Friday, November 29, 2013

DIY Bar with Concrete Countertop (Part Two)

Part One is located here.

Okay last we left off, the concrete was mixed, dyed, and poured, and we had waited a while for it to completely dry for the sanding process.

We use a wet sander and a whole bunch of different grain/grit rotations.

Here you can see how the more you sand, the more these gorgeous stones start to show up.  And in the top photo, you can see one of the wrinkles from the plastic.  Don't worry about that- it'll buff right out.

Here's a nice shot!  Check out the detail that shows up!  Had no idea that was inside concrete, did you?

The next step is to glaze/wax the surface.  No photos of that because my dad snuck over and did it while we were out of the house.

Then over here, back inside the house, we see the base of the bar.  It's a couple of cabinets.  One of the wood planks makes a base for the counter top, and we cover it in glue.  Then you have to enlist the help of some strong folks to carry the concrete into place- it weighs probably like 230 pounds.  

Pictured: strong dudes

Get it settled into place, and let gravity and time do the rest.  Once it's there, it's not going anywhere- promise.  

Voila!  Completed bar.  Well, mostly.  It's still a work in progress, but I guess I should say- completed concrete counter top.  And it didn't break when we moved it!  Check back for more as we complete this project.  We have big plans and I can't wait.  For now, I'll leave you with another close up of the detail in the top.

I mean seriously.

Monday, November 25, 2013

DIY Bar with Concrete Countertop (Part One)

Merry early Christmas!  Scott and I have been talking for a while (since we moved in) about wanting a bar in our den downstairs.  At the very least, a mini fridge and a cabinet to store some drinks so we don't have to trek upstairs every time we want something.  Lazy, whatever.  Plus it'll make the room seem more complete.
Anyway, my dad caught wind of this and decided he would like to build us a bar- or help us build a bar, or have us help him make a bar as the case may be.  And my dad's new thing recently is concrete.  He made himself a concrete side table for their outside patio, tested a sample for us, and a plan was made.  Cabinets were purchased, and placed, and then came the fun part.

First we made the form.  This is two large, flat boards on top of some cinder blocks as our work space.  Oh, and covered with plastic- actually, it's leftover plastic from when we painted the house.  Then these little boards making up the form- the exact measurements of what we want to top to be- including height/depth.

And get the angles right! (that's a pun)

We were concerned that the weight of the concrete might warp/push out the form, so we blocked it with more cinder blocks.  

While all of that was going on, Scott was in charge of cutting this wire mesh to go in the middle of the top.  Its purpose is to hold the whole mess together so that it (hopefully) won't snap in half.


Concrete goes in the wheelbarrow.  Water goes on the concrete.  Stir with hose.  

We wanted our counter top to be a terra cotta color because we're doing an earth tones theme downstairs.  So we add our dye/coloring/whatever it's called.

That looks great, doesn't it?  Pour it on until it's halfway up the form.

Smooth it down!  Tap on the edge of the form with a hammer to get rid of air bubbles.


The place the wire mesh on top of the layer.  You want about an inch barrier or more from the edges so it won't poke through when you sand it down later.  

Smooth it down again.  Tap the edge of the frame to get rid of air bubbles.  Smooth it out flat using a 2x4 or something similar.  Then wait!  We waited I think a week before removing and sanding.  Which I will write about in another post soon!  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

NOMS: Crockpot Sausage and Navy Bean Soup

Still into crockpot recipes.  That's not something that's going to change anytime soon.  Especially with this cooler, wintery type weather that's moving in, there's nothing better than something hearty, warm, and slightly spicy.  Last week, I challenged myself to find a recipe that 1) wasn't potato soup and 2) didn't actually involve potatoes at all.  I stumbled across this one, and with Scott's approval, made it for dinner this week.  With some tweaks of course, because I can't leave anything alone, and also because I might've messed a couple things up.  But lets get onto it, shall we?

Whatcha Need:
18 oz Italian Sausages 
1 tablespoon olive oil
Onion powder
Garlic powder
2 cans of navy beans
1 (large- don't make my mistake) can of chopped tomatoes, drained
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste

Poke holes in the sausages and throw them in a pot with about 1/4 cup water.  Bring that to a boil and cook until the water has evaporated and the sausages are brown-ish.  Transfer them to a plate.

Drain and rinse the beans.  

Here's a side note.  I am a suuuuper picky eater.  I have the diet of a cranky, spoiled 8 year old.  I have a weird thing about textures, and basically I don't eat my fruits and veggies.  Ever.  So the idea of chunky tomatoes in my soup was not at all appealing.  So I threw mine into the blender and hit puree and voila- tomato sauce.  Basically.  

Here's where the other problem was though- I grabbed a small can of tomatoes.  I guess I had thought I was halving the recipe or wrote it down wrong or something, but I ended up with half the amount of tomatoes I was supposed to have.  So I added about 1/4 c water.  No biggie.  It came out just fine.

Anyway.  Heat oil in the same skillet.  Add garlic powder, onion powder, navy beans, tomatoes (or tomato puree) and thyme.  Stir frequently.  

After everything's nice and warm and mixed up, pour half of the bean/tomato mix into the crock pot.  Then put in your sausages (whole).  Then pour the rest on top, cover, and cook.  The original recipe says on high for 4 hours, but I work during the day, so I cooked it on low for about 9 hours.  Apparently this recipe can also look kind of dry, and if you're home to check on it you can add water.  I wasn't home, and mine was perfectly not dry when I came home after 9 hours.

When you're ready to chow down, remove the sausages from the pot and slice them up.  Add salt and pepper to the beans/tomatoes, and then toss the sausages back in and stir.  Serve it in a bowl with crusty bread and talk about how amazing of a cook you are for an hour at least.

Things that I will do differently next time:
We are going to try a spicy sausage next time.  Italian sausage is great, but Scott and I both agreed we'd like to try it with a spicier sausage next time.

More tomatoes- maybe even more beans.  My bean to sausage ratio was off, but I think that was due to either a failure in my math skills, or a "this is the amount they have at the store so it's what we are going to work with" situation.  Either way, I know I was lacking in the tomato area based on my 14 oz versus 28 oz or whatever can of tomatoes.  It tasted fine, so it wasn't that big of a deal, but I'll go for more next time.  Plus that gives me more tomato juice to sop up with my bread at the end.

Less salt.  I come from the "don't measure just toss in what seems right" school of cooking, and I tossed in too much salt.  Scott didn't think so, but I did.  And as the chef, my opinion counts more than his.  I also come from the "I don't do cloves of garlic or onions" school, which is why my recipe uses the powdered versions instead of chopping up the real thing, but you go for it Glen Coco.  

Final verdict:
I mean come on, do I even have to say it? Delicious.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Life Lately

"Hey, Alissa, where you been?"

Great question.  Well let's see, what have I been up to?....

  • We bought our house.  We are officially homeowners!  I have never signed my name so many times in my life.  Especially since it was my ~new!~ name.
  • The new career is killin me.  It's great, don't get me wrong.  And it's my dream job.  But I'm new, and it's intense.  I work with fantastic folks, which makes it easier, but it's still.. well, intense is the word I would use.
  • We painted some of the rooms in our home!  We painted the living/dining room and the downstairs den.  I will have photos of that shortly- we were all decorated for my favorite holiday (10 months out of the year)- HALLOWEEN, so I wanted to make sure the decorations weren't too distracting when I take the photos of the paint!  
  • Speaking of Halloween, I DIY'd my halloween costume!  I'll make a post on that soon.
  • We built a bar with a custom concrete countertop!  Actually, my dad and Scott did most of the work, but I was an excellent cheerleader and photographer.  I'll make a post on that soon too!
So that's really about it.  I'll leave you with some fun photos to tide you over until I can draft up some actual posts.  

We went to a wedding and used my favorite photo app!

There have been some GORGEOUS sunsets lately.

First frost

And some gorgeous opportunities for photos with the changing leaves.