Renovating a fireplace & mantle with paint

Last fall I took on a huge project with renovating our staircase. We live in a suburban Ohio home and it was old, dark and dated. We have lived in this home for 20 years, and for the last 7 of them have been on hold with any renovation project while my husband has been fighting to recover from leukemia. He’s since in remission and I have been working hard since last summer on projects around here to keep it fresh.

Our staircase went black and white. When we did that I knew I would paint the mantle black. I wanted to do a lime wash on the brick, and I still might do that, but for now, just the mantle went black. We have an entire wall of brick….all rather orange brick. Well, not exactly orange, but close to it. The mantle was a dark brown stain, and sometime after we moved in I painted it white. It was just a latex white paint and well, after a while, close to 20 years I guess, it was kind of looking yellow. So you can imagine, orange brick and yellowing mantle… it REALLY needed updated! Thank goodness I found Fusion Mineral Paint. https://fusionmineralpaint.com. This is the best thing I could have done. This paint is so easy to work with and most of the time you don’t need a primer. Since our mantle was already painted, I didn’t need one, I just went over it with Fusion Mineral paint and it was done.

This is the before…how our mantle looked in the fall as I was getting ready to paint it.

As you can see, the fireplace takes up the whole wall. It is pretty hard to style this mantle with how big it is. I had just finished painting the room white. Yes, I do have eyeball can lights! Someday those will get replaced too!

The first thing I did was remove everything around and on the mantle. Since the brick was never sealed, I decided I needed to do that first. After a while, some of the dust began to fall on the mantle. I didn’t want that to happen after it was painted black. I went to Lowes https://www.lowes.com and found a sealer for it that was a matte finish. I didn’t want the brick to be glossy. This did the trick, it dried fast and the brick dust is gone!

The first thing I did was clean the brick with TSP. I used a brush to clean the brick. I filled an empty spray bottle with a diluted amount. Half TSP and half water. I sprayed it on the brick and wiped off any excess with a rag.

After the brick was cleaned.

The sealer went on really easy with paint brush.

Halfway done!

You can definitely see the difference here with the sealer. It’s still wet in this picture, but it looks so much better than the other side. I was am so happy I decided to do this. As you can see in the picture too I taped off the wall around the mantle with painter’s tape before I got started on the mantle.

Brick is completely sealed.

I put two coats of sealant on the brick. Next it was time to paint!

I used Fusion Mineral Paint, color Ash. The same color I used on our staircase. It made a huge difference. I put on two coats of the Ash.

I’m so happy with the black mantle. I honestly never thought this was something I would do when we bought this house 20 years ago! I think now, it makes a better statement. I hope I can lime wash the brick someday! I think it would totally stand out next to the black mantle. But for now, I am loving the way it looks! I hope you liked this renovation project. It’s amazing sometimes how just a simple paint change can make a difference!

Oatmeal Banana Nut Muffins with Jiffy Mix

My oldest daughter could eat homemade banana bread every day after school if she could. But honestly who has time for that?! There are some days I am swamped with projects and am always looking for a quick alternative to banana bread. I love the Jiffy Mixes! They are easy, not expensive, and make just the right amount of muffins for our family of four. Let’s face it, if they are not gone in 2 days, then they probably were not worth making!

I like to add oatmeal to a recipe when I can. Sneaking in some whole grains are both hearty and healthy. Especially for swimmers! You could add protein powder as well like I did with my last post about blueberry muffins, but sometimes just adding the extra oatmeal is enough. With the Jiffy mix, it makes it so easy to use that as a base, and add some extra ingredients to elevate them a bit! This muffin is a winner with my family, I hope you enjoy it too.

I first start with one package of Jiffy Banana muffin mix. Then I add in one fresh ripe mashed banana, a handful of walnuts, a little vanilla and some cinnamon and 2 eggs. The results yields a healthier muffin that my kids love! I hope your’s do too! The best part, is the clean up is so easy!

Follow the directions on the back of the box of Jiffy banana muffin mix https://site.jiffymix.com/banana-muffins/ for some really great muffins, but if you have the extra time and ingredients on hand, add them for some pretty awesome muffins that your family will sure to love!

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of Jiffy Banana Muffin Mix
  • 1 cup of oatmeal
  • 1 fresh ripe banana
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 1 handful of chopped walnuts (about 3/4 cup) (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400º Line a muffin tin with liners, or prepare pan with cooking spray. Empty Jiffy mix in a medium sized bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Bake for 12-14 minutes until done. Remove and let cool. You can sprinkle them with a little confectioner’s sugar for added sweetness if you like, or just keep them plain! We like them plain! They are great for lunches, snacks with coffee or a great afternoon snack after school!

Blueberry Muffins with Lemon Glaze

I get up between 4:15-4:45 a couple mornings a week while my daughter is swimming in high school. She has morning practices three days a week, sometimes at 5:15AM, or depending on where the practice is 5:00AM. I could just let her get up and out the door on her own, but honestly, I am that a kind of mom that likes to say goodbye to her before she heads out. Before she could drive on her own, I was the one taking her to those morning practices, and usually sleeping in the car while she was in the water, then I would to take her to school. At 2PM I would pick her up from school, and take her back to the pool. Life has been a lot easier since she’s able to drive herself! If the pool was attached to the school it would have made life much easier….

On the days she has morning practice I would have to pack her a breakfast to eat on the way to practice, a breakfast to eat on the way to school, lunch, a snack to eat on the way back to practice, and a snack to eat on the way home to dinner. It’s a lot of food! We look forward to weekends around here very much!

With all the snacks and meals I make for her, it helps to be able to throw in something quick and healthy for her. I really like the Jiffy Muffin mixes. They are so handy to have in your pantry, and you can make a quick batch of muffins in about 20 minutes, start to finish!

The blueberry muffin mix is one of our favorites. It’s fine to make this as is by following the directions. But for my hungry swimmer, I usually add a little extra for flavor, and protein!

If I have fresh or frozen blueberries, I add those in, typically about 1/4 cup extra. I also add lemon zest, a little vanilla and a scoop of protein powder.

I am not kidding when I say my daughter eats a lot! Swimmers typically burn all those calories pretty darn quick just from a warm up. So the extra protein powder helps a lot especially during the early mornings. And if you can get a little help from Jiffy to make these muffins really quick, why not!

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of Jiffy Blueberry Muffin Mix
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • 1/4 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 scoop of protein powder (unflavored)

Directions:

Prepare muffin tin with liners, or spray with non-stick spray. Heat oven to 400º.

Empty Jiffy muffin mix in a medium sized bowl. Add one egg, the milk, the vanilla, zest, and protein powder. Mix well. Batter should be a little lumpy. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake 13-15 minutes. Makes about 9 muffins. Finish with lemon glaze.

Lemon Glaze

  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of confectioner’s sugar

Mix well and drizzle over warm muffins. Let cool before eating. Enjoy!

Homemade Valentine for School

I know its only January 8th and I have a post about Valentine’s Day. Its never too early to prepare for a holiday! This one is pretty special in our family, my husband had a bone marrow transplant on Feb. 14th, 2013 to treat Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. He’s since recovered, but the day has always been special and now even more special because of a selfless act by a donor in Germany that saved his live with her life-giving stem cells.

Today I am thinking ahead to February! I kind of have to, this is our family’s busiest time of the year. Did I mention I have two kids that both swim competitively? For the next 7 weekends in a row we have swim meets…so yep I try to think ahead as much as possible so I am not slammed with last minute projects!

My youngest daughter still has a class valentine exchange. Last year she made a Valentine box to take to school. You remember the shoe box kind? I used to do that when I was in grade school, way back in the 70’s but for some reason all we had to use to cover the shoe box was tin foil, and we cut out the paper hearts for the top and colored them with crayons. Today they make special boxes available at Michaels that are used just for this. I still like the shoe boxes covered, but I think we can elevate that a little but from what I did in the 70’s! But in the mean time, I created this cute little Valentine for her school exchange.

I have never been a fan of the $2 dollar store variety school Valentine. I have tried to make them personal over the years, and for the first time made one that I can share with you. This one prints out 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. And if you have a Cricut machine, it will make it even easier, but not necessary.

You can add the pencil as an extra gift for you child’s friends if you like. I designed these so your child can write their classmate’s names on the other side. There is plenty of room for big handwriting too!

I used my cricut machine to cut the hearts out and the pencil holes. You can use an ordinary hole punch write on the valentine, or add one of the sparkly stickers to them and use a hole punch for a pencil slot.

They print easily on a 8.5 x 11 card stock.

I am sure to have more craft projects and fun recipe’s for Valentine’s Day in the next few weeks! But for now, these are done! Enjoy!

Homemade Honey Nut Granola

This morning my teenager came down to breakfast and had her usual Kodiak cake waffles. She loves the vanilla Kodiak cake waffles with peanut butter but she’s always looking for something extra at breakfast. This morning I offered her some greek yogurt with some dried cranberry granola. She of course stuck her nose up at it, not a fan of cranberries or the brand of yogurt I had in the fridge. But in typical fashion decided to eat it anyway because she was hungry! Did I mention she’s swimmer and eat’s a lot of food!

I decided today I would try to make some homemade granola. I have I have never made granola. I always thought it was just too easy to buy it already made in the grocery store. But, honestly, it was so easy to make. I adapted this recipe from All Recipes for our family. Not everyone likes cranberries, or needs all the extra’s added in all the time. Just an simple granola to top your greek yogurt with our your vanilla ice cream, or your bowl of Cheerios!

3/4 cup of chopped walnuts

You could compliment up your granola with extra flaxseed or even protein powder but if my teenager is turning her nose up at cranberry granola from the supermarket I figured I would play it safe and make a batch of regular old fashion granola and see how that goes first. I can always experiment later if this goes over well!

1/4 cup chopped pecans

This granola has two different kinds of nuts in it. I baked a lot over the holiday, and had some extra walnuts and pecans. I used 3/4 of a cup of walnuts and a quarter cup of pecans so it does have some extra protein without going too crazy with adding in extra’s.

1/2 TBSP of cinnamon

The base is whole oat oatmeal. I used True Goodness from Meijer.

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups of Whole Oat Oatmeal
  • 3/4 Cup Chopped Walnuts
  • 1/2 Cup Chopped Pecans
  • 1/2 Cup Canola Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Honey
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1/2 TBSP Cinnamon

Directions: Add the oatmeal, nuts and cinnamon to a medium sized bowl. Mix all the dry ingredients together first. Next, in a separate bowl, add the canola oil, honey and vanilla. Pour over the dry ingredients. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, stir, and continue cooking for 10 more minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven, let dry before storing in an air tight container. You can double the recipe if you like.

Oatmeal Pancakes

I originally saw this recipe in a cooking light magazine. I have since adapted it to my hungry swimmers. Its a hearty pancake that heats up well leftover too! I sometimes use whole wheat flour when I have it instead of white flour for the extra protein. Typically my kids eat these a couple times a week during peak swim practices!

Add the flour
Add 3 TBSP of sugar ( you can substitute brown sugar or honey if you prefer)
I use 2 tsp of baking powder (you could use one tsp each of baking powder and baking soda) the powder makes them dense, using soda will make them a little fluffier)
Add two tsp of cinnamon! (extra flavor and good for your metabolism)!
Whisk all the dry ingredients together.
Add 2 eggs, the milk and vanilla and melted butter.

The dry ingredients are usually everything I have on hand in my pantry. So it makes it easy to make them pretty quick.

Dry Ingredients

1 Cup Oatmeal (I don’t use the quick cooking kind, but you can)

1 Cup flour (or whole wheat flour)

2 tsp baking powder

3 TBSP sugar

2 tsp cinnamon

Wet Ingredients

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

1 tsp vanilla

2 TBSP melted butter

1 1/2 cups milk

1 tsp vanilla

I use a dry griddle when I cook these pancakes because there is butter in the batter, I don’t think it needs any more oil or extra butter in the cooking.

Mix all the wet ingredients together, and add to the dry until well combined. I use a dry griddle when I make these pancakes. Because the melted butter is in the mix, I don’t use any more when I cook them. Serve with your favorite maple syrup, or confectioner’s sugar or fruit.

My kids like them with powdered sugar!
Hearty Oatmeal pancake with blueberries and bananas!

I hope you enjoy these pancakes as much as we do. Honestly, making homemade pancakes are really easy to do. I enjoy cooking for my daughters, especially breakfasts! We often have breakfast for dinner on busy weeknights too.

Southwest Quesadillas

I have a teenage daughter that is also an athlete. She’s a swimmer. If anyone knows how much swimmers eat, then you know you are always looking for quick healthy choices that will be satisfying. I don’t always have time to prepare a big comfort meal and there are days where we do baked potatoes and broccoli and a protein drink, believe me. But I have found over the years of being a mom to a club swimmer they are looking for something quick that will be filling. I came across this recipe when doing a google search and have adapted it slightly for our family.

If you are looking for a quick hearty lunch idea, or quick weeknight meal, try these! There are so many variations that you will be glad you did!

Ingredients

1 TBSP canola oil

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 small onion diced

1 red bell pepper diced

1 can of black beans rinsed and drained

1 cup of frozen yellow corn

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

salt & pepper to taste

flour tortillas

shredded cheddar cheese

Toppings

Salsa or Salsa Verde

Sour Cream

Chopped fresh Cilantro

Sliced jalapeno

Guacamole

Directions

Start with heating the oil in a  non stick pan. Cook onions and garlic till translucent about two minutes. Add chopped peppers, beans and corn. Add spices. Cook till heated through. Heat griddle. Place tortilla on the griddle, add filling and cheese and fold. Cook until brown and flip to the other side. Serve with salsa or your favorite topping and Enjoy! You can add cooked diced chicken for a variation, or mushrooms. “A quick and healthy option for a hearty lunch”!

Renovating a Staircase

The finished staircase

I finally tackled what I thought was going to be a daunting project. But in reality, it was not hard at all, just a little time consuming. Honestly it was more about the proper steps in the  prep work, and when it finally came time to paint, that was the easy part! And the fun part. You CAN do this too, just a few tools and you TOO can tackle this project and have a beautiful staircase.

The staircase after I began removing the carpeting.

Our stairs were in pretty bad shape. BUT the good news was they were solid pine underneath all that nasty carpet. I originally thought I would paint the molding up the sides (there was an awful stain left from the previous owners) and replace the treads with new ones, but that wasn’t something I could do alone, and I don’t have a handy woodworker I know. 

The stairs were solid pine underneath the carpeting.

The first thing I did was remove the carpet and padding. I used four tools for this. A pair of pliers, a box cutter or carpet cutter a scraper and a hammer. I started with cutting the carpeting in sections so it was easier to roll up and remove. Luckily my staircase is right when you walk into the front door, so I was able to just toss it outside for the trash. Once the carpet is removed, the padding pretty much was easy to lift off the stairs and remove. 

Next, I needed to remove all the staples and the carpet strips. This was messy I won’t lie, and this is the part that can discourage someone. But, honestly, taking one step at a time helps. I was able to remove all the carpet and the staples and nails in one day for 12 stairs. Once the carpet is gone, then the tack strips, staples need to be removed. The easiest way to do this is with a pair of pliers for the staples. The tack strips are a little harder, but with a good scraper you can get underneath it and use your hammer to pull it up. 

I vacuumed the dust and made sure they were free of any missed staples or nails.

The next thing I did was get out the vacuum and clean up all the dust and leftover padding scraps. I wiped down all the stairs and checked for any staples I might have missed. Once the steps were clean of any dust and staples, I was ready to start preparing the stairs for paint.  

The painted molding and the banisters.

I used BIN https://www.rustoleum.com/product-catalog/consumer-brands/zinsser/primer-sealers/b-i-n-shellac-base-primer primer for the first coat. I primed the side moulding, where there was ugly stain from the previous owner. Next I used a wood filler for some of the large scratches and to fill the nail holes and the staple holes. I sanded the filler and then was ready to finally paint.

I patched the holes and large scratches with wood putty.

I applied two coats of the BIN primer on the moulding and stairs. I let that dry for a day, then painted the rails with the primer as well. After everything was dry, I applied two coats of https://fusionmineralpaint.com Fusion Mineral Paint (Ash) to the banisters. Two coats of Fusion Mineral Paint (White Picket Fence) https://fusionmineralpaint.com to the posts and the back of the stairs (risers). When that was dry, I applied Fusion Mineral Paint Tuff Coat to protect it from scuffs. I was finally ready for the treads.

I applied two coats of primer to the stairs and molding.

I painted every other one first! Then went back to paint the other’s after they were dry. I applied Fusion Mineral Paint Finishing Oil https://fusionmineralpaint.com to the treads and banisters to give them extra protection from wear. I am absolutely amazed at how well they turned out.

I painted every other one first so they dried an I didn’t accidentally step on wet paint!

I would recommend this process to anyone wanting to refurbish their stairs. The Fusion Mineral Paint products are so easy to use, have great coverage and hold up well on this staircase. I can’t be more pleased with how they turned out. 

Finished staircase!

For extra texture on the staircase, we added some molding along the walls and painted it the same color of the walls. You can find the wall paint color at Lowes, https://www.lowes.com the color is Alibaster.

I hope you enjoyed reading about renovating a staircase, and if you have any questions, please feel free to email me, I’d be happy to walk you through the process!

Homemade Pizza Sauce

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Nothing better than homemade pizza!
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These Hunt’s pouches are so easy to use!

Two of my favorite things in the world are pizza and sauce! I have been working on getting a pizza sauce just right for sometime. Not to sweet, not too spicy but full of flavor. Week nights get pretty hectic for us with two swimmers in the family, plus school work, so I am constantly looking for easy recipes that work great during the week.

Paste is the answer! Yep, I think the concentrated tomato flavor is what helps make the sauce so good! I was so happy to find the individual packets of Hunts tomato paste. These really make it simple to whip up a perfect pizza sauce. They come prepackaged in 2 TBSP pouches. There’s 6 pouches to a box so they are a really easy pantry necessity.

Pizza sauce has a few ingredients. Olive oil, tomato paste, tomato sauce, spices, sugar and garlic. I think another key to making the sauce taste so good was the garlic. I use fresh garlic, and I used a microplane to grate it into the pan.

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Homemade Pizza Sauce

2 TBSP olive oil

1 clove garlic

2 TBSP tomato paste

7 oz tomato sauce (no salt added)

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp italian seasoning (McCormic Perfect Pinch Italian)

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

DIRECTIONS

In a small pot heat the olive oil and add the garlic. Cook garlic about 1 minute. (don’t let the garlic burn) Add the paste and sauce, and stir well. Add the remaining spices, sugar and salt and pepper. Let the sauce simmer about 20 minutes. Use on pizza dough,  or as a dipping sauce with garlic bread. Recipe can be doubled. Adjust the salt and pepper as desired. You can add 1 tsp of crushed red pepper to the olive oil if you like it spicier.

Blueberry Puff-Pies

What the heck are Puff-Pies? Actually, that’s a made up name for a hand pie made  with puff pastry!  Dough, butter, dough, butter, dough, butter…you get the picture…layers and layers of deliciousness! Add a filling of sweet blueberries…and its like a party in your mouth!

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These are the easiest thing to make! I heated up half of the blueberries first. I used two pints of blueberries, and heated up half of them with 1/4 cup of sugar, 1 tsp of corn starch, and 1 TBSP of lemon juice and the zest of one lemon. Then I folded in the other half of blueberries and let them all cool.

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The result is some pretty fantastic filling, with some liquid that is even more delicious! Once they are cooled, get the dough ready.

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Use 3 sheets of Pepperidge Farm puff pastry. Cut into 6 rectangles. (use a pizza cutter, its easier to cut the pastry with).

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Fill each square with a heaping pile of blueberries and some of the liquid.

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Fold it over, and crimp the edges with a fork. I used some warm water to moisten the edges a little so they would stick. Then make some slits in the top to let steam escape.

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Bake at 400 for 15-18 minutes. (mine took 17 in my oven!)

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To store them, use parchment paper in-between each pie.

See the recipe below. Enjoy with coffee, or tea, or just by itself…

Blueberry Puff-Pies

2 pints of fresh blueberries, rinsed.

1/2 cup of sugar – divided

2tsp cornstarch

juice of 1 lemon

zest of one lemon

1/2 tsp almond extract

3 sheets of Peppridge Farm puff pastry (2 packages)

Course Sugar (optional)

Glaze (optional)

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 tsp milk

DIRECTIONS:

Rinse the blueberries, and place half of them in a pot with 1/4 cup of sugar, lemon juice and zest. Heat for about 5 minutes until the blueberries become soft and start to open up. Fold in the other half of the blueberries, add the other 1/4 of sugar and the other tsp of cornstarch. Add the almond extract and let cool for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, thaw the puff pastry, and roll out to form a large rectangle. Cut into 6 rectangles. Fill each individual pie with a heaping 2 TBSP of blueberries. Moisten the edges with water, and crimp all of them with a fork. Cut three slits in the top. Sprinkle course sugar on top. Bake at 400 for 15-18 minutes. Drizzle the glaze over the top. Cool completely. Store between sheets of parchment paper.