Balloon, rain, and cute offspring

I love this picture of my son Virginia kindly posted on her fabulous blog, Great Moments in Parenting. On a rainy summer morning after his dental appointment, we stopped into the local grocery store where he insisted on bringing his balloon and looking at the colored water display in the store’s cafe.

Please forgive the long silence. I took a break from furniture for awhile and got to play my violin a lot more this year. I’m almost finished with a chair I found in someone’s driveway trash and will find the time and energy to post about that. After that, a new bed for my boy and some personal things behind that.

Til then readers, *mwah*.



Almond milk chocolate PUDDING!!!

Who doesn’t love chocolate pudding. Especially when it’s fresh off the stove and takes minimally more effort than instant with 5 ingredients you can actually pronounce? I have a weakness for sugar. I am completely unable to relate to people who dislike chocolate. I am also inherently lazy, which is why I’ll never be a food blogger.

But I also like real food and have very few cans outside of tomatoes in my pantry (there is that laziness thing again). And while I am recovering from a minor medical procedure this week, I’m not going to be hauling any lumber around for awhile. Standing in front of the stove to satisfy a critical 9:30pm chocolate craving will do. This can easily be vegan depending on the brand of chocolate you choose, though not paleo because of the corn starch, and takes about 20 minutes to make if you don’t mind hot-off-the-stove pudding.

Stovetop Non-dairy Chocolate Pudding

Adapted from Mark Bittman’s Stovetop Pudding recipe

4 to 6 servings

2 1/2 c almond milk

1/2 – 2/3 c sugar, depending on how sweet you like your desserts. I used 1/2 c of organic evaporated cane juice.

Pinch salt

3 T cornstarch

1t vanilla extract. Or if it’s not too weird to you, try a few drops of peppermint extract, which I did.

1. Combine 2 c of the milk, sugar, and salt in a saucepan and stir. Put over medium-low heat until the mixture just begins to steam. This took me about 5 minutes.

2. Combine the cornstarch and remaining 1/2 c of milk in a bowl or measuring cup and whisk until there are no lumps. Add the cornstarch-milk mix to the pan and raise the heat a little. Cook and stir occasionally until the pudding thickens and just begins to boil, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to very low and stir constantly. The pudding should “plop” but certainly not burn. It should thicken noticeably and stick to the pan. This will take 3-5 minutes. Stir in whatever extract you are using. If you want vanilla pudding, stop and continue to Step 3. If you want chocolate, continue to Step 4.

3. Pour it into a large bowl or 4-6 small ramekins or glasses. Cover with plastic if you don’t like skin or leave uncovered if you do. Refrigerate.

4. For chocolate, stir 4 ounces of chopped semisweet chocolate into the pudding until it melts (though I am too lazy to wait that long – I left mine slightly chunky, which I like). I used 8T of semisweet chocolate chips because that was what I had. Follow Step 3.

For some reason, this tastes infinitely better cold to me than hot, so if you don’t like it when it’s hot, then wait until it’s cold.

Coffee Under the Umbrella non-dairy chocolate pudding

Mmm, 9:30p chocolate craving!

A picture in which I am awkwardly standing and holding a book

ana white

Ana White and me, with me standing awkwardly to the side holding a book

Ana White, the woman who started it all (“it” being my furniture obsession), came to Houston to promote her new book, The Handbuilt Home. My 5th wedding anniversary gift to myself was to get myself in the car at 7am this morning and drive from Austin to a Home Depot in Houston. My gift to my husband was to leave him with the toddler for most of today.

Ana first complimented my necklace. She’s just as beautiful, down to earth, and positive as she is on her website and Facebook page. I handed her my book to sign and she asked if I build. I told her that yes, I had posted my builds on her site and Facebook page. I introduced myself by my first name. She responded, “Oh, you’re June Solomon (not actually my real name).”

This was a pretty awesome day. Now off to celebrate my anniversary for real.

ana white handbuilt home book signing

I think I can die happy now

I am not a food blog, but I occasionally play one on the internet – Raw Brownies!

ground walnuts raw brownies

I promise this is not the same picture as my ground almonds!

I really like food. I do not like to cook, but I like to partake. My food board on Pinterest is somehow my largest board, much more so than any DIY, decor, furniture, etc boards of mine.

That being said, I cook for my family most of the time, and I buy organic when I can. And avoiding processed foods is something really important to me. We’re in the middle of changing our eating habits, which were not bad to begin with, but we’re trying to cut down on as many animal products as we’re comfortable with. We’re not sure where that point is yet, but that is for another post.

Anyway, I have been intrigued with the concept of raw foods for awhile and alternative forms of sugar. I eliminated white sugar and high fructose corn syrup from my diet years ago and have used evaporated organic cane juice instead – white sugar now gives me a pounding headache – but my husband is far more sensitive to sweeteners than I am, so we’re playing with cutting out more sugar and perhaps replacing fructose with glucose where we can. Enter dates.

I found this video which addresses different types of sweeteners from a health perspective. Point of my blathering: date sugar is the healthiest form of sweetener. So my husband asked me to start buying dates, which then made me remember this recipe for raw brownies that I saw awhile back. I didn’t know where I could buy medjool dates at the time (affordably) so it didn’t cross my radar, but I recently saw that my Costco began carrying them in 2 lb boxes for about $8, so I went for it. Plus I have a weakness for brownies, my favorite recipe being Mark Bittman’s from his How To Cook Everything. The blogger discusses the various health benefits of medjool dates so I won’t cover that here, and I also have not tried to make date sugar to date.

So tonight I desserted on raw brownies after priming an ugly dresser.These are VERY rich and moist. They’re actually pretty amazing. No dairy, no sugar, no gluten. I think this may be heresy to raw food enthusiasts, but since I didn’t have raw cacao on hand, I used this organic cocoa powder my MIL sent me that she bought at her church. Which still bests Hersheys by far.

Here is my modified recipe that I made in my blender. The original is made in a food processor, but mine sucks so I used my blender.

Raw brownies for slightly more than 1

1/2 cup whole walnuts
6 Medjool dates, pitted
1/4 cup organic cocoa powder

1. Place walnuts in the blender. Blend at speed 3. It should be ground to a fine powder.

2. Add cocoa powder and dates.

3. Pulse 3-4 times, about 5 seconds each. Consistency should be very cakey and moist.

4. Mash it into a bowl and put it in the refrigerator to set. Go sand and prime some furniture.

This batch didn’t grind all of the walnuts to a powder, but I kind of liked it with the chunks.

raw brownie gluten free dairy free

I cannot for the life of me figure out how food bloggers make the most beautiful pictures of brownies, but that is why I am not a food blogger.

organic fair trade baking cocoa

This is the cocoa I used. Yum.

Note: this is the second time I tried this today after tweaking the blender settings. The first time I made half this amount, and I used almond flour that I had on hand instead. It was still good, but much more crumbly. Whether it was the almond flour or not enough dates I don’t know, but this version is far and away superior to my first attempt. Also, if it’s not sweet or moist enough to your liking, add another date.

Let me know in the comments if you try this and what you thought. Til the next furniture redo – cheers.

Edit: This is why I should never post after midnight. I am incapable of differentiating between ok pictures and crappy pictures.

So this doesn’t have anything to do with furniture, but as someone with a music degree, I laughed at the blogger’s observations of and experiences with classical musicians. I freely admit we’re a breed of our own.

Café Casey


I wanted to be a professional musician, but I did not have the chops. So I began my evil plan.

I had two choices for college. One was an Ivy League college that I didn’t exactly like and, as it turned out, didn’t exactly like me.  The second was the University of Rochester in upstate New York. It was filled with friendly people who let me stay with them for a weekend and drink–much better marketing.  And this school just so happened to have a music school attached to it—the Eastman School of Music.  It was a postern of fate.

Had I told anyone—a single soul—about my plan to attend the Eastman School of Music they’d have committed me on the spot.  Eastman was one of the Big Three. It required some element of musical preparation or training. But I was going to take it completely off…

View original post 1,450 more words

Little almond milk update

Once again, here is Blendtec’s almond milk recipe with my own modifications:

3/4 c. raw almonds

3 1/4 c water

1T sugar (I use organic evaporated cane juice)

dash salt

splash of vanilla

Throw in the almonds and blend at speed 10 for 30 seconds. Stir up the grounds with a spoon and pulse for 10 seconds as needed to get a pasty consistency, usually just once for me. Add in the rest of the ingredients and hit the “Whole Juice” button.

My Blendtec Total Blender broke about a month ago as I was making almond milk. Something clunked loudly as I was pulsing, then rattled when I picked up the base to see if it was ok. We had to send it in for repair and went without it for 3 weeks. First world problems, I know.

We also use it to make green smoothies every day with spinach, kale, and fruit, and felt crummy the whole time without them – tired, lethargic, and grouchy.

The point of all that is to say that we went with store brought almond milk, the unsweetened vanilla flavor. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t come close at all to fresh almond milk when we got our beloved blender back. There’s just no comparison.

On other things, I was straining the grounds from the milk while my 3 year old little boy watched me. As I scraped the grounds into a container he said, “Bird poop.” On the menu for next week: bird poop brownies.

Next up: an aqua vanity and more drawers used to hold liquids! Stop using your drawers for liquid storage, people! I’ll even add “please.”

almond grounds blendtec almond milk

“Bird poop.”

Almond milk

I originally started this blog to document my furniture and house deuglyfying adventures. I’ve since found that my blog has attention span issues.

My friend Pamela graciously invited me to guest post at her home on the web, Red, White, & Grew. It’s a post about….almond milk. And why we’ve decided to make the switch from cow’s milk.

So go show her blog love and read about making almond milk and what to do with the leftover almond meal.

Wear that potato sack, and wear it proud


Best scene ever. Husband’s timing is genius.

don't climb the giraffe zoo kids. @Coffee Under The Umbrella

This zoo clearly understands children

So this wraps up my unintended and unofficial series about a few Texans in the midwest. The image below is the current menu at the Grand Cafe, where we took my husband’s grandmother for lunch in her hometown of a small town in Iowa, where anyone who didn’t have blond hair and blue eyes was looked up and down questioningly generations ago (yeah, I would’ve been kind of screwed). It’s an adorable little restaurant on Main Street with its walls covered in kitsch and newspaper clippings of locals. Examples follow.

small town Iowa cafe menu

No, this was not 30 years ago, this was 2 weeks ago

Because all Norwegians run with their hands in their pockets. My husband sure does! Gets a laugh outta me every time we see one of those signs in central Texas – and can he run with those hands in his pockets!

Nordic Crossing sign

The Norwegians are coming! The Norwegians are coming!

I don’t think they actually had Pepsi.

Old Pepsi Sign

Old Pepsi Sign

Be beautiful being you, just in a sack. You’ll look like a sack and feel like a sack, because you are in a sack. You’ll be charm personified. Plus I hear the French look is hot now.

potato sack

What real women do.


Tex license plate in Iowa

They were expecting us

Upon our return home, we unpacked to find a little note from the TSA explaining how badly they felt for breaking our lock.

broken suitcase lock by TSA

Hugs and kisses, the TSA

Thanks TSA! I feel incredibly safe with you breaking my locks now.

Gender and Betty Crocker (Or, This is not a political post)

So we’re a couple of 30-somethings and are pretty modern in I guess most respects. My husband is very supportive of me and contributes to the daily grind of childcare and most household duties. I really have no complaints about that.

My mother-in-law told me a story about my father-in-law, who died in 1986. They were in the kitchen together, drying dishes. A knock came at the door and FIL immediately threw the dish towel to MIL and told her, “Don’t let anybody know I was helping you.”

She also told me stories of how she would look out the window as he was returning home from his job as a meat cutter to see him accompanied by a coworker or two. On entering the house, he announced that Mr. Coworker was having dinner with the family. This is not how my family operates.

So this week, I rooted through her cookbooks and stumbled onto this glorious finding, Betty Crocker’s 1961 edition of her cookbook. It provided me with an evening of entertainment and thanking God for not putting me here on this earth in the 1960s when gender roles were much more categorized. Because you all know how much I love my power saws. Did I mention my husband has a vast collection of essential oils?

Betty Crocker's New Picture Cookbook 1961

Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cookbook 1961 in Technicolor!

So here is a quick tour for your enjoyment.

Betty Crocker says Refresh Your Spirits before you cook.

Not those kinds of spirits!

Betty Crocker kitchen

Stepford Wives working in the test kitchen

Let the Family Help You!

Let the Family Help You! Specifically, not your husband. And be sure to wear comfortable clothes, like your pearls and a dress.

Random picture

A random picture of a cherub to help you learn the first 2 letters of the alphabet.

reduce recipes

Only if you are good at math. Don’t even bother otherwise. “Math is hard!” says Barbie.

For those home-ec emergencies

For those home-ec emergencies. Mine is, “Order pizza for you two and I’ll see you when I get back from Olive Garden.”

How to freeze food.

How to freeze food. If you’re not an Eskimo and don’t live near a frozen body of water, it’s a lot more complicated, so tough.

A $.02 Lemonade Stand

Back in the day when lemonade was spelled with an “i” and cost only $.02.

(PS – I’m sure the recipes were fabulous. I’m dying to try the stuffed beef heart!)

And now for something completely different

Coffee is on vacation with the family and nowhere near a power saw. This is a diversion.

I am a city girl and have never been to a state or county fair until today. I grew up thinking 4H is only for rednecks. And I learned today that I was wrong!

First thing: “cheese curds” mean something very different in Texas than in Minnesota. Down here, they basically mean cheese sticks, the kind you get at Chili’s or some other generic chain of interchangeable food. Up there, they mean some sort of deep fat fried, hot, greasy, ooey goodness.

Real cheese curds!

Real cheese curds! Dripping from my hands into my singularly uncool mom bag.

Second: As I mentioned, 4H includes more than raising farm animals for competition that contains criteria that I am unable to comprehend. We had lunch in the 4H mess hall. I guess “hot dish” is a term up here that I didn’t grow up hearing. My husband has said that hot dishes were always a mess of ingredients that may have been all right by themselves.

Hot dish lunch

I guess this is a hot dish?

Growing up, 4H was regarded as an activity you did if your dad is a farmer and you milk cows. But apparently you also do it if you take pictures and build stuff – I’m down. There were several exhibits.
The woodworking exhibits:

4H wood table exhibit

This looks uncomfortably like my Pottery Barn knock-off table. I had not thought “4H” and “Pottery Barn” belonged in the same blog post, but apparently I am wrong.

4H Adirondack chair.

4H Adirondack chair built by someone only slightly too old to be my child. But I am a violinist. Being outdone by children young enough for me to babysit is nothing new to me.

I guess this was the outdoor DIY exhibit.

4H DIY Coffee table exhibit

Here is a DIY project I’m sure someone has posted on Pinterest.

The 4H grill planter exhibit

If you need something to do with that old grill, 4H has an idea for you.

The Stage With An Unknown Function:

4H stage with flags

4H stage with flags. I don’t know what this stage functions as, but all I know is that it’s missing the orchestra flag. Come on, 4H-ers! Who doesn’t want to spend most of their waking hours emotionally flogging oneself during scale practice?

There were other exhibits I didn’t post, such as fashion, canoe building, and photography, all of which were really amazing. I mean, everything I saw was amazing.

County fair food trailer

Taco Dick’s food trailer, posted for no reason other the obvious ones.

Finally, here I am with a goat.

Me and a goat

Azn impenetrable stare vs. a goat.