Bake and Make: Almond Iced Sugar Cookies

I have always had a bit of a thing for beautifully decorated cookies,

like these from www.sweetsugarbelle.com

or these from  bakeat350.blogspot.co.uk

or these from sweetopia.net

The transformation of something as humble, sweet and delicious as a simple cookie into a totally beautiful and totally edible mini work of art has always seemed a bit magical.

Unfortunately, I am but a mere mortal, and the ability to ice those intricate and pretty designs has always intimidated the pants off me! My attempts at icing on Christmas cakes and the like always ended up being a bit ….. well ……. splodgy. I also seemed to get as much icing on my hands as on the cake.

So I decided that for our big first blogiversary (which was last week, and incase you missed it you can find it right here :D), I would face down the beast and have a go at icing our very own blogiversary cookies.

So, first things first I did what any self respecting girl does when faced with a technical challenge …. I Googled it. Luckily, the internet is a wonderful place and there are some very talented bakers out there, who have been kind enough to share their wisdom. Mainly I relied on the sound advice of Bridget at bakeat350.blogspot.co.uk and The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle over at www.sweetsugarbelle.com

I learned two things right off the bat. 1) I needed a bigger piping bag, which I went and duly bought, and 2) I needed a smaller icing tip, which handily was right next to the icing bags in my local baking store.

These things purchased I came home and had a bash and here is what I came up with …..

…. not bad in the end for a first attempt (kinda). :S

The good news is that I now have the cookie icing bug! Poor Phil may have more than his fair share of sugar cookies coming his way over the winter. I’m sure he won’t complain too loudly :D.

So, I guess the message of today’s post is, if there is something you fancy doing, have a go! It might turn out ok and give you the enthusiasm to keep trying (or it might be a disaster and you have to eat and entire plate of cookies so no one else can see them ….. either way, you win! :D).

I have shared the method I followed below, but with the proviso that I am absolutely a total beginner and hoping that before you give it a go yourselves you have a Google or head on over to one of the websites I learned from to get some advice from an expert! Never the less, here are my attempts!

Almond Cookies for Icing 

Having the right base for your work of art is so important. You want a sugar cookie recipe which will bake flat and even and not loose its shape too much in the baking process.

For my almond cookies I used this recipe which I found on Bake at 350, which I have reproduced below, making a couple of minor tweaks of my own. It is also worth saying that the almond flavor is totally optional. You could go for any flavor which took your fancy!

Ingredients

Will make around 25 – 30 3″ square cookies

1/2 cup of white sugar (we used granulated because we had run out of caster, but caster would probably work better)

110 grams of butter

1 small egg  (or half a medium / large egg – just whisk it and only add half in the recipe)

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 teaspoon of almond extract

1 and 1/2 cups of plain flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1)  Mix mix mix – Cream together your butter and sugar. Then add in your egg, vanilla extract and almond extract and beat to combine.  Mixing on low speed, gradually add in you flour and baking powder. Scrape down the sides of your bowl and mix again until just combined.

Bake at 350 notes that your dough should be crumbly, which mine was. Phew!

2) Knead and Roll – Scoop your dough out of your bowl onto a floured surface and give it a gentle knead until it comes together into a ball.

 

Now, gently roll roll roll out your dough to around 1/8th to a 1/4 inch thick. We had much too much dough to roll out at once on our kitchen table, so I rolled it out in two halves. I found that the key to stopping my dough ripping when rolling it was to follow Martha Stewart’s  advice and only push with the rolling pin, never pull. Also, make sure your surface is very well floured to stop any sticking situations.

3) Cut your shapes – The next task is to cut out your cookie shapes. You could use a cookie cutter to do this or if you are feeling adventurous and don’t have a specific shaped cutter, you could have a go and using a template and cutting with a knife, like we did.

We made a template by drawing out the shape of cookie we wanted onto a thick card and then simply cut around it. Then for each cookie we placed the card on the dough and drew around it using a sharp kitchen knife (a clean craft knife would also work just as well).

Now transfer your cookies to a baking parchment lined cookie sheet. After mashing a few cookies trying to pick them up with our fingers, we learned the easiest way to transfer them was to use a palette knife.

4) Freeze and Bake – This step is the most most most important step for getting cookies which hold their shape when you bake them. While you pre-heat your oven, pop the cookies on the baking sheet in the freezer for just 5 minutes. This really does make all the difference.

Bake at 175 °C, 350 F for around 10 to 12 minutes, until they are nicely golden around the edges.

Take out and pop on a cooling rack. Don’t try to ice them until they are totally cooled 😀

Decorating Cookies with Royal Icing 

First you will need to make your Royal Icing. When dried, royal icing will give you a smooth, hard and matt finish to your cookies. 😀

There are three ways to make royal icing:

1) Make using meringue powder. You can find a full recipe for that on Bake at 350. This is most definitely your best bet if you live in the US because the meringue powder uses pasteurized egg whites.

2) Make using fresh egg whites. This is probably your best bet if you live in the UK as meringue powder is super hard to find.

(Mini health warning, if you are using raw eggs make sure they are clean, stored in a fridge and are lion-marked to avoid any risks of salmonella).

3) Buy a royal icing mix.  You can buy this from the supermarket and make to the specifications on the bag ….. I’m pretty sure they only make the pre-mixed stuff in the UK though.

I made mine using fresh egg whites and it was surprisingly simple! 😀

Just mix 2 egg whites, 3 cups of icing sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar in a stand mixer on medium speed for around 5 minutes. When it is done you should have a glossy meringue which forms stiff peaks when you lift up the beater.

This thick mix is used for piping the outlines and any detailing.

The first order of business is to outline the design on each of your cookies using a small number 3 sized piping tip. Once iced, the outlines need to be left for a short while to just set firm on the surface before continuing, but I found that by the time I had finished outlining the last cookie my first was ready to use.

 

To fill the blocks of colour on each cookie we need to colour the icing. There are some really good powdered food colourings available for icing but we just used the standard liquid colourings available from the supermarket to colour small batches of icing at a time, mixing until we got a colour we were happy with. A good tip is to use a straw to add your liquid food colouring a drop at a time (then you can just bin it afterwards and save getting your fingers all stained).

The icing used to fill the big blocks of colour are poured rather than piped to give that really smooth finish. To do this it needs to be slightly more runny. To each of your coloured batches of icing, slowly add half a teaspoon of water at a time and mix thoroughly until you are left with icing the consistency of syrup.

Using a teaspoon slowly pour the coloured icing onto your cookies. We found it useful to take a small pin (a toothpick would work equally well) to help tease the icing into the corners of our outlined shape and pop any air bubbles.

 

 

Once filled with coloured icing, the cookies will take about an hour before the surface is set enough to allow you to add any further embellishment on top (like the C Q M & B piped on ours), and overnight before they are set firm.

We finished our cookies by mixing up a small amount of yellow icing at a piping consistency to add flames to our candles.

Phew, all done!

 

 

So, there you have it. Decorating iced cookies attempt number 1, finished. It was definitely a learning curve, but a very tasty fun one! Have you tackled any craft or baking challenges recently? You know we love to hear about them!

Hope your having a lovely weekend!

Posted in Bake, Make | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Happy Blogiversary!

One year ago today we started this little ole blog! We never had especially big plans for it. It was always just a simple way for us to record our weekend activities, mainly to help us journal for ourselves all the bits and bobs we had been up to. Also, it was a way for our families (who all live a very long way away from Scotland) to stop in now and then and see the fun things we had been up to.

We wrote our first post on the 24th of September 2011, and expected that probably no one would ever read it. The internet is a very big place after all, and how would anyone even find us?? Well, for the first 5 days we were right, we had about 3 hits (one at least of which was me, accidentally logging in without being signed into WordPress). But then, slowly slowly, we got the odd couple of hits here and there. After our 2nd or 3rd post someone liked us (which totally blew our minds! :D), and by about 6 weeks in, we were getting about 20 hits a day, and the odd lovely comment. We were totally psyched, and totally enchanted with the whole process of making things, getting to write about them, and people even reading our posts! In fact, we were excited enough that we even told the odd family member about the blog so they could have a read for themselves.

If you had told us back then, when we were totally astonished with every hit, that today an average day would be hundreds of hits, we would probably have snorted at you and told you that you must have had the wrong blog!

But, here we stand one whole year later and we are still as totally in love with the process as ever! Very very few people out there who we see day to day even know that we blog – Phil’s family, my family, a handful of close friends … you could probably count them all on ten fingers and ten toes. It has been a steep steep learning curve too! But, I can honestly say we enjoy making every post we write, be it long or short, making or baking, never does a post go out that we are not proud to put our names next to.

So, we thought, that as its our blogiversary, we would skip a tutorial for one post, to first of all say a big big thank you to you all for stopping by every day. You all make us happy campers! Seriously, having a blog means that every day we fill our down time with fun together projects and live life to the full, and even though we would probably still do it if we didn’t blog, it means the world that you all come along for the ride !!!

And, secondly we thought it would be fun to take today to share with you all a quick round up of what we have learnt, what we have achieved and our favourite moments from the last year of blogging! 😀

THANK YOU again. You all rock our socks. 😀

Enjoy! xxx

The ten most important things we have learned in the last year of blogging!

1) To be a good blogger you need to be a good photographer

I know this one might sound a bit obvious. If your an avid blog reader like we were (and still are), you will know that good blogs are usually choca-a-block full of clear and pretty pictures of food or crafts or diy projects. So, I guess 12 months ago we kinda figured that if your project is good the photos will be good too …… urm WRONG! You can have made the bestest best knitting project or cake and if the lighting isn’t good, and the composition isn’t together, and the background doesn’t work with the contents, and photo isn’t quite in focus on the right thing you end up with a big horrible mess of a picture which no one wants to look at. This was a lesson we learned the hard way. Phil is now our photographer in chief. He has basically taught himself from scratch, by reading tutorials, playing around with settings and taking 2500 ish pictures over the year.  Eventually when you take that many they have to get better! 😀

2) The Scottish sunshine is not good for blogging

This sort of follows on from point number one. When we started blogging, I guess we figured that once it got wet and gross and dark out in the Edinburgh winter we could just use the indoor lights to take pictures ….. wrong again! Good photos, especially especially good food photos need lots of bright natural daylight. And there is one thing Edinburgh in winter does not have, and that is bright natural daylight. Seriously …. we are talking about 6 hours of sunlight a day in winter, usually right when we are at work, and more often than not excluded by clouds and rain and snow. The sun also does this slightly maddening thing where it sits right on the horizon and just sort of hovers there. We have tried just about everything including multiple angled daylight lamps with reflector boards but there is just something about artificial light which doesn’t look the same in photos. So, some days, even though we have something ready to photograph, we just have to wait until it is sunny ….. easy to do for crafts, not so easy for cake!

3) People you have never met can be super super nice!

This one is really all about you guys! Our readers. We always hoped people would read our blog, and maybe even find it useful. We always hoped that people might even like it enough to pop back in and look at it again in the future if they liked it. We never ever expected that people would enjoy it enough to leave us the hundreds and hundreds of funny, odd, kind and totally unexpected comments which we have received in the last twelve months. The fact that people we have never met, take time out of their busy days, stop by and write to us how much they liked what we did. Well, that is just lovely. We really do appreciate and read every single one. Which is also why we try our very best to reply to every single one (not always possible, but we always try).  So, thanks!

4) Not all your projects go right

This one is not really a truth about blogging, more a truth about life. We are humans. Sometimes our cakes sink in the middle. Sometimes we accidentally sit on our knitting and pull it all off the needle and then curse and pull it back in frustration. Sometimes we sew the same leg onto a moose 4 times before it doesn’t look like he is going to fall over. Sometimes we make bread and accidentally add 3 tablespoons (rather than teaspoons) of salt and it is inedible…. get my gist? The important thing to remember is that the stuff we do are just projects. They aren’t life and death, they are just cookies, or bread or a crocheted moose. Even though its frustrating when things go wrong and sometimes it means we don’t have anything to post about, the most important thing is to not sweat the small stuff.

5) People search for the funniest things on Google

Many of our hits day to day are from people searching on Google (or other search engines) and us popping up in answer to their query. Usually these are pretty sensible searches like ‘diy Christmas decorations’ or ‘chocolate cake recipe’. But, occasionally the searches are either so odd, or so unexpected that they make us giggle. Here are a couple of our favorites from the last year:

“How do you make a cardboard fireplace?”  — urrm, please don’t! I’m not a fireman but I’m pretty sure that’s a bad plan. Just sayin.

“What do you do with a chocolate lollipop stick once you have eaten the chocolate off it not on the stick craft?”  — well said 😀

“Naughty naughty yummy girls” – hmmm, not sure they found what they were looking for on this blog, lol! Sorry to disappoint, but I’m sure there are a few other websites out their which might be better suited.

And, finally but most oddly, the thing which gives us the most impressions on google is ….. “spooning”….. yep……… not sure there is anything else to say about that, except that maybe some folks really like to spoon……

6) There are only so many hours in a day  (a.k.a we can’t blog every day :D)

Just like our photography lesson, this one was learned the hard way. Phil and I both work full time Monday to Friday (actually, often one of us (me) is more than full time some weeks). Which means that evenings and weekends are our blogging time …. and our sleeping time and eating time and laundry time and cleaning time and food shopping time and visiting family time. You get the idea. In addition, Phil and I both have to take professional exams every few months …. in fact last week I had exams on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday …. and Phil has an exam next Thursday. This means that we also have to squeeze many hours of revision into our already squished downtime. This means that sometimes something has gotta give. Usually, the thing that gives first is getting a post out on time. The thing that keeps us calm about it is that we know that, you, our readers, are patient, and understand, and realize we are busy and will be back asap! Just another reason we love you guys.

7)  Blogging about something takes 3 times longer than just doing it

Fact. To bake a cake on your own would maybe take a couple of hours. To bake a cake for the blog takes about 6 or 7. First you have to time it right so you have sunlight to photograph the process in. Next you have to have a clean and tidy space to photograph.  You then have to make the cake, whilst stopping every step to take a picture or 5 of the process. Then the cake has to bake, and you have to turn it out and take pictures of it again  … preferably with a nice background and plate and even more sunlight (that darn sunlight).  Then you have to upload the pictures to the computer, pick the ones which work, edit them, crop them, watermark them. Then you write your post and recipe, then you add in your pictures, then you label it with tags, categorize it, proof read it, wait and get Phil to proof read it (we always try to proof each others posts before they go out …. sometimes typos still slip through, but we do try!). And finally you can post it. Phew! This isn’t to say we don’t love every step…. but sometimes it takes a while.

8) Sometimes you end up being featured on the most random websites!

When people post links to your website from theirs it is lovely. It means they like what you did enough to let people know, and that it a good thing! What is slightly random is when you log in to your blog, scroll down to have a peek at your referrers to see (I’ll paraphase) http://www.ladies-who-are-very-well-endowed-and-in-their-birthdaysuits.tumbler.com …. so you click through to see who this might be, only to find blush-worthy picture after picture after picture, and then, right in the middle ….. a picture of your ottoman!! Turns out people can have eclectic taste 😀 (Also, did you know Russia has its own version of facebook? Neither did we.)

9) You totally can’t predict whats going to be a big hit

We are always proud of the posts we put up, so we always hope that people will like them, but sometimes people just kinda like ones that we think are really great (that was mainly back in the early days) and sometimes people L-O-V-E posts which we thought were just ok. I think over time we are getting better at predicting what readers enjoy and not, but sometimes you still surprise us by totally loving the most random things (like these Salt-Dough Star Ornaments which gave us some of the biggest hits we have ever had on the blog!) …. and we love that about you!

10) Just do your own thing!

You’ve got to love what you blog about. Especially if it is going to take three times as long to blog about it anyway! And if that is not what other people love, so what?! Just be you. Love what you blog about, and love blogging about it, and people will come and read and maybe even write a lovely comment. Don’t worry about how often you do it, or if it is as good as other peoples. Just do you own thing 😀

Our year in numbers

94433  – hits in the last year!

21522 – number of hits on our most popular post – Nail and Thread State Art Part 1

10000 – average number of Google impressions we make each day

3180 – number of people we have shared the love with and redirected to other fun, useful or down right lovely websites

3104 – most hits we’ve had in one day

1800 – average number of words per post (who knew we were so chatty!)

532 – number of photos on the blog so far

400 – average hits per day

147 -number of different countries we have had hits from including Swaziland, Palestine, Northern Mariana Islands, Rwanda, Angola, Faroe Isles, Iraq, Aruba, Gibralta and Guam. Hi!

84 – number of posts total

33 – average hits per hour.

32 – number of baking projects we have made (and eaten) this year… oopsy.

30 – average number of pictures we take for each post, only 5 – 8 of which get picked
making 2520 photos average this year

19 – number of exams we have collectively taken in the last 12 months while blogging, and working! Yuck.

15 – longest number of days between posts

7 – number of hours it usually takes to make a baking post start to finish

1 – number of times we have almost been eaten by a bear this year and then blogged about it :D.

Our favorite posts and your favorite posts!

Phil’s favorite post – Dried Orange Slice Ornaments

Take a few oranges, a sprinkle of icing sugar and you have on your hands the easiest craft project ever. I have to admit getting a little bit obsessed about cutting perfect slices and in the process discarding and then chomping through a whole lot of orange slices, but a little vitamin C never hurt anyone. There’s also something a little magical about the Christmas tree in the background too 🙂

Sam’s favorite post – Honeycomb Toffee

Sometimes the blogging gods align, and the day we made honeycomb just happened to be one of them! It was a beautifully sunny day (are you getting the idea we are weather obsessed here lol), our honeycomb worked magically and it tasted even better than the pictures made it look! This makes me one happy blogger.

Your favorite post –

As we mentioned earlier, sometimes posts are so popular they amaze us, and our Nail and Thread state art was one of them. It is still to this day one of our most viewed posts, it gets hundreds of hits every day and it is in the list of most popular of all time on Craftgawker. (Which means I probably shouldn’t tell you that we have already updated it on our kitchen wall and demoted it to the spare room. Things never stay still around here for very long :D)

So just in case you missed it, here it is again ….

So just to sign off a final thanks again to everyone. We’re super excited for the year ahead and already have a huge list of projects to share, from pie to cookies, bookbinding to Christmas decoration (almost that time again already :P). Stay tuned…

Posted in Bake, Cook, Make, Quilt | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Make: Mr. Moose

Hi everyone!

Good news and bad news today (not very bad though, don’t worry 🙂 ). Good news is Phil fixed our laptop! He’s handy that boy (he has also been known to fix our washing machine, other people’s washing machines and even the odd dodgy bit of car in the past). Bad news, Phil and I are back into revision again (I know, it doesn’t feel like long since the last bout, yuck!!!).  So,  I’m take a study break to stop by this evening and share with you a super fun project I’ve worked on during evenings over the past few weeks.

So, without further ado, let me introduce Mr. Moose.

As with most of the projects we make, Mr. Moose has a bit of a back story to him. A few weeks ago was my birthday (I was 26. All I’m going to say is that my boy knows me too too well because between birthday festivities Phil made me an enormous Reese’s Pieces icecream cake … he’s a keeper that one! :D)

Anywho, it turns out my brother and his lovely girl Vicky also know me and my crafty ways too well because in addition to two sets of bamboo knitting needles (which I’ve been itching to try for a while) they also got me some of the nicest, most beautifully soft undyed wool I have ever owned. It smells like a sheep. I think that says it all 😀

It is made by Ardalanish on the Isle of Mull (which funnily enough is where I worked on one of my last knitting projects, you can read about here) and comes in three beautiful breed’s natural (i.e. undyed) shades:  Bluefaced Leicester, Manx Brown and Hebridean Brown. I got two balls of Bluefaced Leicester and two balls of the Manx Brown, and more or less from the minute I opened them, I knew they were perfect for the project I’d been storing up on Ravelry for a while, a cute as anything amigurumi moose.

A very brief word on amigurumi. Amigurumi is the japanese craft of crocheting small stuffed animals or toys. The animals are usually made using single crochet stitches and worked in the round to make each of the individual body parts, which you can then stuff and sew together. The lovely thing about it is that the single crochet gives you a pretty tough stitch which ends up being almost sculptural so you can make just about anything you can think of! (I’ve even seen a whole set of star wars characters before. Amigurumi yoda = heart meltingly cute! :D)

Unfortunately as I bought the pattern for the moose, I can’t share it with you here, but the pattern is by Brenna Eaves, and is available here on Ravelry or if your not signed up to Ravelry you can find it here on her Etsy shop. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It costs $7, which I think is a really fair price and it was easy to follow, very detailed and rarely for a pattern I follow, I actually didn’t make any tweaks at all as I went along (not bad going huh?). 😀  

Now, I should preface this post by saying that I am not a pro crocheter. I would always call myself a knitter first and foremost (actually, thats not true, I’d call myself a quilter, but in terms of working with yarn I knit far more often than I crochet.) In fact, my crochet experience only really stretched to the odd granny square for a blanket. So I knew the moose was going to be a challenge.

Also, the pattern does say that it’s is not suitable for beginner’s. But never one to shy away from a challenge (or perhaps just a glutten for punishment!) I gave it a go anyway, and slowly slowly made progress. When I encountered a stitch I didn’t know I searched for it on youtube, watched a few tutorials and practiced it until I’d got it down and then used it in the pattern. The nice thing about crochet too, is that if you get your stitch wrong (as happened many many times!) you can just pull a stitch back and try again (which is always trickier in knitting).

So, now that the project is finished what so I think about the ‘not suitable for beginners warning?’ Well, I would say I half agree (nothing like sitting on the fence lol). If today is your first day picking up a crochet hook then probably the moose is a bit of a big first step, so not for total beginners. But, if you are just new to amigurumi but have a little bit of time to persevere and like learning as you go I think its actually a great pattern to start on.

Luckily, Mr. Moose was finished just in time for taking on a very important job. My little brother, who is now sadly not so little at all, moved out last weekend to start his first proper grown up job and live in his first proper grown up flat all by himself. So, I tasked Mr. Moose with the respectable job of being a guard moose for my brothers new flat. After all, living alone for the first time can be a bit freaky for the first few weeks, so who wouldn’t want the company of a friendly moose to keep them safe on their endeavours in the big wide world?

So, before I embarrass him anymore (he he he), lets get down to the nitty gritty of making a moose.

I used:

a size 4.5 crochet hook,

1 and 1/2, 50g ball of brown wool in the Manx brown colour of the Ardalanish wool,

1/2 a ball (also 50g) of cream wool in the Bluefaced Leicester colour of the Ardalanish wool,

a couple of strands of black wool for the eyes

4 circles of card to sit in the hooves and add a bit of support to him standing up

a tapestry / wool  needle to sew everything together

stuffing

The first order of service was to crochet all of the constituent parts. This included a round oval body, a slightly bigger round oval head, a neck, 4 legs, a tail, 2 ears, and 2 antlers (which were made of one long sausage shaped tube and 2 little nubbies).

Everything was crocheted in the brown, apart from the hoof end of the legs and the antlers which were crochet in cream. I checked out a few mooses on the internet and I think a brown body and cream antlers is more ‘moosey’ and less ‘deery’.

Before finishing each shape, I stuffed it with a polyester filling (I don’t really like adding polyester to things, but the polyester filling is fire retardant which is actually kinda important for stuffed animals) then crocheted it closed ….. the pattern was very good about  telling you when to stuff each body part, so you didn’t accidentally leave yourself with too little room.

Before I stuffed the legs I popped a little circle of card in the bottom of each hoof to help him stand up nice and straight on a flat surface (it’s no good having a guardmoose if he keeps falling over!) 😀

Then all that was left to do was to sew each of the stuffed components together. I found an excellent video online, which you can find here, on how to sew together amigurumi crochet pieces invisibly. I can’t recommend it highly enough! It was great and as I was sewing my pieces together I was super thankful I had watched it first!

All that was left to do in the end was to sew on his eyes!

Here he is finished from behind …..

And right after he fell over mid photoshoot, oopsy lol.

The good news is that Mr. Moose arrived with Adam this morning, so I’m pretty sure they’ll be making friends as we speak.

We hope you all had a lovely weekend. I am enjoying another birthday treat tomorrow, as my parents have sent me on a bookbinding course for the day. I am super excited! I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures so share what I learn. 😀

Posted in Make | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Bake: Pugliese – artisan bread time!

So I guess I should first apologize for the slight absence of posts since finishing our ottoman. I can assure you we didn’t entirely drop off the face of the earth, rather our laptop kinda dropped off the face of the counter, bounced a little and thereafter refused to switch on… eek :S. That is not to say we haven’t been doing lots of fun projects in the meantime, we have just had a bit of an obstacle to overcome in order to actually share it with you lovely people.

There are in fact a number of up sides to owning a slightly less than functional laptop. All those hours we usually spend reading awfully important things on the internet (mostly looking at pictures on pretty blogs) have suddenly been freed up to complete some projects around the house. A number of these are probably far too boring and domesticated to share in detail; hanging pictures, hanging coat hooks, replacing toilet seats, replacing bathroom light fittings which rather worryingly had started to smell a bit like burning as you showered each morning :S, not to mention some top secret projects we can’t really share at the moment as they are headed in the direction of our families at some point in the future, who have a habit of checking up on what we post!

But what I totally can share today is a delicious bread recipe. Whilst I have shared a few bread ideas here in the past, they are usually creations which come together in an afternoon. But, owing to the fact I had a little more time on my hands than usual I decided to seize the moment and make something which took shape over a couple of days, making a dough which used a starter, or biga (that’s the technical term apparently) rather than just relying on yeast to work its magic and churn out a loaf in a couple of hours.

This recipe starts by mixing together a starter dough which you can leave for a few days to ferment and grow. The result is a loaf of bread which is certainly tastier and much closer to an artisan loaf rather than the sliced gunge you get from the supermarket. Perfect! 😀

So on with the recipe..

Pugliese Loaf

Ingredients

For the dough starter:

1/8 teaspoon yeast

6 tablespoons water

1/2 cup plain flour

1/3 cup rye flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

For the dough:

3/4 cup water

1 3/4 cup plain flour

3/4 teaspoon yeast

the starter from above

3/4 teaspoon salt

1) Get things started – Making the dough starter couldn’t be easier. Its simply a case of stirring all the starter ingredients in a small bowl together until they form a sticky dough. Mix it around for a couple of minutes until it just starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl, before covering with some lightly oiled cling film and leaving to work it’s magic and double in size, about 6 hours or overnight.

2) Put your feet up – After the starter has doubled in size it is ready to use. However, if like me you are not exactly raring to go baking bread at the crack of dawn, it will happily sit in the fridge for 2 – 3 days before use. If anything a little longer to mature can only help make your final loaf of bread more tasty! If you do decide to leave your starter for a couple of days just make sure you let it sit out of the fridge for about an hour to warm up slightly before you move on.

3) Make some dough – Finally it’s time to make your bread dough. First place your dough starter in the bowl of your stand mixer then add the water flour and yeast and stir for a minute to form a very rough dough. Cover and leave to rest for 20 minutes.

4) A little bit kneady – Sprinkle the salt over the dough (leaving the salt out until this stage makes sure it doesn’t do any nasty things to the yeast) and knead for 5-10 minutes until smooth and slightly sticky. Scrape the dough into a lightly oiled bowl cover and leave to rise for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

5) Shape things up – turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a smooth round ball. If you are a baker with an awfully well stocked kitchen you can now turn out your dough upside down into a banneton (that is the proper baskety thing you can use to rise dough in). For the rest of us, a neat cheat is to line a colander with a floured dish towel to use in its place. Rising the dough like this helps keep that nice round shape which can sometimes slump a little when just left to rise free standing. Lightly cover and leave the dough to rise for another hour.

6) Bake – Finally it’s time to bake! Preheat your oven to 230 ºC (450 F) and lightly oil a baking sheet. Carefully turn out the dough onto the baking sheet and if you fancy make some arty slashes across the top with a sharp knife or razor blade.

Finally place in the screaming hot oven for 30 minutes, lowing the temperature to 205 ºC (400 F) for the last 15 minutes. When its ready, the bread will sound hollow when lightly tapped on the top and bottom.

Boom! tasty bread made 😀 Although freshly baked bread always leaves me with a little problem… what do you do with all that amazingly tasty bread once you’ve already eaten so much your tummy is full? OK admittedly not the worst problem in the world to have. You could always squeeze in more bread and butter, toast and jam (tasty jam recipe here), with soup or in a delicious sandwich …… actually I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

Oh and as ever the recipe can be found in a nice printer friendly format right here!

Happy Baking!

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Make: The Ottoman Chronicles Part 3

Hi folks,

Its that time! Time to share the third and final part of our ottoman building adventure, because we are excited to say …..  ” Ta dahhhhh! Our ottoman is officially finished!!! “.

In truth we probably did so much work on it in the last couple of weeks that we could have stretched this out into the Ottoman Chronicles part 4 (and maybe even 5 if we were feeling chatty) but we figure the best stories come in threes! …….. Actually, there are tons of good trilogies when you think of them Back to the Future, The Godfather, Lord of the Rings, Toy Story, Jurassic Park (actually, on second thoughts not Jurassic Park, the last one was pretty terrible   …….. * (Phil has since also informed me that the last Godfather and the last Back to the Future are pretty rubbish too, so perhaps trilogies are not always the best plan lol :S ) 

So, basically what we are saying is ….. hold onto your hats, because this is going to be one long (but hopefully interesting) ottoman related post …. in fact, if I were you, i’d go make a cup of tea now, because this could take a while.

So, where did we leave off? Last time we had got as far as finishing the boxing that would serve to act as the structural frame of our ottoman, and had got ourselves a pretty awesome deal on some oak legs. So next step was to fix our foam to our base (if you want to know how we found our foam, we dished all the details in our first ottoman post, which you can find here to catch up! :D)

First thing first we had to cut our foam to exactly the right size for the base. The nice people in the store had cut it pretty roughly for us when we bought it, but it definitely needed a bit of a tidy up to make sure the ends were good and square. So we measured out square ends using a set square rule and marked it out with a sharpie pen.

Foam is actually not that easy to cut by hand if you still want to have a nice smooth end when your done. After trying a few different tools, we opted for a long serrated knife, and going very slowly to make sure our cut stayed vertical. The ends were still a little ridgy, but were  a big improvement with what we started with, so we decided that once the batting and fabrics were on you would never know (which, now its finished we can confirm is true! Phew!)

Next came fixing the foam to the wooden base. This step was surprisingly simple. We knew that we needed to glue the foam down (especially since we were using two layers to make it extra cushy, and because we didn’t want any foam-slipping related disasters) but the idea of busting out adhesives on foam gave us cold sweats. We both had horrible ideas of our lovely foam melting as soon as the glue touched it (a bit like polystyrene).

But, luckily, Phil was on the case, and after a bit of googling, decided our best bet was to try using spray on foam and carpet adhesive which he had found recommended on a few upholstery websites.  Luckily our local hardware store had exactly what we needed and it was pretty cheap (I think it ran to around £5 per can).

Also, the process of applying it was surprisingly smooth. We followed the instructions on the bottle which suggested spraying both sides to be fixed with a thin coat of the adhesive, and then leaving them for 1 – 2 minutes to become tacky before pressing them together. The odd thing about carpet adhesive is that it actually comes out kind of thick, a little bit like silly string. But, this is good because it means it is easy to control the spray of the glue, and see exactly where it is going (ie. not on your skirt, the floor or in your hair).

Here I am, happily spraying the glue on my lovely mint green foam! 😀

Here is one good thing to note too, once you have stuck the two layers together, they are stuck!! I mean seriously … not going anywhere. I was a little bit skeptical when I heard the word ‘spray adhesive’ as I was having flashbacks to school poster projects which used ‘repositionable’ aka. not very sticky at all spray adhesive, which managed to gunk up everything in sight. Ick. But, I was really pleasantly surprised with the carpet glue. It also really wasn’t especially fumey when we had done it, but we still opened our big lounge doors and popped the ottoman by them to let it gas off a little while it dried over night.

The next day, we decided it was time to start the actual process of upholstery! And it was the batting’s turn first!

We bought our batting at a local fabric shop, and it cost the surprisingly cheap sum of £3.50 per meter . The store had two options, 2 oz or 6 oz so we opted for 6 oz to make it super squishy.

To apply it, first we placed the batting over the top of the ottoman and centered it so we were happy that we had plenty to cover each side and reach all the way underneath, where we were planning on hiding our staples.

Then, we placed a staple in the middle of each side just to anchor and secure the batting in place. The first one needed no tension on it, but for all the others, we had a system going where Phil took hold of the fabric with both hands and applied even tension to keep the batting taught over the ottoman, while I popped the staples in.

Once we were done, we used a craft knife to carefully cut the batting flush around the legs.

A word on our staple gun: Phil and I have tried a few basic upholstery jobs before (just recovering dining chair seats really) and had been plagued with rubbish horrible staple guns which jammed every 2 minutes. So, for this project, where we knew that good stapling was going to be key, we splurged and invested in a new gun (not an expensive one, just a new one).

Its a ‘Stanley Sharp Shooter’ (pretty fancy name huh!), cost £20, and we couldn’t be happier with it! It has worked like a dream for the whole project, so we are def going to hang on to it for future projects (and nope, as ever we wern’t payed or perked to say we like it, we just share the love when we come across something we thing is great!) Phil would also like me to point out that his favourite part of the staple gun is that the body is made of ‘aircraft aluminium’! I’m not sure what the significance of that is, but I think it makes it pretty fancy in his eyes! 😀 …. he even made me take a picture with it, lol. Deary me (this is my slightly skeptical face).

Once we had stapled all the way around the sides, we had the corners to do. For the batting layer, we just decided to cut the batting flush with the corner so the edges lined up nicely, staple it in place and leave it at that (the corners get a little more complicated in the next few layers, but we knew the batting was always going to be covered, so as long as it sat nicely in place we were happy).

The exciting thing is that once the batting was on, it very much was starting to look a like an ottoman, not the skeleton of an ottoman, so we were psyched.

The next layer to tackle was the calico. If you look online, lots of upholstery sites use hessian rather than calico, but we knew that we just needed a good strong (but not expensive) cotton underlining to give a smooth and taught layer for our final fabric to sit on, so a calico seemed like as good an option as any. We bought our calico at the same time as our batting, in a local fabric store and it cost £3 per meter, so cheap as chips.

Again the process was pretty simple, although a bit more time consuming than the batting as we had cornering to contend with.

Just like the batting we layed out the calico over the ottoman to make sure it was centered and then stapled our way around the edges, starting in the middle and working our way out to the corners, placing 1 staple in one side, then switching to the next side and the next, to make sure our tension stayed even across the top of the whole box.

When it came to the corners, we trimmed the calico to fit around the legs, and trimmed off any major excess, and then folded the corner into a triangle (just like wrapping a present), which we tucked inside. We then held it firm with a few staples. We were a little concerned that the extra triangle fold would add too much bulky fabric under the corner, but actually the calico is so thin it didn’t make any difference.

They weren’t necessarily the prettiest looking corners and they were veeerry fiddly to get right …. picture us listening to two entire games of olympic tennis while we tried to sort them out. But in the end they held the foam and batting taught and gave us a nice smooth firm surface to apply our final outside fabric over.

Here’s what it looked like underneath once we had finished stapling the calico.

We then took a break from working on the ottoman for a whole week. We both had work commitments that we needed to get on with, and we had reached a bit of a hurdle, namely, choosing our final fabric!!

We knew that we love loved the beautiful thick woolen tweed upholstery fabric from Anta,  which is what was used on our inspiration ottoman, which you can see here.

But, at £85 per meter, (and when we calculated we would need 1.6 meters to cover the ottoman) we just couldn’t justify the price tag. So, we decided to go on the hunt for something similar but slightly closer to our price range.

Later that week, we popped into John Lewis, a local department store, to have a peek at their collection of upholstery fabrics. They usually have a pretty good selection, so we thought this might be a good place to get some ideas. Which is where we stumbled across the Abraham Moon selection of upholstery wools. They were exactly what we were looking for. Thick, hard wearing, and they had a huge selection of pretty colors and tartans to choose from. We also loved that their wools were made in right here in the UK, in a mill in Yorkshire, so they are lovely and home grown. Yipee!! We were still a little hesitant at the price tag (around £50 per meter) but we decided to order some free sample swatches from them, so we could at least get a better idea of what they would look like in our sitting room.

The swatches arrived really quickly, and here is what we ordered:

Top Left: Natural Collection. Reflection / Hessian

Top Right: Baronial Volume 1. Huntingtower in Celestial

Bottom Left: Boutique Collection. Islington  Plain in Slate

Bottom Right:  Boutique Collection Richmond Check in Grey / Multi

But, in the end, as none of them were quite right, we decided to sleep on it, and keep looking. If we were going to have to pay that much for fabric it had to be exactly the right fabric!

So, a couple of days later, we were driving past our local fabric store (the self same one which we had got our calico and batting from a week earlier) when we saw that they had a 10% off sale. Never one to pass on a sale we popped in, and there, in a corner, looking all thick and wooly and lovely, was a whole pile of Abraham Moon wool fabrics on the roll, just waiting to say hello. And, at the bottom of that pile, was this beauty!

Its called Antique Collection, Longleat in colour ‘Glacier’ and we knew instantly it was exactly what we were looking for. It actually reads more greeny/turquoise in person, but it is brown enough to match our curtains, blue enough to bring a pop of color into the living room and with the odd teeny bit of green in it which pulls in the map are we have on the walls in the lounge. The extra exciting bit was that, because the store already had the fabric on the roll (rather than needing to order it from the manufacturer) it was priced at only £35 per meter, with an extra 10% off, which ended up being £31.50, and we needed 1.6 meters, which brought us to a grand total of £50.40.

Not cheap, but sooooooo much better than the £136 the original Anta fabric would have cost us.  So we bit the bullet and bought it there and then.

And, once we got it home, we knew right away it was the perfect choice. We love that it is so rugged and durable, but super soft, and not at all scratchy like some woolen tweeds. Plus, it is perfect for our little Scottish house.

So, onto the final step. Covering the ottoman in the woolen fabric. We had done a lot of reading in the previous week and watched a fair few online videos of people upholstering various bits of furniture, so we had gathered that the best plan would be for us to sew the corners into nice seams, to create a sort of slip cover for the ottoman, which we then stapled underneath. But for some reason, the idea of sewing our lovely wool into a slip cover filled me with a bit of dread. I had visions of a nasty saggy baggy covers which wrinkled and didn’t sit tight, but others seemed to have had success, so I gave it a go.

We measured out the size of the top of the ottoman onto the fabric (making sure out lines were straight, no one wants wiggly check on their furniture) and then measured out the length down the sides, just as if you were making the net for a cube.

And then I just sat and sewed the two side lengths together, just as if I was making a slip cover for a sofa. I actually decided to sew the sides by hand. My old sewing machine is very trusty, but I just didn’t think he would cope with the two thick layers of wool, plus I always feel like a have a little better control with hand sewing. To make sure my sides were extra tough I used 3 strands of extra thick thread (which I already had in my sewing basket) and double sewed them with a running stitch. I left long tails at the end in case we wanted to just tighten the stitches a little once it was on.

And miraculously it worked first time. The fabric fit snuggly round the ottman with no saggy wrinkles or lumps and bumps.

All that was left to do then was to trim the fabric around the legs (we also trucked it under, given about an extra inch inside so we had a nice finish with no raw edges) and staple it in place, just like we had done the batting and the calico.

To finish the whole piece off, Phil bought some brass upholstery tacks from our local hardware store (price: £2.50 per box of 50, and we bought 2 boxes just to be sure) and hammered them in with a pin hammer around the legs so it looks pretty and finished, and to make sure the fabric around the legs stayed put.

And here it is finished. Ta dahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

We are super super pleased with it. It is comfy, and functional and everything we hoped it would be. For sure, it took us a long time to complete (about 5 solid afternoons of work) and neither of us could have done it by ourselves … Phil is the wood work brains in our house, and I am the fabric person. But, from stuffing the foam into our suitcase to bring it home from America, to finding and sanding our old coffee table legs, every bit of it has been fun and challenging!

For those of you who were keeping tabs (and because its good for us to see how much these things cost), here is our final price break down for the whole project:

2 yards foam: £25

2×4 timber for the framing: £10

Screws: £3

MDF board: £12

Oak legs: £15

Sandpaper: £0.60

Spray carpet adhesive: £5

1.6 meters of 6 oz batting: £5.60

1.6 meters calico: £4.80

Stanley Sharp Shooter staple gun (which came with the staples included): £20

Woolen upholstery fabric: £50.60

Brass upholstery tacks (100): £5

Which brings us to a grand total of: £156.60

Not bad when the one we liked would have cost us £875 in store, and we still have oak left from the table, and some wool fabric cuttings left to do more projects with!

So, there you have it 2854 words on the final part of our ottoman. If you made it to the end, we are seriously impressed lol. We both love doing big projects like this together, so you can bet we will have another one on its way pretty soon.

So, what did everyone else spend the last few weekends doing? We are totally hooked on the Olympics (can you tell from our photo) and enjoying a few days of warm weather!

p.s. (see that basket, keep your eyes peeled for a basket related project very soon!)

Hope its sunny where you are 😀

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Cook: Rhubarb and Ginger Crumble

Hey everyone! So I don’t know about you but all this ottoman building malarkey has made me a little peckish. The ottoman is almost done, and we’re wicked excited to share it with you when it’s complete, for anyone not up to speed just scroll down a bit to see what I’m on about and where we’ve got to so far (or click here I guess, see how helpful I am :P). But as I said, this ottoman building has certainly been hungry work, so I thought it was about time I got back into the kitchen to cook something delicious to look forward to at the end of a hard day’s furniture building.

Quick, simple and tasty was the order of the day as I was definitely in the mood to sit in a heap when I was done, not slave over a hot stove, so you’ll be pleased to hear this recipe definitely fits into the so easy you’ll wonder why you don’t make it more often category. As Sam had very cleverly picked up some reduced price rhubarb at the store a couple of days earlier there was only one thing for it, rhubarb crumble!

There’s something special about old fashioned desserts, like those you used to get with your school dinner, and for me rhubarb crumble definitely fits the bill, although I’m hoping you will agree my effort is a little bit better executed than the school dinner variety! (No lumpy custard in sight) I haven’t kept things entirely traditional , either with the filling or the crumble topping, but I think that my little tweaks change it from being something ordinary and delicious into something a little special.

As I have mentioned a couple of times before, I’m a bit of a ginger fanatic and think rhubarb makes pretty good friends with the stuff, so I managed to sneak some crystallised root ginger into the rhubarb, but half a teaspoon of powdered ginger would work just as well. Feel free to leave it out if ginger is not up your street and your crumble will still be mighty tasty I promise.

I also added some crushed pecans to the crumble topping. This adds some extra crunch and a delicious sweet nutty flavour. Again, still totally tasty without them, but I think adding nuts into the crumble topping makes it a little more special (crushed hazelnuts work really well too!).

So on with the recipe…

Rhubarb and ginger Crumble

Ingredients:

For the rhubarb filling:

5 chunky rhubarb stems

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon diced crystallised ginger or 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger (optional)

For the crumble topping:

2/3 cup fridge cold butter

2/3 cup sugar

2 cups plain (all purpose) flour

1/2 cup pecans (optional)

1) Chop – First things first wash the rhubarb and chop into 4-5 in lengths and place into your favourite oven safe crumble dish.

2) Sweeten things – Stir in the 1/2 cup of sugar and make sure all the rhubarb is coated nicely before placing in the oven at 200 C (290 F) for 20 minutes or until the rhubarb has softened.

3) Ginger-ize – Dice the crystallized root ginger and stir into the softened rhubarb mix to ensure it is evenly dispersed (we don’t want anyone getting an alarming mouthful now do we :P).

4) Topping Prep – Grab the bowl of your stand mixer and whizz together the butter, sugar and flour for your crumble topping on a medium speed until it forms into small breadcrumb-like-ness. If you are feeling super organised you could do this bit whilst the rhubarb is in the oven.

5) Pecans – Crush your pecans into small chunks and stir into the crumble topping. You’ll want to make sure you don’t leave too many big chunks as these have a tendency of burning in the oven if you leave them big.

6) Bake- Spread your crumble topping evenly over the rhubarb and ginger filling making sure there are no large pecan pieces peeking out the top then place back in the oven, still at 200 C (290 F) for 30 minutes, or until the crumble is a light golden brown colour.

As ever I’ve popped the recipe into a printer friendly format here if that help’s you to get into the kitchen 😀

Now it’s definitely time to put your feet up, maybe catch a bit of the Olympics action and enjoy a well earned bowl of rhubarb and ginger crumble with cream, custard or ice cream, I’ll leave that bit up to you. Enjoy!

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Make: The Ottoman Chronicles Part 2

So the sun came out again this weekend which mean ottoman building was the order of the day. If you caught our previous post, you’ll realise that weather good enough for ottoman construction has been a little bit of a rarity of late so we woke up this weekend raring to go.

To recap on our ottoman master plan; we really wanted to build something to replace our coffee table which recently got re-homed to become stand for our new TV, and lovely it is too! (the old coffee table that is, although I guess the TV is nice in its own way :D). We spied quite a few we liked. My favorite was this one we spied at ANTA:

 

Sadly we didn’t have £875 down the back of the couch so decided to try our hand at making one for ourselves for a fraction of the price. The specs said this ottoman was “Made in the Highlands with solid oak legs and finished by hand” impressive huh? By my reckoning, handmade by Sam and I in Edinburgh sounded pretty close to this description, however, solid oak legs we’re always going to be a little tricky as anyone who has tried to find timber on a budget in the UK will tell you.

So where had we got to? Well, after shipping in our foam back with us from our holiday in New England, thanks to a massive Memorial Day Weekend sale at JoAnn Fabrics, we set to work building the frame from 2″ x 4″ timber. The frame will all be hidden under upholstery eventually, so there wasn’t really a need for it to be particularly pretty, just very solid and strong.

For those of you doing the sums, the foam, frame and screws brought our grand total spend to £50.

We left off last time humming and haring about whether we would sit the foam over upholstery tape or a piece of board. After pondering the likelihood of someone over zealously bounding over the ottoman (it can happen) and the risk of said person putting their foot right through the upholstery tape, we opted to use a board. So first order of the day was to go get a piece of board to fit.

Fortunately for the power-tool-less DIY enthusiasts like us, our local hardware store are happy enough to cut board to size for you and so without all that much effort on my part we had a piece of 1/2″ MDF cut exactly to size (24″ x 35″). This added another £12 to the bill, but definitely money well spent if it avoids any foot-through-the-ottoman disasters (Sam won’t mind me telling you, she’s occasionally a little accident prone) :D.

So onto the much more tricky, especially on a tight budget, business of finding oak to make the ottoman legs. Bearing in mind we were looking at £15 for enough generic planed timber from the hardware store to do the job, I was a little concerned this was going to be the point we abandoned our brief and had to make something “oak-effect” instead (which wouldn’t be a disaster, but a bit less ideal).

Before giving in and making our own , I suggested to Sam that we try going to a thrift store to see if we could find anything which might have legs we could steal. A quick Google search pointed us in the direction of the Edinburgh Furniture Initiative. I’m not sure how we hadn’t found this place before, but it turned out to be a bit of an Aladdin’s cave of unwanted furniture!! The extra icing on the cake is that all the proceeds go to a local Edinburgh homeless charity. So, we decided to pop in.

Whilst places like this are always fun to have a nosy around, I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t really expect to find anything which totally matched up with what we were looking for. We wandered through rows and rows of wardrobes, dining tables, side boards, couches and saw lots of things which would make fun restoration projects, but drew a bit of a blank on the legs front.

On our way out of the store we spotted a collection of coffee tables we had missed, and sitting proudly stacked table on table, was a rather sad looking wooden coffee table which had chunky legs pretty much exactly as I planned for our ottoman! It was, however, glowing a somewhat orange colour from years of varnish and lacquer build up, usually the tell-tale sign of 70’s pine furniture :S I had a look at the price tag, £15. It wasn’t necessarily the steal of the century but I figured maybe it would work, if nothing else it would save us heading back to the hardware store for the second time that day.

I grabbed the table down from the stack, or at least tried to before realising the thing weighed an absolute tonne! I flipped it upside down to have a peek and low and behold the reason it was so darned heavy was that it was actually made from solid oak – JACKPOT! (picture us doing a little happy dance, right there in the shop!)

From nowhere we had found the perfect solid oak legs we had set out to find and for only £15.  5 minutes later the coffee table was ours, so we hopped back in the car and back to ottoman central. And isn’t she perfect (well if you look beyond the totally gross finish and years of grime build up obviously!):

So first things first we whipped the legs off the table and got our first glimpse of some of the untreated wood. Each leg was bolted to the old table with, well a big old bolt, and after A LOT of encouragement with some pliers, they finally separated company to leave us with 4 lengths of oak and 4 bolts. Whilst fighting with the bolts it occurred to me we might be able to reuse them to bolt the legs to the ottoman and save a few pennies on extra hardware. Screwing the bolt through my frame and the legs would make for a pretty secure joint, but fear not, more on that in a bit.

This is definitely the moment in the day when the real work began. It was time to sand years of varnish of my beautiful oak. We started out with some fairly fine grain sandpaper and soon realised it was definitely not going to cut it, as the old lacquer was quickly clumping up on the paper; so a quick detour to the local hardware store for some rougher grain sandpaper to take off the thickest of the varnish and we were well on our way. It definitely took a bit of hard graft but the end product was totally worth it!

Once the wood was all sanded and good to go, it was finally time to chop it up into legs for the ottoman (I wasn’t quite picturing it being 2 ft tall, like the coffee table was :)).

We seem to have managed not to take any pictures of me sawing the wood to length, which is probably a bit of a blessing since it was seriously hot, by Scottish standards at least and I wasn’t exactly a pretty sight at the end of it! For those lucky people out there with an electric mitre saw this will take 2 minutes, for other poor souls like myself cutting perfectly flat straight cuts by hand was a little tiring and time consuming but fairly straightforward. We marked out and cut each leg 5″ in length. We did some sums to add up what the total height of the final ottoman would be with the frame and foam and decided that seemed about right as it made it 2 ” shorter than our couch seats.

So now we got to the important business of attaching the legs to the frame. As I mentioned before, we saved the bolts that had originally attached the old coffee table legs to the top. So we drilled a hole into the top of each of my freshly cut oak legs. I then glued and hammered  the bolts into the top of the legs.

 In much the same way I then drilled a hole into each corner of the ottoman frame. It is super important to double check the holes line up with where the bolts are placed in the oak legs or your ottoman will be all a bit squiffy.

A decent helping of wood glue and the legs were ready to be screwed in.

It’s fair to say that the legs were pretty solidly fixed at this point, but knowing that our ottoman would probably end up being used as a chair/table/stepping stool/trampoline in its lifetime I wanted to make doubly sure everything was secure so I added a small bracket to the top of each leg to secure things a little more.

It wasn’t long until all 4 legs were attached and ta-dah we had something which is slowly taking shape:

The last job of the day was to fix the mdf board to the ottoman (I figure it’s beginning to look ottoman-y enough to start calling it an ottoman). This was super simple, we just glued and screwed it down and hey presto all the woodwork was done!:

Next step is adding the foam and upholstering the whole lot!

I don’t know about you, but that felt like quite a lot for one day to me, so adding in the foam and upholstering the ottoman we will cover in a whole post of it’s own.

So for now, I hope you are all having an amazing week, the sun is shining, the Olympics is nearly upon us, and I almost have an ottoman! Life is good 😀

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