroma-therapy.

After rolling the barrel into position in the backyard we decided we needed to elevate her a bit to increase the water pressure, which would enable hose-usage (this is where Evan Mr. Pierson needs to step in and give a science lesson!). So we piled up some cinder blocks but soon realized it might be unnecessarily high, so we knocked 'er down to one layer of blocks. We still have the other four handy in case we decide we need more water pressure. (Cinderblocks = $.98/each at Home Depot)

Getting the base level proved to be the most time-consuming task of the entire project! We placed four old patio pavers on top of the cinder blocks - they were just lying around from the previous owner so it was good to put them to use.

Next up, it was doodle time. Well, not exactly, but Evan did whip out a pencil and trace an old barrel piece (provided from the sellers) to make sure he got the opening just right.

Then he drilled a pilot hole

And went to town sawing that puppy outta there with his Jigsaw

I neglected to take a picture of the next step, but he basically just fit the black filter/attachment piece into the opening (you can see I'm very technical). This is where the water will flow into the barrel, so there is some metal netting in there to catch any debris.

Next Evan made an opening for the "overflow spout"

This way the barrel won't ever get backed up (because that would lead to problems with the gutters). Now if we get a sudden downpour during a rainy season when the barrel is already almost full, the excess water can either stream out, or we could connect another hose and run it along our flower bed. Instant watering!

You can see he also attached the spigot with the on/off knob by doing the same exact process: using a 1 inch diameter drill bit to drill open the hole and simply screw the on/off nozzle in place. 
This is where we will connect the hose! And we stopped up the bung hole opening for obvious reasons.

My least favorite step was sawing off the eaves trough and attaching the bendy one (again, I'm real technical) because you know that sound when you scratch your fingernails on a chalkboard? Well it was that times ten. Yea I know, that's why Evan did it and I ran into the house retreated a couple steps to take a picture. This step wasn't super scientific - we just held up the plastic tube and measured where we wanted to make the cut. I forget what tool Evan used here ... (a little help E?). We screwed her in place for a nice secure fit. If ever too much debris collects in the tube, we can simply unscrew it and clean 'er out.

I forgot to take a final full-length body shot of our barrel, but below you can see how all the attachments went together. Admittedly, the bendy eaves spout isn't the prettiest thing in the world, so maybe we'll make some alterations later on down the road. Or I've even thought of placing a nice big fern on the barrel in the summer. You know, so the focus is on the barrel and not the plastic tubing.

And the hose can coil up nicely between the barrel and our raised bed.

Now we just need some rain so we can test this puppy out!

Here's our budget breakdown:

Cinder blocks $.98 X 8
Patio pavers:  free X 4
Wine Barrel w/ DIY kit:  $140

Any other rain barrel fans out there? Perhaps you've cooked up your own method of collecting water - do tell! Was anyone else running around tonight trying to cover up their outdoor plants and veggies from the impending FROST tonight?! (That's for you Minnesota folks). I have some green tomatoes I'm hoping make it through the night so they can live 'til a RIPE old age? I still have high hopes of freezing tomato sauce!

Find out what our patio looked like last fall!

Teaser: Backyard DIY Project

At the end of summer E and I got the hankering to finally tackle this little project we've been thinking about for some time now. Watching No Impact Man probably spurred us along. I wanted to make a compost pile. E wanted to do this. I must say, this ended up being quite a fun project ... and it should save us $$ in the long run!

Any guesses?

She's not a home for our feathered friends

Her branding kept her straight when she lived out West

You can't tell, but she smells delicious!

Turn her on, and turn her off


What have we been up to lately?

Peach Pie

As you already know, I *love* peaches. And everything made with peaches. And since peach season is just about over, my sister Sarah and I decided to make a pie! 

We already had a frozen crust in the freezer, otherwise we may have attempted to make one from scratch. But this one worked just fine as a temporary little home for our peaches before we sliced her up nicely devoured the entire thing.

Notice how we still wove the pieces together to make it look more rustic and homemade? Tricky tricky. If you're wondering what that dark stuff is going on in our pie, it's blueberries. We didn't have quite enough peaches to fill 'er up (not because we "sampled" some of the peaches earlier, no, why do you ask?) so we tossed in a handfull of blueberries from the freezer. Worked well and gave our pie a little more color! 

This is where I got inspired to make a peach pie. Definitely didn't do the homemade crust (shhh!) but I followed her directions for the filling. We'll tackled the from-scratch crust next year ...

Here's what we did:

2 frozen pie crusts (or go for it, and make one from scratch!)

5 cups sliced peaches (about 3 large ones)
1/4 cup sugar
1.5 tbsp cornstarch
juice of one lemon
pinch of ground cinnamon

Put one of the crusts (dough) in bottom of pie pan (roll it out a bit if you need), and prick the bottom with a fork.

Peal peaches (trick: drop them in boiling water for 10 seconds and the skin will just fall off!), slice peaches in half, remove pit, then slice again.

Mix up the filling in a bowl and pour filling into pie pan.

Cut strips out of other pie crust dough (using a pastry knife if you're fancy, or we just used a regular ol' knife). Place on top of pie one at a time, trying to weave it all together. Trim edges.

Brush some egg whites on top of the finished lattice-top and sprinkle with more cinnamon.

bake at 400 for 34 min. or until golden brown.

What is your favorite kind of pie? Are you a berry and fruit lover like me, or perhaps you crave the whipped topping variety, say Banana Cream Pie? Evan made a Key Lim Pie a few weeks ago when we had some friends over, and it was dynamite! I'll have to include that recipe soon.

Sick of peaches already? Bring on the apples! (I promise, this is the last peach post of the season!)

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