Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Before & After: DIY Antique Pallet Coffee Table

If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook you may already know we took advantage of the three day Memorial Day weekend to tackle a project we've had on the list for quite some time — a tiered coffee table:

We love not only the function of larger table surface and tiered storage, but are pleased with how the rustic industrial vibe turned out.

For a little background, this coffee table came to life from two antique pallets Tim had brought home from a warehouse close to 4 years ago. Yep, four years. Toss in a move, a wedding, travel and everyday life — here we are years later with the end result!

While we tackled the project over the span of three days, much of the length was due to waiting on dry times for the stain and final sealing — the actual process was simple and had us wondering why we hadn't attempt this project sooner. Such is life.

The first step in the process was clearing the pallets from storage in the garage and cleaning away the dirt, dust and debris that had collected over the last several years. I used a power washer to make this job not only speedier, but thorough. Once fully cleaned, we left in the sun to dry out for the rest of the day and overnight before moving onto the next step.

Once clean and dry, it was a matter or smoothing and refinishing the original pallets — buffing the metal portions to clear away any rust, sanding down the wood exteriors to smooth away any jagged splinters and edges, then applying a wood stain and seal before bringing inside to stack for a tiered effect. For those that are interested in a bit more in depth look into the process, we've laid out the full step-by-step tutorial below...

To clean and buff the metal legs and side frames, we used two different wire brush attachments for the drill (like these), one in a wheel shape, the other in a cup:

Lightly running these wire brushes over the metal cleared away any added debris or exposed rust, and applying pressure made the original metal sheen come through.

Tim particularly liked pulling that sheen through overtop each of the original pallet rivets. The cup shaped brush was great for sweeping over larger areas while the wheel shaped brush was nice for smaller details and tight corners.

Next up, we smoothed the wood using a belt sander with a fine grit sandpaper over the top of each pallet board. Doing so helped remove any jagged splinters, but also exposed the fresh original wood without losing any of the markings or deep stains that give these pallets their antique character.

After clearing away the sawdust, it was time to stain the wood. Out trusty shop-vac came in handy when trying to clear away all of the smaller bits from the cracks and slats.

Oh, and our trusty supervisor was on duty, running a tight ship as you can see:

We chose a wood finish stain in a shade called "Early American" as a way to pay homage to the pallets' original hue and went with a single coat as not too overwhelm the the end-result with a dark stain. Brushing on the stain as opposed to wiping on with a cloth allowed for getting into each of the wood crevices. This step was rather satisfying, as with each brush stroke, the stain brought out and accentuated all the original markings, nicks and scratches from the pallets' previous life in use.

We left the stain to dry overnight before applying the final seal. We chose a satin finish to keep the natural look of the wood instead of a high sheen, but allow for easy clean-up from potential spills or snacks on the final table surface.

After another overnight of dry time, we brought each of the pallets indoors and simply stacked them for a tied table effect. The older nature of the pallets made them both very heavy, so their weight alone holds them securely in place.

And...now that we've lived with the new coffee table for a few weeks, we can say we're really happy with it. We feel like we've got more room to spread out, more table space to take advantage of and a new shelf to hide odds and ends under to keep the surface clean.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Wedding Memories & A Third Anniversary

Three weeks ago today, Tim and I celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary. I took the day off from work and we spent the day together pretty low key with a couple fun stops including Pearl's Cupcake Shoppe and dinner (aka 2 artichoke moussakas) at Stella's.

We both agreed how the time since has seemed to pass quickly, and also enjoyed reminiscing over just how much has changed — a new career path, one college graduation and another college start, a new baby in the family, selling our old house, trips to NYC, the United Kingdom, Italy, Mexico and now Budapest. It's enough to fill more than three years and we're eager to see what the future holds — most of all, finding out together.

With every June that rolls back around, I enjoy taking a peek back through our archive of wedding photos. Doing so inevitably brings favorite memories rushing back, that same reminder of just how much has changed and with each year that passes, different snapshots seem to pop up as new favorites. This year it was the candid, smaller moments and smiles that seemed to speak in new ways:

While we celebrated 3 years of marriage, on our anniversary we toasted to the 12 years our relationship has grown over. Perhaps cliche, but one of the sticking pieces of advice we got while planning our wedding was how marriage only begins with the wedding — it's the way time is spent cultivating the experiences and relationship after the wedding that defines the nature of your marriage.

Thanks for taking the time to stop in and share in a few favorite wedding memories with us today. If you're interested in strolling further down memory lane, you can peek through the photos from both our ceremony in the Edgar Allen Poe Museum garden and wedding party at The Roosevelt.

All of the images in today's post were captured by our talented wedding photographer, Tori Watson.

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Friday, June 17, 2016

July 4th Patriotic Desserts: Cherry Firecracker Cupcakes

Decorate a batch of these cupcakes with seasonal fresh fruits to add a patriotic focal point to your next summer table spread or bring along as the crowd pleaser to that 4th of July party on the calendar. Reminiscent of bursting fireworks, these cupcakes are simple to make and combine fresh blueberries with ripe bing cherries.

  • White frosted cupcakes
  • Bing cherries, stems on
  • Blueberries
*Rinse fruit and remove cherry pits, if desired, from the bottom of the fruit as this portion will be nestled into the frosting, hidden from view.

The base for these bright desserts are the white frosted cupcakes. Begin by whipping up a batch of your favorite recipe and don't be shy on the frosting as this will act as the "glue" to holding the fruit in place. Plus, who doesn't love a generous dollop of frosting?

If you're like me, your favorite tried and true cupcake recipe may come from a local bakery. In Richmond, nobody does basic vanilla quite like Ukrop's, so I was happy to pick up half a dozen to decorate with.

Tip: It's best to decorate these cupcakes with fruit the same day you plan to serve in order to achieve the freshest taste.

Position a single bing cherry, stem side facing up, into the center of the frosted cupcake. I like to choose cherries where the stems are still fully intact and have a bit of a curve in them.

One by one, surround the cherry with blueberries, gently pressing into the frosting to hold all of the fruit in place. I like to position the blueberries stem side down since the bottom tends to have more visual variation — but completely up to your preference!

Once complete, these cupcakes are ready to serve and enjoy. 

When paired together and elevated on a cake stand, these colorful cupcakes make quite the focal point and patriotic statement on your summer table.

To take it a step further, try using different fruits to make different variations. For example, slices of strawberries and star shaped watermelon come together to create a 3-dimensional showstopper:

Look for the full step by step tutorial for making these star shaped watermelon and strawberry toppers making an appearance over on Furniture.com in the coming weeks in honor of the long 3 day weekend ahead!

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Szia, from Budapest!

"Szia," hello there!

Today we're checking in from Budapest, Hungary, where we'll be vacationing with family over the next several days. This trip is one from the bucket list, with plans taking shape over the past few years. Now flipping open the laptop to preview photos from our first full day — it's hard to believe the time is finally here.

View of Budapest from the Budapest Castle Hill Sikló

As we've mentioned, both Mary and I share a Hungarian heritage and this trip combines both portions of our families with a history in this city. It's especially meaningful that Stephanie & Brandon are joining us and able to see the city through my Dad's eyes — where he grew up prior to making a home in the states at age 16.

Outside of soaking in the sights of the city center, we do have plans to venture out to the neighborhood & home where my Dad grew up, visit a winery in Eger, Visegrád (a small castle town), stay a weekend in the countryside where we still have relatives on the Vidra side and try all the foods.

While away, we've got a few posts lined up for the blog in the coming days, including an anniversary roundup, our most recent home DIY project and a 4th of July dessert recipe for good measure. In the meantime, we'll look forward to sharing real-time vacation snaps on Instagram and Facebook using the tag #SVHunary16 if you'd like to see everything in one place from the full group of us.

Have you been to Budapest? While we've got a full agenda, we're always looking for new-to-us sights, eats and off-the-beaten path adventures — what were you're favorites?

"Viszontlátásra" for now,
Mary & Tim

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Monday, May 30, 2016

Cocktail Trick: Thyme Infused Simple Syrup Ice Cubes

Summer weather and long weekends call for the appearance of seasonal cocktails around here — the added flavor from fresh garden herbs is what really gives them that special twist. As with the return of lavender, thyme is having a big moment among our perennial herbs right now:

Thyme is one of those versatile herbs that can add seasonal flavor to fall and winter dishes, just as easily as it can add a punch of freshness on the summer grill or perk up a refreshing cocktail.

Combining most any herb with a touch of sugar and water to simmer over the stovetop is the trick to creating a simple syrup fit for infusing cocktails that boast a taste of the season. When paired with your favorite spirit, ice for chilling and a splash of fizzy seltzer to finish, the flavors from your garden will come to life — and that's something we can all toast to!

In a recent collaboration with Tasting Room, I shared a simple hack to make the most of these seasonal flavors that extend beyond the 1-2 week shelf-life simple syrup keeps well in the fridge for. Reserving a portion of the simple syrup to freeze in ice molds preserves the flavor and is pretty to look at if you toss a couple added sprigs of thyme into the mix:

Use the cubes in cocktails, mocktails, an addition to seltzer water or to brighten up the flavor of a glass of lemonade. Head on over to the Tasting Room blog for the full recipe with step by step instructions for concocting a batch of these simple syrup ice cubes for use in spirits all summer long.

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

How To: DIY Dried Lavender Bunches

Late spring has us eager to be back in the garden, tending to our growing collection of perennial herbs and starting a few new annual varieties.

Last spring, I'd planted a small organic lavender starter among the established rosemary and sage plants in our front garden bed with hopes it would survive the winter and begin to thrive as a collection of bee-friendly fragrant herbs ready for snipping here or there as needed. It wasn't until our autumn trip to Italy, however, that I became serious about cultivating lavender in our space.

While vacationing abroad we stayed for 2 weeks in a remote stone farmhouse in the hills of Umbria. The house was nested among winding dirt roads, overlooked the historic town of Assisi and had an olive grove among many other varieties of fruit trees and edible landscaping — as you can gather, it was unreal (read this past entry for a full house tour and vacation photos).


Ingrained in my memory were the large bushes of rosemary and lavender that circled the house — the lavender in its peak, bursting with flowers and fragrant aroma.

Dried bunches of the lavender were used for decor in the house, and I thought this same idea would make a meaningful, natural souvenir to bring back as a reminder of our amazing time on the farm — so I pulled out the snips and got to work!

For those with fragrant shrubs beginning to produce flowers this season, a dried bunch is a great option for natural decor or a house gift to bring along for summer gatherings.

You'll need:
  • Snips
  • Thread or twine
  • Access to a fresh lavender bush
To harvest, snip fresh flower stalks from the tops of the lavender plant, leaving stem length, to form a small bunch.

Using thread or twine, gently wrap and tie the base of the stems to secure the bunch.

Trim the lower stems to create a uniform base, then hang bud-side-down in a dry space to allow the flowers to dry, retaining their fragrant smell.

Once dry, use to cheer up a bedroom corner or bathroom nook.

Back in Richmond, we've been excited to watch our own lavender plant survive the winter and double in size. While not nearly the size of the established shrubs in Italy, a girl can dream!

The saying goes, "lavender sleeps in its first year, creeps in its second and blooms at peak in its third." We've taken note of some early floral stems, and continue to take delight in watching this little front bed of perennial herbs establish.

How about you? Are you growing an herb garden this year or planning to add lavender to the mix? We'd love to know what's working or new in your space.

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