Planting Sequoias

In which I blog about a life (hopefully) well lived.


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Fabulous Finds and Freebies (in which I horrify my husband by taking in other people’s cast-offs)

It is a well-known fact around these parts that Ken does not share my love of thrifting. To him, it is a particular form of torture that he would avoid at all costs if it were not for his lovely wife.

So Ken, when feeling particularly magnanimous and brave, will only on very special occasions suggest going to a thrift store.

I have come to terms with this fact about Ken, and I love him anyway. I usually try to spare him from my thrift store adventures because I’d like our marriage to last. It’s a sacrifice I willingly (yet sorrowfully) make.

Last week, I roped my mom and sisters into thrifting with me. They’re much better at Ken at enabling and therefore are much better thrift store companions.

Which is why, on our latest trip, I picked up this great piece of fake artwork. My mother and sisters were very supportive in spite of Ken’s text message indifference. The price? $6. The size? Rather large (scientifically). The frame? Simply amazing.

old artwork in antique frame

On the same trip, I also grabbed this piece for $5. The colors are a little “meh” (okay, a lot “meh”) but again, my mom and sisters sensed my deep desire to adopt this and gave me the go-ahead. I have big plans for this piece.

old artwork in antique frame

However, poor Ken could not escape my foibles entirely. Whilst out on a jaunt through our ghetto neighborhood, we had the good fortune to come across a veritable treasure trove of dumpster goodies.

Let me just pause to explain Ken’s inner turmoil.

The man does not like thrift stores. Which means that dumpster finds are COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY out of the question.

Luckily, the man loves me and I convinced him to drive the getaway car so we could snag these finds and usher them into their new home in our garage.

Free end tables

Can’t you just SEE the potential oozing out of these free beauties? This one was particularly intriguing to me, as it has a great brass strip around the base and very interesting curvy legs. Methinks Emily Henderson would approve. It is missing a drawer, but I’m willing to overlook it. Ken was quite disgusted and wholeheartedly NOT willing to overlook it.

Free end table

But then. THEN.

The best thing happened.

It was the day before the Bar Exam. I had to work, but Ken was going to fit in some last minute studying.

On my way out of our apartment complex, I spotted it. Sunlight burst through the clouds and angels sang a majestic chorus.

But, dressed in my business casual maxi skirt, cardigan, and strappy sandals (and running perpetually late), I had little choice but to throw myself at the mercy of the Free Stuff Hater. I would have to ask Kenny for help.

How could I not? Check out those curves.

free headboard

My husband, in his hopefully limitless love for me, carted this laminate beauty all the way from the dumpster to our garage on the day before the biggest test of his life.

The moral of the story: ladies, marry a great guy who loves you very much. It has worked out well for me.

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Painted Barn Wood Sign (in which I nearly start My Own Business but then I think it through)

If you have been reading my blog from the beginning (so…2 people, maybe), this post may sound a little familiar.

You see, I’ve done this craft before. Here. Almost exactly a year ago, but before Kenny and I were married, so basically ages ago.

It’s just that when my parents’ start tearing up buildings on the farm, AKA BARNS I get a bit excited.

I see all of this old, beautiful BARN WOOD and I start getting these Grand Delusions.

I begin to think that I will hoard this disassembled barn and make things out of the wood.

I start plotting ways to expand this into a business with my crafts (because this is probably going to go viral. Gotta be prepared.)

Then I think that I should probably quit my job to devote all of my time and energy into this yet-nonexistent but entirely probably very-successful venture.

And then I begin to think that my Business Empire can help to Save the World. I’ll employ people! I’ll donate! I’ll send these to third world countries because I am a Philanthropist (capital “P”).

(It escalates quickly, I know. I have to live with myself constantly).

But then I blink, and come down to reality. I like my 9-5. And while I enjoy doing crafts, my attention span is about as long as a toddlers. And once I do something, I don’t normally have a burning desire to do it again (recreate the wheel and all that).

But I can’t help but snag a board or two for fun, special occasions.

One such special occasion presented itself on Sunday, when one of my best friends had her first bridal shower and I needed a gift.

Sometimes homemade gifts can go horribly wrong, so I had budgeted for a Plan B. But it turned out just fine.

And.

Why am I still talking? You want to see pictures.

Here’s the board, which was formerly a barn.

barn wood board for sign

As you can see, I needed to do a little clean up. Nail removal had already occurred for transportation-safety purposes.

So I washed it and sanded it to within an inch of it’s life. It was then more deserving of a better photo backdrop than the garage floor and our duvet cover sufficed.

Sanded barn board for rustic sign

Next I traced out my plan with some chalk. We used this verse (and some surrounding ones) at our wedding and I think it’s super appropriate for a soon-to-be-married couple. 1 John 4:19 says “We love because He first loved us.” #bibleforthewin

rustic barn wood sign--chalk markings

Chalk allows for a multitude of errors, which is also nice.

Paint is a little less forgiving, but let’s keep it in perspective. This is supposed to be rustic.

painting a sign onto barn wood

Then, because the letters were a little too crisp and white, I attacked the board with some sandpaper and rustick-ed it up.

distressed paint on barn wood sign

It also made it super soft and silky feeling and so I didn’t seal it with anything. That could happen, but I liked the unfinished, matte look.

rustic barn wood sign 1 john 4:19

To the back of the board I affixed two tiny picture-hanging hooks, the kind with the little teeth. Those are hinge marks in the paint, so I think this board came from somewhere really mysterious and glamorous like a door or cabinet.

hinge marks on old barnwood

So, even though I didn’t end up saving the world (YET), I did manage to make a semi-acceptable bridal shower gift.

Cheers to Lorie and Phil on their upcoming nuptials!


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Flashback Friday: A Story of a TV Stand (in which I realized I really loved my boyfriend/fiance/husband)

There are many reasons why I fell in love with the man who is now my husband.

It may have been because he is so smart. He is basically a genius, after all. These days, he studies for the bar exam about 23 hours a day.

Or it may have been because he is great with kids. He could say something super mean to campers and they would love it. Not sure how/why.

Or it may have been simply the fact that he put up with yours truly. That, I must sometimes admit, has got to be a tough job.

But one time when I knew for sure that he was the one for me was when he took it upon himself to build me some furniture.

Ladies, if a man decides to build you some furniture, SNAP HIM UP.

173

Long long ago, when Ken and Anne were not yet married and Ken was still in law school, he decided to build us a TV stand. He sort of used some plans from Ana White but mostly just did his own thing.

I should mention that Ken (before this time, of course) had NO carpentry skills or experience whatsoever. Unless it was building a Pinewood Derby car. I think everyone who participated in weekday church programs did that though, so it doesn’t count.

Building a TV Stand

Oh, and I should also mention that Ken did this without a workshop of any kind. Unless you count the livingroom of his 600ish square foot apartment. Sawdust got everywhere.

At my request, he stained the top and painted the bottom.

TV stand detail

And now it is perfect.

We go back and forth on wanting to add doors. Our hesitation stems mainly from the fact that neither of us want to mess this up and hinges confuse us. I’ve debated making fabric curtain-y things to hide our games, but I don’t want our house to become to shabby-chic. We’ve already got a ton of doilies in the bedroom

So for now, it stays as it is, which is fine with me. After all, Kenny built it. Himself.

Can you tell I’m a wee bit proud?


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Epic Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake (in which I make cake, mousse, and ganache and mash it all together)

SOMEONE is having a very special birthday today. Hint: It is Ken! Happy quarter century, buddy!

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get on to the good stuff.

The good stuff, obviously, being THIS CAKE.

Note: not my picture. DUH. Source: here.

Let’s dissect this sucker. I never really liked dissection (frog innards=absolutely unnecessary to gaze upon), but this is the kind of science I can really get behind.

From the bottom up, that’s a cake layer, a peanut butter mousse layer, another cake layer, another peanut butter mousse layer, ANOTHER cake layer, and then, topping it all off, that’s some peanut butter chocolate ganache. I don’t even know how to pronounce that  last word…that’s how you know a recipe is REALLY good. I’m guessing “ganache” does NOT rhyme with “karate,” though I dearly wish it did.

You can’t stop me from pronouncing it that way in my head, though.

This is the cake that Ken requested for his birthday. The man was actually going to MAKE IT HIMSELF before I forcibly wrestled him away from the KitchenAid. It would perhaps have turned out better if I’d let him bake his own cake, but WHATEVER. It’s the principle of the thing.

Also, I’d show you my own pictures of my cake endeavors, but they’d look like this:

peanut butter mousse. I promise.

UHHHHH, YEAH. I know. In my defense, that is an actual unedited photo of the peanut butter mousse. I would apologize, but, well, this is reality.

Here’s the recipe…what you’ve all been waiting for.  The recipe is originally found here.

  • For the Cake:
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup hot coffee
  • 1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 7 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (2 1/4 ounces) cocoa
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • For the Peanut Butter Mousse:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup cream peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • For the Peanut Butter Ganache:
  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

(It should be evident by this point how much I love Kenny. My right eye normally starts twitching when I come across recipes that have more than 5 ingredients.)

For the Cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper.

In medium bowl, stir chocolate into coffee and set aside. In large bowl, whisk sugar, buttermilk, egg, yolk, oil, salt, and vanilla until combined. In small bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder until combined. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet until combined. Whisk in the coffee mixture until smooth.

Pour 1/3 batter in one pan and the remaining 2/3 in the other pan. Bake until just firm, about 20 to 25 minutes, respectively. Let cake cool in pans for 15 minutes, then invert cakes onto wire rack to cool completely before assembling cake.

For the Peanut Butter Mousse: In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese with sugar, peanut butter, vanilla, and salt on medium speed until creamy and light, about 5 minutes. Transfer to large bowl. Switch to whip attachment and beat cream on high speed to stiff but not dry peaks. Fold cream into peanut butter mixture. Keep chilled until ready to use.

Slice the larger of the two cakes into two layers. Place on serving plate and stack cake layers with peanut butter mousse. Keep chilled until ganache is ready to use.

For the Peanut Butter Ganache: Using the microwave or in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, heat the chocolate and cream until melted and smooth. Gently whisk in peanut butter. Chill until just firm enough to frost, about 30 minutes. Frost cake and serve.

So. We have yet to devour said cake (something about having to wait until after dinner? Boooo.), but I am drooling just writing the post. I am pretty glad Ken was born 25 years ago today just so we can eat this cake. There may be one or two other reasons why I am glad he was born, but let’s keep it in perspective. Go ahead. Scroll back up to that first picture. I understand.

Happy birthday, Kenny! And for all you regular peeps who are not having a birthday, happy Friday! Over and out.


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Graduation Day (in which I find myself one step closer to retirement)

Today’s the day.

My husband has been working for a large chunk of his life to get to this point…that is (drumroll, please): graduation day from law school.

I could not be more proud of him, so allow me to brag for just a sec.

Preemptively inserting Ken’s response to my bragging:

groom with broken bouttonniere

(That is the face of someone who is a tiny bit secretly pleased. I can tell.)

Way back in the day when Kenny was applying for law schools and I was just a wee one studying during my Junior year of college, I got a phone call from this attractive man that I was dating (spoiler alert: itwasKen).

He proceeded to inform me that he’d just received a letter informing him that he was the recipient of a FULL RIDE SCHOLARSHIP to go to law school.

I was positive I was being punk’d, so I kept my cool.

*Sidenote: it’s not that I think Ken is undeserving of such a scholarship. In fact, I think that he is the MOST deserving. But I also realize I am a bit biased.

“Whaaaaat?” I said, calmly/skeptically, certain I’d misheard.

“Not even joking a little,” he responded.

I am a little embarrassed to say that it took me way longer than it should have for him to convince me that he was for real. Here, I am giving you a special insight into our relationship…you can discern from my skepticism that Ken has, in the past, perhaps just once or twice, pulled the wool over my eyes. Being a trusting individual (at least before we started dating), I believed his crazy, made up stories one too many times and was not going to let him get the better of me.

Anyway, fast-forward to today. That mythical, yet entirely real, full-ride scholarship has been a HUGE blessing. My husband had worked incredibly hard to get through law school. He’s done it well, and has even picked up a few honors along the way (note: not just ones that I’ve made up).

In honor of this special occasion, I’ve taken the liberty of creating another “hey girl” meme of Ken. He loves it when I do this.

hey girl stay at home wife

That Ken’s a charmer, that’s for sure. You can see more charming “hey girl” memes of Ken here. It’s worth the click, trust me.

Anyway. I’ll spare you the sappy stuff and just reiterate that yes, I married a keeper.