Mmmm - Pumpkin Pie!

October 27, 2011

The start of fall to me means Thanksgiving, and that means really good food. Thanksgiving growing up always included two key components - turkey and pumpkin pie. I'd like to think that I've always loved pumpkin pie, but let's be honest - it's not the most attractive dessert ever, so I'm sure as a child (before I developed such a refined palate - Ha!) I didn't like it quite as much as I do now.

We Canadians celebrate our Thanksgiving quite a bit earlier than our neighbours to the south, so I made this recipe a couple of weeks ago and I thought I'd share.  I'm the pumpkin pie-maker in my family - I'm not quite sure how that started, but I quite enjoy doing it. This is the recipe we've used for as long as I can remember, and I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does.

Pumpkin Pie (makes one 9-inch pie)

Pie Crust

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tbsp. chilled vegetable shortening or lard
  • 2 tbsp. chilled butter, cut in 1/4" pieces
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 3 tbsp. ice water
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, vegetable shortening or lard, butter and salt. Use your fingertips to rub the flour and fat together until they look like flakes of course meal.
    Rub the butter and flour together
  2. Pour ice water over the mixture, toss together, and press and knead gently with your hands, only until the dough can be gathered into a compact ball.
  3. Dust lightly with flour, wrap in wax paper and chill for at least 1/2 hour.
  4. Lightly butter a 9-inch pie plate. On a floured surface, roll the dough out into a circle about 1/8 inch thick and about 13-14" in diameter. Lift it up on the rolling-pin and unroll it over the pie plate, leaving enough slack in the middle of the pastry to enable you to line the plate without pulling or stretching the dough.
  5. Trim the excess pastry with a sharp knife to within 1/2" of the pie plate and fold the extra 1/2" under to make a double thickness all around the rim of the plate. With the tines of a fork, or with your fingers, press the pastry down around the rim.
  6. Preheat the over to 350 degrees.


  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp Applejack (optional - I don't use it)
  • 1 1/2 cups pureed pumpkin, freshly cooked  or canned

Before & After

Finally, a Dining Room I Can Use!

October 18, 2011

One of the first pieces of furniture I bought after I purchased my apartment was a dining room table. I was out exploring the antique and vintage stores on Queen street East when I spotted a mid-mod teak table that I liked. It didn't come with chairs, but I figured I'd be able to find some easily enough somewhere else.
Teak dining room Table
My mid-century dining room table
Fast forward more than a year, and I still hadn't bought any chairs. If I wanted to use my table my seating choices were limited to my desk chair, or a small stool that I'm pretty sure my mom bought at Ikea when I was still in junior school (does that make it an antique?)
Limited Seating choices
A year later, and these were still your only seating choices

It wasn't that I couldn't decide what style of chair I wanted, it was that I'm cheap, and my dream chairs are decidedly not cheap.
White Eames DSW chair

My dream chair is the Eames DSW in white. Unfortunately at about $400 a chair it was miles out of my price range. I wanted the original fiberglass version - there are molded plastic knock-off versions available but I don't like them nearly as much, and they're still about $150 each which is too much for something you don't love. I needed another plan.

In April, while talking to my mom, she mentioned that she'd seen a version of my table featured in Style at Home magazine, and she suggested I take a look.
Style at Home - April 2011
Style at Home - April 2011
Isn't it great? I love the stark black against the warm wood. This picture was the inspiration for my biggest furniture project to date. A few weeks later I was in a Salvation Army Thrift store when I spotted these:
Windsor style chairs at the Thrift store

I think they must have come from a restaurant as there were a couple of dozen chairs scattered throughout the store, and I spent a good hour testing all the chairs to get the best four (some were quite wiggly).

Deciding what type of paint to use was my next step. In an ideal world I'd have a backyard or garage where I could have spray painted the chairs, but as I don't have either I needed a slightly less messy method. My original plan was to use regular black paint, and then add a top coat of glossy varnish, but a salesperson at Benjamin Moore gave me another option - high-gloss black paint.

First I took my chairs outside to the back of the building and cleaned them. I used a scraper to get the gum of the bottoms (eww!) , and then washed them using TSP. Next I sanded them thoroughly to remove some of the clear varnish.
Gum stuck to the bottom of a chair
Why do people do this?? So Gross!
I decided to prime them first using primer I had on hand, but I'm not positive this step was necessary, and might actually have slowed this project down as the primer was pure white - quite a difference from the black paint I applied next.

The black paint took me three coats (I think - I lost count), and it was a rather major undertaking. The problem was I had to make sure to paint the entire chair, so I had to turn each chair over, paint the bottom, flip it around once it was dry and then paint the top. After a while I was really sick of working on the chairs.

After what seemed like weeks of work, my chairs were finally complete and ready for use.
Black Windsor chairs around a Teak Dining Table

Here's a quick before/after of what I accomplished:
Dining chairs - Before and after black Paint

I think they look much better then when they started.

Here’s what this project cost:
  • 4 thrift store chairs: $40 at the Salvation Army Thrift Store
  • Sandpaper and TSP: $0 - I had it on hand
  • Foam Paintbrush: $1.09 at Canadian Tire
  • Coronado High Gloss Black Paint: $21.99 at Primetime Paint and Paper
For a total cost of $71.28 (tax. included) I'm pretty pleased with my new dining chairs. While I still wish I could have the Eames chairs, at a fraction of the cost of one I think these are a splendid substitute.


Thrifty Owl

October 12, 2011

Have you noticed recently that owls have become very 'in'? It seems that every time I open a decor magazine or pop into a home store owls or other types of fowl are everywhere.

Collection of Owl shaped items
1. West Elm - $32 2. West Elm - $99 3. West Elm - $9 4. Jonathan Adler - $48 5. At West End - $36 6. Abigail Edwards - $120/roll 7. Modcloth - $57 8. Anthropologie - $68 9. Anthropologie - $20

Anyways, I was in a Goodwill a while back when I spotted this little guy sitting on a shelf and I decided he needed to come home with me.
Brass owl figurine

I think he's kinda cute for $4.04 don't you?


Uh Oh . . . What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

October 05, 2011

For quite a while I've been looking for a new dresser for my bedroom. I currently use a white Ikea dresser that I've had since, well, I think I was in middle school when it was purchased. Most of you don't know my age, but trust me when I say - I've owned it a LONG TIME!
Old white Ikea Dresser
My old Ikea Dresser (Sorry for the badly lit night shot)
I trolled Craigslist and thrift stores for months looking for something not too expensive, but with a little character, and eventually I found this:
Vintage dresser
Vintage Dresser

The dresser was $25, and since I don't have a vehicle I negotiated, and the sellers delivered it for an additional $25. I'm pretty pleased with my purchase, but it's been sitting in my living room for months as I debated what to do with it.

You see, the dresser is a little damaged - it's got some missing veneer along the top edge, and it's got some other scratches and marks. Other than its surface defects it's a nice dresser - it's got a great shape and the drawers have dovetailed joints. I know it's really popular right now to take old damaged furniture and paint it a great colour, but I love the look of the old wood, and I'd rather like to try to save it.
Damaged Veneer
The damaged veneer along the top of my dresser
My conundrum is I've never done anything remotely like this before and I'm honestly terrified to try. In my head I know if things don't turn out well I can always paint it (I even know I'll probably paint it Kelly green if worse come to worst), but I want it to be a successful makeover so badly I keep second guessing myself and my ability to pull something like this off.

So, what should I do? Should I try to repair the damaged veneer on the front, and then strip the old varnish off before re-varnishing? Or should I just peel off the rest of the damaged veneer strip, sand it down and cover it in green paint? Either way, does anyone have any tips or suggestions?

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