How to Upholster Your Dining Chairs

Changing Up Dining Chairs!

So, it’s been almost 7 years of children in the house.  They really did a number on my seat cushions, but they weren’t destroyed or anything.  Since the youngest is 3 years old, I thought it might be time to redo the cushions.  Instead of buying a whole new dining set, of course.  This was WAY cheaper.  I spent a total of $22.50* to redo all 6 chairs – or $3.50 per chair.  Or, even if you don’t have kids and want to change up your colors  – this is a great, fast and easy and cheap way to do it!  With the holidays coming up and people coming over, this will be a good change.

The first step is to pick your fabric.  A good fabric store and cutter should know how much fabric you need.  For a standard chair, you need 3/4 of a yard of 50″ outdoor fabric for every two chairs.  My chairs are pretty standard and measure 17″ by 20″.  Therefore, I need 23″ by 26″ of fabric for each cover.  Always just add 6″ to the width and height.  The depth of my chairs was about an inch… again pretty standard, so 6″ extra was plenty.  Why outdoor fabric?  Well, you can cover your chairs with blue jeans, drama t-shirts (I have NO shortage of those!) or cotton  or anything really.  However, outdoor fabric is already treated to be stain, mold and mildew resistant.  Food falls right off and food stains wipe right up – believe me.  The kids gave me plenty of testing.  🙂  I finished all 6 chairs in about 2-2 and 1/2 hours.  The longest part is taking the screws out of the bottom and putting them back in.

*I purchased the fabric from Joann’s which almost always has Outdoor Fabric at 50% off .  Regularly it is $19.99 for most prints.  It is $9.99 per yard on sale.  If you sign up to be on their mailing list or use their app,  you can get 15% or 10% off your total purchases – even sale purchases – as well.

Upholster Dining ChairsPrintable Instructions Here

You will Need:
3/4 of a yard of outdoor fabric 50″  per 2 chairs
staple gun
staples
measuring tape
scissors

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1.  Obtain your fabric.  See above for my opinion on what to pick.  Remove your seat from the dining chair.  For me, this involved unscrewing 6 screws.

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2.  Cut a square that is 6″ wider and longer than the actual seat cushion.  For me, my cushion was 17″ long by 20″ wide.  Therefore, I cut squares that were 23″ by 26″.

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3.   Lay your  seat cushion on top of the fabric like in the photo.  Pay special attention to the fabric if it is something like stripes.  You want to make sure they are lined up straight.  Wrap two sides around to make sure they will fit snugly.  You want to pull it tight – but not so tight that it pulls the fabric’s design out of place.  (e.g.  your stripes are not straight because you are pulling too tight on the fabric.)  You are covering the seat UNLESS your seat has huge rips, smells bad because of something soaking in, etc.  Mine had none of those issues, so I covered them instead.

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4.  Place 1 staple in the center of one edge.

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5.  Continue to staple outwards along this edge.  Don’t get too close to the corners.  Leave about 2″ at least on either side away from the corners.

6.  Move to the other side of the cushion and staple the same way on the OPPOSITE side of where you just stapled.  Repeat this stapling for the other two opposite sides.

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7.  Now corners can be a little tricky, but with a little patience they will look just fine.  First, grip the corner of the fabric and fold it onto the cushion.

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8.  Next, take one of the corners and fold it towards the middle.

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9.  Take the other corner and fold it towards the middle as well.  It doesn’t matter which order you go in.  Though it seemed to me that one way always looked better than the other way.  So, I just tried both sometimes until I got it looking right.

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10.  You may want to flip the cushion over to see if it looks nice on the other side.    If so, staple that down!  If not, try folding it starting with another corner first and see how that looks.  I usually used 4-5 staples on the corner.

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11.  At this point, you are finished once you finish all 4 corners.  You may trim your extra fabric off if you like.

12.  Flip your beautiful new cushion over!

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13.  Attach it to the chair.  Marvel in the chair while it is still clean for 5 minutes.  Tell child to please get out of the photos.  Etc. Etc.

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Chocolate Layer Cake and Petal Cake Tutorial

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Tulip Cake_2 CR

Tulip Cake CR

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Please pardon the screaming blue background!  I always carry my cakes in my tupperware covered cake carrier which happens to be a bright blue that goes well with… um nothing!  Maybe a carrot cake.  But anyway, this week in my psychology class we discussed and read about Eastern psychology and meditation.  Some of it is similar to Judeo-Christian philosophy (Buddhism and Hinduism) and some of it (Taoism)… not so much.  But the main point is to bring mindfulness to the present.  Zen Master Thich Naht Hanh states in one interview, “What is it we’re so busy with, exactly?”  I thought this was a great question to ponder.

Back to the recipe:  My super awesome cousin asked me to make a princess birthday cake for her daughter’s party.  In addition, I had to make another cake that was egg-free for her brother.  (That recipe will come later.)  My go-to super moist chocolate recipe is so deliciously moist that I was afraid it would not hold up to being stacked into three layers.  So, here is a go-to easy recipe for a chocolate layer cake.  I love doing chocolate cakes – so simple, so delicious, so moist and they only use up ONE bowl.  I almost always have all the ingredients on hand.  I know Dutch cocoa is difficult to find, but I have had great success replacing this with Hershey’s Dark Cocoa which contains natural and Dutch cocoas.  I purchased some special Double Dutch Dark Cocoa from King Arthur Flour since so many recipes I have call for it and I wanted to try it.
*Normally, 5 ounces of flour is used to equal 1 cup.  However, KAF differs from this calculation and I use their weight measurement instead since they developed the recipe.

Chocolate Layer Cake
yield 16 servings

2 cups (14 oz.) sugar
2 cups (8.5 oz) AP flour*
2 Tb. cornstarch
3/4 cup (2.25 oz.) Double Dutch Dark Cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. espresso powder (or omit for children)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
4 large eggs (or 3 X-large eggs)
3/4 cup vegetable oil or canola oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 and 1/4 cup (10 oz) water, or coffee, or milk (I used water, normally I use coffee when it isn’t a kid recipient)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  You need two 8″x2″ round pans.  You could use shorter 9″ pans . Or split the batter between 3 – 8″ round pans like I did since mine were not 2″ tall.  I weighed the total batter and divided by 3.  I used parchment on the bottom and sprayed with Baker’s Joy.  Many people also grease with shortening and dust it with cocoa powder.

2.  In a great big bowl:  Whisk sugar, flour, cornstarch, cocoa, baking powder, espresso powder, baking soda and salt together.

3.  Add the eggs, oil and vanilla.  Mix it all up.  It’ll be a little thick.  It’s okay.  Add the water (or coffee, etc.) little by little and mix it all up until smooth.  Pour and bake 35-38 minutes for 2 – 8″ pans.  I used 3 short 8″ pans and it took 23 minutes to bake.

4.  Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.  Turn it upside down and continue to cool.  Now, if the edges are a little crusty, here is how to fix it:  you can cut them off (but then you get crumbs!) OR wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze.  Do just before they get completely cool and your edges will be soft again.  This may or may not be problem for you.

Recipe from King Arthur Flour

Buttercream Frosting  – this is my standard go-to frosting.  For large layer cakes like one with more than 2 layers plus decorations, I will increase the yield.  So, for this 3 layer cake I made this recipe using 3 sticks, 5.25 cups sugar, 3 tsp. vanilla, 3-4T milk.  You will find many buttercream recipes that use twice as much sugar – I think personally that is too sweet and this is a great balance.  But please taste test before decorating!  Using toothpicks is great for this.  My kids love to be my testers!  🙂

2 sticks of butter (8 oz.), softened
3 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar – SIFT to make it look pretty
dash of salt
2 tsp. vanilla
1-2 Tb. milk

1.  Beat butter until smooth.  Gradually, add the powdered sugar.  Beat until incorporated.

2.  Add salt, vanilla and 1 Tb. milk. Beat and add milk until you get the desired consistency.  It it really dry here now in St. Louis, so my frosting this week took the full 2 Tb.

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PETAL CAKE

There is only one cake I like to decorate:  using one color and one tip.  I don’t have the patience, time or supplies to do 10 different colors.  I tried to do an ombre cake once and it just stresses me out.  I like this cake decorating method a LOT.  Now, most people use a Wilton tip#12.  I only own a #9 and I think I will go out and buy the 12 now that I know this is easy to do and worthwhile.  Do yourself a favor and spend the 99 cents on the tip!  🙂

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1.  Level your cake if necessary.  This cake recipe was awesome and I had no dome problems.
2.  Fill the layers with your filling or frosting.
3.  Crumb coat the cake:  layer the cake with the frosting with a thin coat of frosting.  Put in the fridge for 30 minutes.
4.  If you want your cake super pretty:  Add another thin coat if the cake underneath is still showing.  Put in the fridge for another 30 minutes to set.  This will insure that the cake does not show through the petals.
5.  For the side:  Take your frosting and put it in the decorator’s bag with tip#12 attached.  Start down the side and then take your offset spatula and smear the dot to the right.  I guess you could go left if you are left handed….  I practiced on foil first.
6.  To end:  it is difficult to end and do the last row.  I just do the best I can and make note that it is the “back” of the cake.  Most people will never notice.
7.  For the top:  I took a ruler and put a dot with a toothpick where the middle is.  Then I put a dot in the center of the top of the cake.  Don’t touch the dot.  From here, you can spiral out more petals from the middle.  This will take more time.  OR, you can just do rows starting from the middle and working your way around just like you did on the side.

I think this would be really pretty on cupcakes, too.

Cincinnati Chili and Coupon Presentation

I tried Cincinnati Chili years ago at my friend’s house.  She was from Cincinnati and visited often.  The seasonings also come in little Cincinnati Chili packets, but I think it  is a local thing because I haven’t seen them in St. Louis.  This is a great chili all by itself or the “5 way” style with spaghetti, cheddar cheese, kidney beans and raw onion.  This tasted right on to the authentic Cincinnati chili after many other “copycats”.  As you can see from the ingredients, it isn’t very hot either and pretty fast to put together since it doesn’t need to simmer all day.

Cincinnati Chili
yield 8 servings

1 T. vegetable, canola or olive oil
1 onion, chopped ine
1 garlic clove, mince or pressed
2 Tb. tomato paste (freeze the rest if you open a new can!)
2 Tb. chili powder
1 Tb. dried oregano
1 and 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. allspice
2 cups chicken broth (I use low sodium)
2 cups canned tomato sauce (not spaghetti sauce)
2 Tb. cider vinegar
2 tsp. dark brown sugar
1 and 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef (I used ground turkey)

1.  In the biggest skillet you have (like a 12-13″), heat the oil on medium heat.  Once hot, add onion and saute for 8-10 minutes – until clear.
2.  Dump in:  garlic, tomato paste, chili powder, oregano, cinnamon, salt, pepper and allspice.  Stir that for about 30 seconds.
3.  Dump in:  broth tomato sauce, vinegar and brown sugar.  Bring up to a simmer.
4.  Dump in: meat.  Break it up into smaller pieces as it cooks.  Simmer this for 15-20 minutes.
5.  Serve as chili or over spaghetti or “five way”: raw onion, kidney beans and shredded cheddar.

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

I did a coupon presentation last night teaching how to play the coupon game.  Though the handout is a guideline, click here for the handout Centsible.

Taking Photos of People and Objects

I have a presentation tonight for our local library on how to take good photos of people and a little bit on taking photos of objects (like for Etsy and Ebay).  The goal is to take what you have – camera, etc. – and be able to utilize it into taking better pictures of kids.  I try to start with the basics and then give a little intermediate tutorial (like my manual settings for taking pictures of fireworks).  A lot will also be included with my talk, but in case anyone wanted to access the photos again or anyone else out there wanted to take 15 minutes to read about how they could take better photos I am uploading the presentation.  Maybe I’ll turn it into a self-published book!  How cool would that be?  I have 40 slides/pages so far.

Photo Fun – Final PDF

Busted Cooking Myths and Why Milk Doesn’t Need Refrigeration

I’ve perused quite a few cookbooks in my time and the past year reading about kitchen science.  The science behind how stuff works in the kitchen and the why.  Although I am no expert in science beyond high school AP Biology, I found the following very very interesting.  I will try to site my sources because what really irks me sometimes are statements on the internet with no references.

Most of these are from the book I am currently reading: “What Einstein Told His Cook” by Robert Wolke   I have read part of his second book, but most of it didn’t interest me as much as the first book.

1.  Alcohol does NOT burn off complete in cooking.  I researched this on the internet a few months ago and found it in this book as well.  Here is a chart which also cites the study: http://whatscookingamerica.net/Q-A/AlcoholCooking.htm

2.  Adding salt to water when cooking pasta does NOT make it cook any faster.  Well, maybe like .01 seconds faster.  It is to add flavor.  But not save time.

3.  When ordering rare or medium rare meat and there is “blood” oozing out, it isn’t blood.  The blood has already been drained.  The red is not from blood hemoglobin, but actually just myoglobin, a red, iron-containing, oxygen-carrying protein.  So next time tell your friend, “Ew, you’re meat is oozing protein.” 🙂

4.  Potatoes will not make a too salty soup taste less salty.  They do not “absorb” enough salt to make the soup less salty.

5.  I always wondered why my tea doesn’t taste as good when I microwave the water vs. boiling it in a kettle.  Water must be boiling hot to extract all the flavor and color.  Caffeine won’t dissolve until 175 degrees.  The microwave looks like it is heating up the liquid enough, but it actually isn’t as hot.  And the microwave only heats up the outer inch of the mug of water leaving the inside relatively cooler.

6.  I have been researching nutrition ever since I started losing the baby weight about a year ago.  So, about 15 lbs lighter and 35 mcg of synthroid later, I find that there are many ways to destroy the vitamins and antioxidants inside our foods.  You may be think you are cooking healthy (don’t get me wrong, cooked carrots are way better for you than a donut), but you may actually be boiling off a lot of those water soluble vitamins like B and C.  In short, cooking foods fastest and without water is the best way to retain their vitamins and antioxidants.  This method is usually the microwave.  Info from: Columbia University and New York Times

7.  I always see Rachael Ray rolling her lemons and limes before extracting the juice.  “It helps get the juice out,” she says.  Per Wolke’s experiment, it didn’t matter whether you rolled or just juiced the citrus.  So save yourself some time and skip this step.   The experiment was tried both hand squeezing and with an electric juicer.  All the results were the same –  roll it or just go ahead and juice it.  Rachael, I feel so betrayed.

8.  From Wolke’s sequel book, I learned that baking soda in your fridge does nothing.  It’s a complete waste of money.  Now, if you use activated charcoal… that will absorb odors.  But baking soda sitting in the fridge doesn’t go out and attack odors – it just sits there!  I haven’t done this for years, but now feel silly for the earlier years I did this.  It’s what my mom always did, so I thought it was right.

But!  If you roll the fruit and then microwave it, you get tons more juice.  26% more.

And Finally: Why Milk Doesn’t Need Refridgeration

I noticed a few years back that Costco had cute little individual cartons of chocolate milk.  Everyone now sells the little Horizon cow chocolate milk containers it seems, but I wondered… there’s milk in here!  Why isn’t this being stored in the fridge??  And I finally got my answer on page 92 of Robert Wolke’s book.  The book was published in 2002, but the ultra high pasteurization method described is exactly the same one described on the Horizon Milk website.

“In aseptic packaging, the milk is sterilized at high temperature for a short time as in ultra pasteurizations, and then sent to the containers and the packaging machinery, both of which had been sterilized separately with steam or hydrogen peroxide.  The filling and sealing are done under sterile conditions.  The resulting product has an unrefridgerated shelf life of several months or even up to a year.  Moreover, because the package is hermitically sealed with no air inside, the butterfat won’t turn rancid from oxidation.”

I quoted Robert Wolke’s book because I found the information a little more thorough than the Horizon milk explanation.  (Like the fact they don’t mention hydrogen peroxide…)  Probably should cite this properly, eh?  From page 92 of Robert E. Wolke’s “What Einstein Told His Cook” published in 2002 by W.W. Norton and Company.

Real How-To Kitchen Books

These are the books I have enjoyed that not only explain the recipe, but why it works.  Some famous recipe books I’ve used recently and other recipes in big name books from friends said the recipe did not work at all.

1.  “Good Eats” series by Alton Brown.  He explains these recipes as “applications” so you can do your own thing.

2.  “America’s Test Kitchen”.  They take 2-3 pages of explanation PER recipe.  Plus every recipe I’ve tried has been delicious.

3.  Shirley Corriher’s “Cookwise”.  She is one of the top scientist/chefs and it shows.  I did not try the recipes, but the explanation was very thorough.  The downside was this book is more like a textbook.  Wolke’s and Alton’s books have science in them, plus they throw in some humor.

4.   Pamela Anderson’s “The Perfect Recipe”.

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