Monthly Archives: September 2010

How to Dry Peppers: Make a Mexican Rista

This year one of my faithful readers named our garden “The Revenge of the Killer Tomatoes”  because we have 45 tomato plants.  But in all this tomato craze, our peppers tend to get ignored.  We have several varieties, including cayenne peppers.

Why Doug planted cayenne peppers, I will never know.   I decided to dry them since we don’t, well, eat cayenne peppers on a regular basis.

You can dry peppers several ways but I chose to make a Mexican rista because I decided it was the prettiest option.

Image found here.

To make your own Mexican rista, you’ll need:

  • peppers
  • cotton string
  • wire

Wrap the string around the stems of three peppers several times.

Bring the string up between two of the peppers and pull it tight.

This should give you a semi-firm hold on your peppers.

Then, tie a knot to completely secure the string.  This was pretty difficult for me because I couldn’t figure out where the loop was supposed to go.  After much confusion, I finally started laying a loop flat on the table and inserting the whole bunch of peppers inside the loop.

Continue these steps every few inches.  (By the way, I went way too far between bunches and it caused havoc.  Keep reading.)

Now it’s time to use your wire.  (I used floral wire because cayenne peppers are so small – if you’re using larger peppers I’d try something heavier.  Next time I might even consider using rope.)

The wire is the base for your peppers so you’ll need to make a loop or tie a knot in the end to make sure your peppers don’t fall off.  Jack actually caught a  fallen pepper and his reaction to that spicy pepper was thoroughly entertaining.

Next, braid your string of peppers around the wire.  Rista makers say to do it this way:

“The process is like braiding hair-the wire serves as one strand and stems of two chiles in the cluster are the other two strands.” (See here.)

See here.

Even with the diagram, I could not figure out how to braid something with only two strands.  Tell me I’m not the only one.   It didn’t help that I had so much string between my pepper clumps.  I would have been braiding for days!

So I took the path of least resistance.  I cut each pepper clump from the string and left enough string on either side so that I could tie the clump onto the wire.   I made sure to tie the clumps so they faced opposite directions.

My rista isn’t perfect – you can see the string – but it still is pretty and it might just work!  Stay tuned for the end result!

What do you dry?

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Tip Jar: Storing Laundry Projects

Do you know those sticky drips that run down the side of  the laundry detergent bottles?  They really irk me.

My solution?

I purchase plastic saucers meant to catch extra water from your indoor plants.  They keep those sticky drips off your washer and dryer.

Many of you have suggested excellent tips for the tip jar but I haven’t seen one! Send them my way!

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Fresh Flower Arrangement No. 3

I’ve been trying to incorporate fresh flowers into our decor but I have no idea how to arrange flowers in a vase.  My solution? Single bud vases – there’s no thinking necessary.  I’ve put buds in super cheap vases from IKEA and in an antique decanter.

So although I’m not a huge fan of roses, it was only natural that I bring some in from our four rose bushes.  To do it on the cheap, I found these vases at the thrift store – three for $1.

Simple way to spice up the coffee table for a week!

What will I do in the fall when there are no more fresh flowers?

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Living in High Gloss: Finished Fireplace

We needed some professional help decorating our living room.  We were super lucky when my favorite bloggers answered our question in DIY Magazine.

One of the critical elements, in our eyes, was the fireplace.  Here was the sad little fireplace before the project.

In case you missed it, we really jump started the project when we found the perfect mantel.  Once the mantel was finished we made a fireplace hearth from slate.  We were thrilled with the look after we tiled the surround.

The outside looked perfect – but it was time to shine up its inner beauty. Doug (poor guy) cleaned the fireplace out before he painted with high heat black paint.

With that, the fireplace was done.  Hip hip hooray!

Sure, the fireplace is finished, but the high gloss plan isn’t complete!  Stay tuned!

P.S. One day we will run gas into it, but for now we’re just fine with regular ole’ logs.

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Lil’ Sunshine Baby Shower Brunch

Last weekend I had the privilege of decorating a brunch celebrating the upcoming birth of my newest nephew.  I was very inspired by a “My Little Sunshine” baby shower on Hostess with the Mostess.

Our celebration was not a typical baby shower – it was a family brunch with only a few gifts.  In addition, it is my brother and sister-in-law’s fourth child and I didn’t want my other three nieces and nephews to feel any less wanted.  For that reason, I tweaked the theme to “Our Lil’ Sunshines.” (Read: plural sunshines.)

Before I delve into the details, let me give you an overview of my second ever dessert table.  (The first was at my niece’s Alvin and the Chipmunks party.)

Isn’t all that sunshine happy and uplifting?

We ate at three dining tables with coordinating yellow flower arrangements.  (The flowers are fakes I bought for half off at Hobby Lobby.  Love that Hobby Lobby!)

The placemats are individual pieces of paper (already scalloped) that I bought at the scrapbook store.  It was perfect!

On the food table, I displayed photos of each of the four kids (with a cartoon baby in the fourth frame) in matching dollar store frames with yellow scrapbook paper for matting.

Pardon the flash.

I mimicked an orange tier I saw somewhere online.  I would have loved to have another cake plate to display it on, but since I didn’t I used a white ceramic pie plate.

To hang the banner over the dessert table, I painted two regular old wood poles to flank either side of the table.  I made a banner out of scrapbook paper that coordinated with the other accents.

I stacked two different cake stands on top of a box wrapped in yellow wrapping paper for the centerpiece.  I purchased sunflower cupcakes and displayed them on the cake stands. (I also put a little bee on the corner just for kicks.)

Do you remember my love for spider mums?  I was really happy to find some yellow spider mums to display on the left side of the table.  The name of the flowers on the right will remain nameless because, well, I have forgotten their name.

As you might expect, I used lots of yellow candy.  Thankfully I found many options at the dollar store.  In the candy jars I used lemon heads and butterscotch candies.

I also displayed Martinelli’s sparkling cider for toasting.

In the front, I wrapped yellow taffy in individual cellophane bags.  I created tags from the template I found here.  With two hole punches and a short piece of orange ribbon, the bags were perfect to bring some color to the table.

On the right side, I displayed rock candy and yellow star-shaped suckers in votive candle vases I found from the dollar store.  (I used dollar-store lemonade candies to fill the vases and hold the stuff up.)

The three kids received Toy Story sun catchers from the dollar store that they painted immediately.

My sister-in-law sat in the chair of honor.

I was really, really happy with the way this party turned out!  I can’t hardly wait for the new lil’ guy to be born any day now.  I wonder how my oldest nephews are holding out on the wait – after all, they’re very eager to train their new “apprentice.”

Here’s to a smooth birth and a healthy baby boy!

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Living in High Gloss: Tiling the Fireplace Surround

We’ve been working hard on our fireplace redo!  After finishing the mantel and laying the slate hearth, we started on the surround.

Remember what the fireplace looked like before?

First, Doug chipped off those cream ho-hum tiles edging the space.  Goodbye!  Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

This was the first time I saw the actual structure of the house.  Doug, of course, was prepared for the ugly truth.  I had no idea how much I’d appreciate dry wall after I saw what I saw:

Insert horror film scream here.

Just like he did on our slate floor, Doug secured Hardy Board over the plaster where the tiles were to create a smooth surface and protect the space.

It was overwhelming trying to pick the perfect tile.  There are so many options.  But Doug and I really impressed the sales woman when we were in complete agreement on the tiles below. We loved that these glass tiles were staggered and that they reflect different colors depending on the lighting.

Doug, bless his heart, did all the tiling himself.

After he finished the outward-facing section, Doug used Hardy Board in the area of the exposed plaster on the inside.  He even cut all those tiny glass pieces small enough to fit – a very, very daunting task.

Next he used a grout float to cover the tiles and then removed the grout with a sponge per grout instructions.

When each and every beautiful piece of tile was secured, the fireplace looked something like this:

There’s still one more step we’ll take to make the fireplace perfect. (Stay tuned!)  Once the fireplace is done, we will hide those cords and implement the rest of the High Gloss Plan.

Don’t go far — We’ll share the transformation step by step right here!

Want to see the big fireplace reveal? Click here for the next installment of Living in High Gloss!

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Living in High Gloss: Fireplace Hearth

After getting some professional advice about the layout of our living room, we started with a long-overdue fireplace remodel. After we found and stained the perfect mantel, we created a hearth in front of it.

Just to be clear, when I say “we” I usually mean Doug.  I had plenty of aesthetic influence, but, klutz as I am, I deserve no credit for any of the manual labor.

Doug laid two rows of 12 x 12 slate squares for the hearth.  We like the easy, clean lines and that they are used elsewhere in our house.

Before securing anything, Doug screwed Hardie Board to the ground under our two rows.  Hardie Board is a flat board (go figure) that protects your home’s structure from moisture and humidity. (We figured it could prevent from heat and sparks, too.) Doug used a float trowel to lay thin-set mortar, which adheres the slates to the Hardie Back in perfect strips.

He then carefully placed the spacers between the slates and applied the grout.  Instead of spending money on a wood trowel, Doug used a regular ole’ 2 x 4.  Such a thinker that one.

He set the grout according to the package directions and removed the excess with a wet sponge.  Then he applied a a seal enhancer to protect the slate and make the color pop.

Isn’t it to DIY for?  I love that each of the slate pieces have enough differences to create interest.  Their colors also work really well with the black mantel.

Next we had to choose a substance for the fireplace surround.  The tiles we picked still make me swoon.  Stay tuned!

Want to see the finished product? Click here to see the tiles we chose and here to see the final product!

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