Monday, April 4, 2016

Coconut Candy

Growing up, Vietnamese New Year's, aka Lunar New Year's was one of my favorite holidays because we would celebrate with so many awesome traditions.  Kids would make lanterns for the lantern festival, get money from adults when they wished them well, and best of all were all the foods.  As a kid, the sweets that were made during that time of year were addicting.   One thing that my mom made was Coconut Candy.  It's coconut that has been coated with sugar..simple, yet delicious.


All you need is a coconut, supplies to open the coconut (pointed object and hammer), and sugar.


My pointed object is a screw driver.  I pointed it at one of the holes of the coconut.


My son decided to take over to hammer the screw driver in, making a hole.


Next, the coconut water was drained.


Take the hammer and tap all the way around the coconut until it cracks open.


Easy Peesy.


Next, scrape the coconut off the shell.


I used a sharp knife.


A peeler was then used to slice the coconut into thin pieces.


At this time, you could soak the coconut in the coconut water and color it with food color.  However, I decided to keep it white.

In a pan, in batches, divide the coconut water and coconut.  Here is a 1/3 of the shaved coconut with 1/3 of the coconut water.  Add a cup of white sugar and cook on low to medium heat.  Constantly stir the coconut or it will burn.


It will take about 15-20 minutes of stirring.  This is a great little work out ;)  The sugar will dissolve and then crystallize around the coconut.


Once the liquid has been dissolved, pour the coconut onto parchment paper to dry.



This is so good and addicting.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Building a Black Iron Pipe and Wooden Coffee table

My kids and I love to play board games.  However, whenever we played, the board game would not fit the ottoman coffee table we had so we would have to move it out of the way and play on the floor.  Walking though the store, I fell in love with the coffee table that went with my dining table in the kitchen.  However, I didn't want my house to be too matchy matchy.  On top of that, the price was over 1K so I wasn't jumping for joy at spending that much for a coffee table. 

Therefore, I decided to make the coffee table myself.  My dining table is made from reclaimed wood and has iron legs so I wanted my coffee table to be somewhat like that.  In the end, this is what I came up with my coffee table and I absolutely love it.


I always start my creative building process by scribbling down a drawing of what I think I would like and then I do my research.  I looked up square iron pieces to be similar to my dining table, but of course, I had no soldering experience.  I needed something adjustable so I thought of pipes.  I could get whatever measurements I wanted and put it together like lego pieces. 

I decided to get black iron pipes instead of galvanized ones.  I like the more rustic look and since I was making a coffee table, I didn't need the no rust feature of the galvanized pipes.  I learned rather quickly not to pick up black pipes with your hands because they are covered with grease.  Luckily, I brought some gloves with me when I was shopping (I never go to the hardware store with out them because wood+fingers = splinters). 

I did some research on how to remove the grease.  First I soaked the pipes in Trisodium Phosphate using the instructions on the back.  I found this at Lowes for a few dollars.  With a little elbow grease, I scrubbed the grease off after it had been soaking in the solution.  I used goof off to remove any remaining residue.

I quickly dried all the pipes (so that it wouldn't rust) and then started putting them together. 


I screwed the caps (which will be like the feet for my coffee table)  to a 4 inch piece of black steel nipple fitting.


Next, I  screwed the black steel tee fitting to the 4 inch piece and added a 8 inch piece to the other side.


To the center tee fitting, I attached a 12 inch nipple fitting with another tee fitting to attach the pair of legs together.


To attach the two pairs together, I added a center piece of black pipe that was 48 inches long. 

Finally, I added 4 flanges to the top of the 8 inch nipples that would enable me to attach it to the table surface from underneath.  I know there are more black pipes on the floor there.  I bought enough to make several different size scenarios.  Originally, my table was bigger, but I scaled it down a bit.  Once I got my leg measurements, I was off to cut the table top.


I bought 3 pieces of 2x8x10 and cut them to a length of 56 inches. 


Next, since the edges of the wood were curved, I went ahead and stripped each piece so that it would have a nice straight edge.


I clamped all the pieces together so that the edges would be straight and then I glued and screwed all the pieces using my kreg jig.


Initial assembly looked like this:

I'm well aware of the price tag on the pipes (this was before I cleaned the pipes).  I wanted to make sure my top fit the dimensions of the pipes before washing them.  Next, I sanded the entire piece to remove any rough edges.

Now came the fun part.  I used hammers, chisels, knives, my feet and whatever else I had to make the wood look old.  It was quite therapeutic :)   I wanted to make the wood look old and dented so I pounded it for quite some time.

I stained it with Minwax Walnut color stain that I already had.  I applied 3 coats of polyurethane with light sanding in between to the top surface and just 1 coat underneath.  


I added some metal brackets underneath for additional support.  Then I screwed the flanges in place. 


With some creative sliding (it is heavy), I flipped the table and voila!


So I lived with this table for a week before deciding that it was a little too tall for my liking.  I built it to the height of typical coffee tables, 18.5".  However, I decided that by lowering my table a couple of inches, it would look and feel better.  Even though everyone thought I was crazy because they did not agree with my thoughts, I went to the store and replaced my pipes and rebuilt my table.  I originally had a 10" pipes instead of an 8" ones.  


Here we are with my storage ottoman I had before.  I had just reupholster the thing a couple of months prior too, but it just doesn't work in our space anymore.  It once was perfect when we had toddlers, but now it was just too small.

I bought a new rug that made the room much bigger and the ottoman just looked tiny in it.

My new coffee table looked huge in comparison and for a moment I thought it was too big.


However, after living with it for a few months, I've discovered, it is indeed perfect.



I love everything about it.  It is super sturdy, we can fit our board games comfortably and best of all, my kids can dent, color, and scratch it up, and it only adds more character to the surface.  It is definitely a put your feet up type of table which is how we live.

In the end, I saved a bunch.  I ended up spending about a hundred for my coffee table and the best part of my table is that I love it more than the 1K inspirational one.


Have you ever built something only to find out that you had to rebuild it to make it perfect?  I do it all the time.  Each piece I learn something new that I am able to apply what I've learned to my next project.  I am so happy with my table.  It took me a while to get there, but I finally did.

Here's a run down of the materials:
3 - 2x8x10
4 - 1 inch floor flange fitting
4 - 1 inch black iron cap fitting
6 - 1 inch black iron tee fitting
4 - 4 inch length (1 inch diameter) black steel nipple fitting
4 - 8 inch length (1 inch diameter) black iron pipe
4 - 12 inch length (1 inch diameter) black iron pipe
1 - 48 inch length (1 inch diameter) black iron pipe
16 screws
2 metal brackets
1 box of tsp
1 spray bottle of goof off
1 quart of stain
1 quart of satin finish polyurethane  

Note that you can make your table any size you want.  I made mine to fit my space and dimension of my couch (and board games ;) )

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Personalized Teachers Christmas Gifts

My kids have been in school for decades it seems so there have been a lot of different types of gifts given to their teachers.  I've given anything from gift cards to gift baskets, candies to lotions, but I've realized, that the biggest reactions came from gifts that were personalized and hand-made.  I was walking down the school hallway to my child's teacher's class room and noticed in a previous teacher's classroom was the crayola art picture I made for her.  I won't lie, that kind of tugged at my heart strings a bit seeing something I made 3 years ago hanging on the wall.

That got me thinking to the reaction that I got when I made a mug for another teacher with the classroom picture on one side and on the other side, it wrote, "Mrs. Allen, you are the best."

This year, I thought I would combine the two.  Being the yearbook coordinator last year brought on a lot of photo ideas so my plan was to make classroom books for my kids' teachers this year for an end of the year memento.  I went to the school and photographed all the kids.  As I was editing pictures, I was playing around and came up with this:


I decided to make a cup, but of course, it didn't turn out as I had hoped the first go at it.  I had to make a few modifications, like changing the orientation to landscape for one of them.


The result was a really adorable cup.

Next, I decided to wrap the gift and stick it in an insulated lunch bag with the teacher's initial embroidered on it.  I had read a lot of teachers liking gifts that are created from their students, especially ornaments so off my kids went to create their own masterpiece. 


It was the perfect gift tag.  One side had a little piece of artwork, while the other side had their name.


Then I decided to frame the picture I created as well because I just simply loved the way it turned out. Hopefully, it will be a nice addition to the classroom ;)


I was planning on doing this for teacher appreciation week, but I've always been a little impatient and just couldn't wait so I'm gifting it as well.


For a finishing touch, on the back of the portrait, I printed a picture of my son with a little note.

When thinking of the things that I want for Christmas, I really love receiving hand-made gifts.  I'm hoping the teachers love the gifts as much as I did creating them.  What do you think?  What were some of your most favorite hand-made gifts you have given?

Update:  What's the reaction verdict?  I got a handful of teary-eyed teachers and plenty of hugs.  Hearing that I gave them the best gift they have ever received, made all the hours of editing worth it.  That's the least I could do for all the hours they have given my kiddos, right?  Now, I have to figure out how to top that for teacher appreciation week.   I'm so out of ideas at the moment.  Anyone make anything unique that you would like to share?

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