Friday, September 9, 2011

Pick a peck of peaches

Yup, a whole peck.  Or was it a half peck?  A bushel? God knows. In any event, I picked an enormous amount of peaches last week.  I was up at our summer place in northern MI last week with my sweet darling cousin Helena and equally darling mother (and father- hi Dad!) and the three of us girls took a little field trip to King Orchards to pick some end-of-season Red Haven peaches.  (Think this variety may be native to northern Michigan as we'd never heard of them before and were initially skeptical.  Needn't have been.  They were AMAZING.  Yes, the ALL CAPS kind of delicious).  King Orchards is a pretty sweet spread in Central Lake and, in addition to peaches, grows a variety of equally mouth-watering looking summer treats. 

Before I left for the lake, I tucked the latest issue (November, maybe?) of Cooks Illustrated (an absolute must-read for anyone serious about cooking) into my bag.  I brought it because I figured I'd have plein de free time up at the lake, and because it features a positively dreamy looking recipe for a peach cake. (I know the magazine has restrictions on the content you can see online if you aren't a subscriber, but I'll post the recipe as soon as I can get it typed out).  Enter, the peck/half-peck/bushel/whatever it's called of peaches:
Don't these look tasty!??
Turns out that we weren't so hot at sussing out and picking the ripest peaches- since it was the last day of the season and most of the trees had been pretty picked over (or because we knew next to nothing about peach picking- either way).  Fortunately, a run-in with a few migrant workers helped point us in the right direction.  (See Helena picking below- the girl knows her peaches! And look how cute she looks in that tree! What a natural!)
Going for the gold
    And me, looking awkward after Anne insisted on a photo shoot:
That, unfortunately, was hands down the best of the bunch.  Several other photos were action shots where the camera was moving but I was not and others featured little slivers (ok, big slivers) of fingers in the corners.  

Lucky for us, all was not lost.  We made an over the top delicious, lick your plate and ask for seconds- peach cake. Oh hey there, peachy:


 The cake was just fabulous.  It enveloped 2.5 lbs of peaches (pounds!) and was melt-in-your-mouth peachy goodness. And it was even better a la mode! 

We had sooo many peaches and a girl can only make so many peach cakes (I made two in two days, but easily could have eaten them for weeks on end).  Thanks to the helpful migrant workers, the peaches were all extremely ripe the second we pulled them off the branch- so we had to think of clever ways to use up all of those peaches, pronto!  Um, hello- peach daiquiris.  Bien sûr! I didn't have a chance to take any pictures since we basically chugged them but wanted to pass along the recipe to all of you while fresh peaches are still to be had.

Torch Lake Peach Daiquiris
3 ripe peaches, pitted and cut into wedges
6 oz (half a can)  limeade 
6 oz rum
3 oz Triple Sec
Ice (about 2 cups)
Put the first four ingredients in the blender and then fill the rest of the blender with ice.  Make sure you have plenty of fixins' on hand because you'll definitely want more than one! Note- if tequila's more your speed, you can easily substitute for the rum and make peach margaritas.  Yum yum!  

On that note, I'm off to the store to pick up some peaches.. It's 5 o'clock somewhere, right JB?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Oh you want some more, eh?

(Disclaimer: I promise I'll finish these soon so this blog isn't all flops and long-winded diatribes about how crap I am at DIY projects! Maybe I'll even post pictures of the curtains I made since those turned out ok- kind of great if I do say so myself, even).

In any event, that cute little "Corner Cat" sander- with its pointy little nose for getting into tight corners until all of the sandpaper on the pointy part gets worn off since these nightstands are ALL crevices and tight corners and maybe-they-should-find-a-way-to-reinforce-that-part-of-the-sandpaper-pad-since-it-gets-used-the-fastest, has been a fabulous help in getting rid of stubborn paint that wasn't budging for me before.  Additionally, according to their website, these sanders are great for the "DIY enthusiast".  (New business cards, anyone?)  Maybe too much of a stretch. 

When I bought this sander, as with most things, I had two requirements 1-cuteness and 2-price. Check (adorable name and cute little nose for poking into corners) and check (maybe set me back around $25 or $30). As an aside though, this "cheapie" project is quickly adding up since thus far, I've essentially tried three different means of achieving the same goal.  (Not exactly Mrs. Efficiency here).  But here's how the to-do list is shaking out:
  • Buy a whole bunch of supplies from Home Depot, including a too-big plastic dropcloth that is SO hard to cut with scissors
  • Get high off of paint stripper fumes in backyard as neighbor looks on
  • Buy a cute, cost-effective sander (presumably to use on future projects until I give up on this entirely)
  • Remove paint from all drawers
  • Prep drawers with mineral spirits (have absolutely NO idea what this is supposed to do but they looked nice after I put it on)
  • Stain drawers dark walnut
  • Figure out whether the panels of the stands are actually different colors or just look like that (and if so, how I need to stain them in order to make that work)
  • Finish scraping the paint out of the grooves (getting there)
  • Decide whether to try to remove paint from the drawer pulls or scrap them altogether and get new ones
  • Buy polyurethane to coat everything post staining
  • Actually coat everything post-stain 
 Whew.  Exhausting, right?  How do you think I feel?  But this is encouraging:

And so is this:

  At least I feel like I'm making a tiiiiiiny shred of headway.  (These had better be the greatest nightstands OF ALL TIME!) 

Progress? (Alternately: What it looks like when you don't know what you're doing)

Between the earthquake and hurricane, you may have heard about the absolute hot mess that has been Boston weather of late.  Needless to say, this hasn't given me much of a chance to work on the nightstands without making an equally hot mess out of our apartment.  However, there has been some progress.  Not much, but I'll take what I can get.

First, you may remember that I'd purchased some extra-strength, getcha-high-in-a-hot-minute paint stripper.  This little guy-
If I had to imagine what it's like to huff, say, glue or pesticide or meth in the privacy of your own backyard, it wouldn't be too dissimilar from cracking open a bottle of Strip-X and taking a whiff (minus a pesky family having you tailed by a film crew all the while reassuring you that you aren't on Intervention- "BUT YOU SAID THIS WASN'T INTERVENTION! YOU PROMISED! I AIN'T GOING BACK TO REHAB!")  At Home Depot,  the Klean Strip shares an aisle with a number of gas mask-looking contraptions ranging from "I don't want to catch SARS at the airport" to "I'm going to stash this in my bunker with all the canned goods for when it's nuclear war and it's just me and Will Smith vs the aliens".  And at the time, I thought to myself, well, those seem a bit like overkill... we're just painting here. In retrospect, however, a mask probably wouldn't have been the worst idea I've ever had.  

To make this stuff even scarier, it's nearly impossible to open.  (This from a gal who nearly broke a wrist after spending hours squeezing caulking from a hard plastic tube.  The kind you're supposed to use a gun with). On the top of the can is printed a warning, cautioning you not to open it too quickly, lest it explode and cover your entire body in chemical burns.  I wore elbow length latex gloves and struggled with the lid for 20 minutes.  I didn't want to take off the gloves (see 'burning your arms to pieces', above) but I certainly couldn't grip anything with them on.  Finally, insanely sweaty and two fierce blisters later, I caved and asked a worker (who was installing tile in the apartment above ours) to open it for me.  He tried turning the lid three times before grabbing a wrench.  Duh. Then, I got back to business at my little set-up in the backyard.  Honestly I thought this was a totally sweet set-up until I took a look at this picture:

Beyond bootleg.  Notice that I haven't attempted to weigh down my 'drop cloth' with anything. Oops. Perhaps you also notice the sewer and artificial turf in our backyard.  It should come as no surprise that our neighbors have a steady stream of visitors who sit in our driveway waiting to pick things up.  And no, I'm not talking about pizza.  In any event, I settled in for an afternoon of work with the extra strength stripper, which looked like this when I first applied it: 
See all of the crackle-y bits? A good sign- right?

The good and bad thing about this stuff is that it works- quickly.  No five hours of sitting and waiting while it's covered in plastic wrap.  Definitely good, no question about it.  The bad part, however, is that I was trying to work on both at once (my first among many mistakes).  I'd paint it on one, paint it on the other and then try to scrape paint off the first one.  Already dried.  So I painted on another coat. And then another, because coat #2 wasn't thick enough. Ugh- terrible.  And what was I to do about the gloopy stuff on the legs:
Gloop, gloop and more gloop
These dreamy little legs are what originally drew me to these nightstands.  The design is traditional but not too dull, but getting paint out of all of the crevices and ridges was/is a nightmare.  The above is the before picture. And here's an after (as in, where I'm at now, which is hopefully not the same as where it will be in a day or two):

Not all the way better, of course, but nous arrivons.  Even the grooves on the sides have seen a vast improvement:

(Not sure why I can't get these side-by-side).  The key thus far, equally as useful as the industrial strength paint stripper-if not more so, has been this little dreamboat- a Ryobi Corner Cat Sander.  
So tiny and cute!
It turns out that sanding the shit out of furniture (and running around looking like a little dust bunny afterward until your husband comes home from work and corrals you into the shower) works wonders for paint removal.  Don't know why I didn't think of that to begin with!