Homemade Pesto

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Homemade Pesto

 In my herb garden, basil has been growing like crazy! We use a little bit in salads and with tomatoes, but I was thinking that by the end of the season, I should make some pesto. 
 But then we were at a farmers market, and they were selling these huge bunches of basil for $3.00!  So I figured, why not make it now!  

I plucked and washed all of the leaves. 
 I wasn’t sure if the kids would like the strong basil taste, so I read online that you can make it a little milder by adding spinach, so I decided to try that. Also, I am not a big fan of pine nuts, so I left those out too. So, in our little blender, I put about 1/3 basil leaves and 2/3 spinach leaves. 

 I squeezed half a lemon… 

  Added a couple of cloves of garlic…  And about 1/2 cup of olive oil to start…
I also added a couple tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese.

 

  
I had to add some more oil to get the blender going and get everything to blend properly, but once it was moving, I kept adding handfuls of spinach and basil. It doesn’t look like the most appetizing food I have ever made, but it smells and tastes fantastic! 
 
I searched and searched online to try to find a way to preserve pesto, or seal it in jars, but because it isn’t cooked, I couldn’t find any other way other than freezing it. It will keep about a week in the fridge, but the only way you can keep it for longer is to freeze it. 

So, I spooned it into little salad dressing containers, and sprinkled a bit of cheese on the top, and popped them into the freezer. 

   
  

Looks a little yummier with some Parmesan on top…  
 

We had it for lunch today, it was delicious!    
   

Rose Petal Jelly

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Rose Petal Jelly

We have benefitted in the past from our neighbour’s green thumb… We enjoy the apples that hang over into our backyard every fall, and we enjoy the roses that grow through the cracks in our fence and end up blooming on our side. And, as you may know, I am a bit of a hoarder, so… I saved all of the petals from the roses and dried them… You never know when rose petals might come in handy! And, guess what I came across today? A recipe for rose petal jelly using dried rose petals! Perfect.

I started with about three cups of rose petals. I also had a few dried rosebuds I had left over from when I made tea…

 
The recipe said to use 3 1/2 cups of water and about a cup of rose petals. I had more than double that, so I made two batches, and I just dumped in the extra rose petals. I brought the water and rose petals to a rolling boil, and turned the heat off and let it steep for about 5-10 minutes.

  Look at how pretty the petals looked!  
By letting it steep for 10 minutes, the boiling water absorbs all of the flavour and colour of the petals.  I used my Teavana tea pot to strain all of the petals from the water, but for jelly making, most instructions say to use cheesecloth, but I figured this was much easier!    

I was a little disappointed that the colour of the water was a little brown. I divided the water into two pots so there was a little over three cups in each pot.

 

But, look what happened to the colour of the rose water when I added lemon juice!  The pot on the left has the lemon juice added… Cool eh? 

 I got so excited about the change in colour, I forgot to mention that after I squeezed the lemons, I strained the lemon juice to get rid of the seeds and pulp. 

 
Before starting with the rest of the jam I washed the jars, and put them, and the lids into the oven and turned the heat to 300 degrees. 

Then, to the rose water, I  added a few fresh rose petals, to leave in the jelly, and a box of powdered Certo (I am a very loyal customer…I love the Certo brand) 

    
And brought it to a rolling boil. Here is my free tip for the day: this is the most important step to making sure your jam or jelly sets, and thickens. Once you add the Certo, you have to be sure that the temperature is high enough that it is a true rolling boil. This means that the boiling doesn’t stop when you stir it, and it almost doubles in size because of all of the bubbles. The picture below is not quite a rolling boil. 

  This is a rolling boil! Now you can turn your timer on for 1-2 minutes and stir it, and let it boil away.  
Then, I added 4 cups of sugar to each pot…

 And brought it up to a rolling boil once again. At this point, I turned off the oven, so the jars and lids are hot and sterilized. Another tip is to half full each jar, and let the jelly/jam sit for five minutes before filling the rest of the bottle. Fruit (or petals in jams and jellies tends to float to the top, but if you let the jam thicken a little before filling, the fruit will be evenly distributed throughout the jar. 

After waiting a few minutes, I carefully filled each jar. Then, I put the filled jars back into the oven. The oven keeps the jars hot, and if you leave them in the oven until they are cool, they seal perfectly every time! I have bottles of jam from five years ago that are still perfectly sealed…

  Here is the finished product, you can see the petals floating in the middle.   
It thickened perfectly, ended up being a very pretty colour, and it is delicious on a cracker with a bit of cream cheese!

 I might have to actually plant some roses in our own backyard, because I don’t think there are any more roses poking through our fence! 

Have a great day! 

Garden! 

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Sorry I haven’t been posting a whole lot lately, I have been so busy at work the past few months, I just haven’t had the time to make stuff and write about it… So I have a whole bunch of projects to catch up on sharing! Now that we are on summer break, I can finally take a step back and breathe, do some crafts, and then actually write about them. I love being a teacher, especially in July and August! 

Ok, I am the first one to admit that I am not a gardener! I basically buy a bunch of perennials I like in the spring, I plant them and keep my fingers crossed. Sometimes it grows, sometimes it doesn’t. Then, when stuff starts growing the next spring, I never know if I should pull it out, or let it grow… So I let it grow, as you can tell by this photo I took of our garden last fall (below), I should probably not do that. And, Yes, that is broccoli growing in the middle of the garden bed below! By the time I figured out it was broccoli, I figured I might as well let it grow…and maybe we could eat it.  

What a messūüė¶  I wish I could say that the rest of the backyard was way better, but nope. It was pretty overgrown too. 

So as you can see, everything had grown on top of everything else, and by the end, I had no idea what I had actually bought, and what was weeds. So, I decided to start from scratch this spring. I pulled everything out, except the plants I was sure about. I spread thing out so they have more room, and we unloaded a trunkful of topsoil a couple weeks ago. So, here’s what it looks like now…

  The ferns are from my grandmothers garden…and the forget me nots were so pretty, I decided to let them take over a little. 
Here is the side gardens in the backyard…it is not a good picture, but this garden is my favourite.

   

And here is the side garden.
 And the front of our house…
   
   
I even got my vegetable garden planted down the side pathway, in front of the arbour my brother made. John and I (and my younger brother and wife) were married under it. 

 

So, bring it on, I’m ready for summer, and I am ready to pull out whatever starts growing that I don’t recognize… Including broccoli! 

Here is a better pic of our whole backyard…

  

The picture below is what our backyard looked like when we first moved in…. It looks a lot different now!

   

And here is John and Dylan at the front of our house… It was pretty overgrown there too! 
  
Anyways, it has been a couple weeks since I have taken the photos, and I already notice a difference, but I am determined to keep things under control this year! I’ll keep you posted…

Easy treats!

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Easy treats!

I have been busy gardening this week, and wouldn’t have dared to put my hands in any food because I have had the hands of a mechanic… Yup, that bad! But after soaking in the pool for a good hour, and a manicure, I can now do some baking! Btw, can’t wait to show off some garden pics! I’ll posted later this week, still have a couple beds to finish. 

So onto the good stuff…food! I have really been trying to reduce the amount of sugar I have been eating. But, I have to say that I have the willpower of a jellyfish (I don’t actually know if a jellyfish possesses enough brainpower to comprehend willpower….which is part of why I though it made a good comparison) Anyways, part of my twisted logic when it comes to eating sugar is that if you bake smaller cookies, you can eat more of them, and if you add good things like hemp hearts or wheat bran, the good balances out the bad… Right? Well, a good justification for being able to eat chocolate is to mix it with something not so bad, like rice crispies, so you can eat more. Makes total sense to me. 

I started by melting some chocolate….

  
   Then added a few handfuls of rice crispies, and some hemp hearts (you know, to make it healthy).

  

Gave it a good mix.

  
  

Spread it out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and put it in the fridge for an hour or so.
Then, broke it into pieces! Voila. No measuring needed, just a handful of this and that… I thought of this afterwords, but next time I am going to add some cranberries! Mm mm
 

I’ll share some garden pics soon! Enjoy the hot weather! 

Can’t Take Credit for this One!

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Can’t Take Credit for this One!

I can’t begin to say how excited I am to announce to you the new additions to our family! Nope, not my babies, but I am considering myself sort of a granny! Every friend I have seen in the last month, my whole family, neighbours, and everyone at work knows about my baby birds. If I have seen you in the last month, chances are you have seen photos already.  I think it’s finally time to make it public! I wish I could take some sort of credit for this, but other than hanging the planters, I can’t really credit for any of this, But I can share my excitement!

About a month ago, we noticed a bird sitting by our front door…. Not just close to our front door, or near the front of our house, this dumb bird was literally at eye level right beside the door.   

We thought it was a little strange, but we thought if it was nesting, it would be more aggressive. Every time we came out the front door, it would literally freeze. We had a robins nest by the back of our house, a couple of years ago, and if we even went close, they would be dive bombing us… Not this bird, it would barely blink.

Then, one morning as I was leaving for work, I finally saw inside the nest…. An egg!! I couldn’t believe our luck!  

So, I did some research online, and it is a morning dove. And, apparently morning doves take turns sitting on the nest, the male sits on it during the day, and the female sits at night time.  

I have to give Dylan credit for figuring that one out. He said there were two different birds, but I didn’t believe him until I googled it, and saw them both together.

  So we waited, and waited, and almost to the day, 14 days later, look what we saw! Not just one baby, but two!! They started out really ugly looking…   
But, after they dried, they became all fluffy and started looking a whole lot cuter!  Most of the time, all we could see what the male or female bird sitting on the babies, but a couple times a day, they would be left alone.

 
  

To get a better perspective on how close they nested to our front door, here is Dylan taking a picture…
    
We didn’t get to see them for a few days because as soon as we opened the door, mom would just sit on them. But it was amazing how fast they grew!

Here is a video of mom feeding. The mother eats, then regurgitates the food. But as you can see, the babies don’t sit quietly waiting for their turns.    
Here is what they looked like yesterday morning. I thought it was an appropriate post for Mother’s Day. 

 

As I said, I have been pretty excited about the whole process. Dylan even edited a video of the birds for me for Mother’s Day. The worst part is that It’s all happening so fast! Before I know it, they will be flying on their own, rolling their eyes at their parents, and ready to leave the nest… I might have a tough time with that…sniff sniff… It won’t be long before my nest is empty too. 

Happy belated Mother’s Day to everyone! And a special shout out to my mom…the most positive, inspiring, and generous person in the world. I feel so fortunate to have you in our lives, and to have such a great friend. I love you mom! And to my mother-in-law, the most energetic, happy, and helpful person ever! How lucky was I to benefit from all of your amazing parenting skills by marrying your son! You are both very special women who have been inspirational and irreplaceable parts of our family. Love you both!

 

Making pasta

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Making pasta

Sometimes, it’s pretty cool to make things just to prove to yourself that you can do it. I see ideas and always think, “I can do that.” Guess what… With Youtube, Pinterest, and Google, you can. Everything you ever wanted to know how to do, learn, or make, is easy to find. Anyone can easily learn how to do anything from installing a toilet, to re-wiring a chandelier, to making pasta. The only thing holding people back is time! And, unfortunately sometimes energy… But, I have a growing list of things I want to do someday, and on some days, a little extra energy. So, today’s item crossed off of my bucket list is making pasta! 

I can’t believe how easy it is to do… Only two ingredients, flour and eggs. I also bought semolina flour, which is a courser flour used for pasta making, but from what I have read, you can just use all purpose flour, you don’t have to have semolina. My mother in law also sometimes uses whole wheat flower.

  

I had Sam helping me today because the boys were at another basketball tournament. We started by using a cup of all purpose flour, and we mixed in about 1/3 of a cup of semolina. Apparently the best way to mix the dough is with your hands on the countertop. So, we washed our hands and the counter top well before starting.  

We formed the four into a volcano shape with a crater in the middle, then we cracked three eggs into the middle.
  

Then came the messy part…. I wish I could share with you a special tip to reduce the amount of stickiness, and flour on the floor (other than avoiding help from an 11 year old) but I’m afraid you just have to get sticky and messy. Get your hands in there and start kneading!

 And kneading, and kneading…   

What we did find was that it was really lumpy and crumbly, and it didn’t look like the video we watched. So we watched another video where the person mixed it buy running it through that pasta roller… So we tried that, and after about 20 times through, we could see that worked a whole lot better. Here is what it looked like before….  

And after about 15-20 times through the roller… I could actually feel when it was ready because it became stretchy when you pulled it.   
   

 Once it is mixed enough that is has become stretchy, put it aside for at least 1/2 hour. We made three batches… I figured that once we had everything out and flour all over the place, we might as well get the most out of it… Go big or go home, right! I’m not quite sure why each batch looks slightly different colours at this stage, but by the time the pasta was finished, it all looked the same colour.    

You can kind of see in the picture below the dial on the side of the pasta machine. It has 7 different thicknesses. We started at 1, and rolled the dough through at least twice at each thickness. When the length of the sheets became too long, we cut it in half. So once again, a lot of rolling and rolling! Sam and I took turns, but the time we were finished, our arms were sore! My husband remembers that turning the crank for his mom, was his job as a child. Sam liked doing it, but it required a bit of strength until it thinned out.  

 Once we had it rolled out to the thinnest setting, we rolled it through the machine one last time through the cutter setting. 

   I dragged it through the flour…  
Then, laid it out on a cookie sheet. We made two batches of spaghetti…   
 And a batch of linguini…   
 The best part is that the pasta freezes beautifully. I just put the cookie sheets right into the freezer, and once they were frozen, I stacked them on top of each other in a Tupperware container.  
We were so excited about eating it, I totally forgot to take a picture, and it was all gone by the time I remembered!

 It only takes about 3-5 minutes to cook, and if it is frozen, put it right from the freezer to the boiling water. 

Overall, I don’t think I am going to give up using store bought pasta, but I definitely think I will make it again. It was a lot of work and muscle involved, but it would be a great idea to make for company because all the work can be done ahead of time. And, it really did taste far better than the store bought pasta. 

I’m working on making another video, so I’ll post the link when I finish it, and I will also update with a picture of the cooked pasta (if I remember to take a photo before it gets eaten again! Lol)

My You Tube Debut! 

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My You Tube Debut! 

A friend of mine that is in advertising has been telling me that I should be making You Tube videos… (Thanks Mandip!) Blogs are out, and vlogs are in. Apparently kids today don’t want to read anymore, they just want to watch videos…can you imagine??  But, seriously, not surprising. And, I do have to admit that there is something cool about watching a craft project or recipe happen in a minute. 

Anyways, I thought I would give it a shot. So, here is my first attempt at a video… I had Dylan help me with the editing and technology part, and Sam did the voice over.

Here is the link to my Artzcool You Tube channel! 

Sequin Eggs Video

It is a video of one of my Easter craft projects. I have a couple more Easter projects to share… Hopefully I’ll get them posted by the summer. Lol.

These eggs are made the same way I have made Christmas ornaments, using sequins, beads, and straight pins. When I saw the styrofoam eggs in the dollar store, I thought eggs would be just as cute as ornaments. 

Mini sweet stuff

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Mini sweet stuff

Sam had a few kids from her class over this weekend to work on a French presentation. They found all of these ideas, so I can’t take any of the credit…I just supervised (and financed) the process. But, the ideas that they came up with were cool, so I thought I would share:) Also, the fact that they are all in grade 6, and did everything by themselves was pretty cool too!

They made 28 of each treat, enough for everyone in their class. They made hotdogs out of twinkles and granola bars, hamburgers out of vanilla cupcakes and brownies, tacos from icing and vanilla Oreos, and drinks from jello.

 Here is just a sampling of what they made. Thank goodness I had 10 extra sushi trays washed and ready to go! Once again my “hoarding” pays off! (I have to make a point to justify to John why I save random things like every sushi container we use) 

  
  To make the mini tacos, they started with vanilla Oreo cookies. They separated the top and bottom of the Oreos, then used a serrated knife to saw the cookies in halves. They left the icing in, but next time, I think I would remove the icing…I can’t believe I am saying this, but they were a little too sweet. Also, for this case, it was probably better that the icing stayed in the cookies, and was shared with their 28 classmates, rather than being eaten by the four kids in my kitchen if it was removed…

  They folded each half together…
And then the plan was to pipe some chocolate icing into each one like this…

   But my piping bag popped! Oops!

   So we went to plan B, and we used a knife to carefully spread the icing on.
  And then used green candy coated chocolate chips, yellow sprinkles, and red coloured sugar to sprinkle on top…  As you can see, I removed the white icing in the one I was holding in the above picture. They were adorable! What a great idea! I think any wafer or light coloured cookie would work. 
 Next on their list was hot dogs. To make these, you need red icing, twinkles, and a chocolate bar, the kids used chocolate dipped granola bars.

  

 
We cut the twinkles in half, not quite all of the way through. Then they stuffed them with a granola bar…

   
 And added a line of red icing for ketchup… 

  Here are the ones the kids made… 

They also made cupcakes out of  vanilla cupcakes. The cupcakes ended up being a lot title lopsided, so I trimmed them off and we flipped them upside down. They cut two-bite brownies in half for the meat, and added red and green icing for pickles and relish. 

We cut the cupcakes in half, then put the brownie in the middle, and added the red and green icing.

    
   The cupcakes would have probably looked a little more realistic if we were able to use them right side up… But I thanked they turned out well.
They had their presentation today, and Sam seemed to think that it went really well, and the kids in her class loved the snacks (which wasn’t a surprise considering the sugar content!) Lol! I’d give them an A! Great work guys!

Burlap Ruffled Tablecloth 

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Ok, so my apologies for not being very consistent in sharing lately. I have a whole bunch of things to share! I will start with my burlap tablecloth because I was pretty happy with the way it turned out.

When I was doing the craft sale circuit before the holiday, I decided that I needed a nicer covering for the fold out tables that are normally used. So I did a little research, and I love the look of burlap and lace together. So, I bought a plain old roll of burlap from Home Depot for about $10. And I dug out an old queen sized sheet I had saved especially for a project like this! I love it when my hoarding tendencies pay off! 

Anyways, I started by piecing together the sheet so it fit around the table. I decided it was better if it went right to the ground to cover up the mess of boxes I am usually storing underneath. As you can see, I just pieced it together without really worrying what it was going to look like because it isn’t actually going to show.   

Then I cut a piece of burlap to fit the top, with about 3 inches extra on each side.

I also cut the remainder of the burlap into strips about 8 inches wide.
  

I don’t normally pin before I sew, but when I am working on a large scale and sewing a 6 foot seam, it makes a lot more sense to pin. So I stated at the top, and basically pinched and pined a little gather every six inches or so to make the Ruffles.   

I roughly measured at this point to see that I had enough burlap to make three layers of Ruffles to reach the ground. Then I sewed right on top all the way around. With a material like burlap, I figured there was no need to hide the seams. The stitch lines are barely visible on the burlap.
  

I was going to leave the edges raw, but I ended up turning them up, and adding a little ruffled lace around each edge. The photo below show me adding the lace without turning the burlap edge up, but I ended up deciding that it would be a lot more durable, and wouldn’t fray as much if I turned it under.
The table ended up taking three rows of ruffles. Things I would do differently… I would sew the Ruffles from the bottom to the top, that way I could space them out better. I would also add the lace trim before attaching it to the table cloth, this  would have been much easier to work with.

Here is the finished product!  I might have to sew in a little weight at the front to stop it from slipping. Because I only added the Ruffles to three sides, it is a little front heavy. Not a big deal when my stuff is on the table, but slips a little when the table is empty.  

One of the cool things about being a little crafty is that my friends are always sending me ideas! The day I was sewing this, my friend Marlee sent me this link for a burlap tree skirt. I think I might just have to make one before next Christmas.. Too bad I used all of the burlap! 

  

Here is not such a great photo of the table cloth in action at my last craft sale. Thanks again for helping Sam!  

Maybe by Easter I will get around to posting a couple of my Valentine’s Day projects! 

Have a great Sunday night.

My dream bed… Finally

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My dream bed… Finally

Ok, I know I haven’t posted in a while. I have a whole line up of projects to share! I am really happy with the way my bed turned out, so I decided to start by sharing how I finished my new bed. There are lots of steps, so I tried to keep the words short and share lots more pictures. 

Since we moved into our house five years ago, the bed in our spare room has been on the floor with a headboard propped up behind it… I know, what have I been doing with all of my time, right? It is one of the last rooms in the house we haven’t touched. Anyways, I have been looking for a bed with storage for years, and here is the one I settled on..

 

Unfortunately, the $3000 price didn’t work for me. But, I wanted a bed with storage, AND a tufted headboard, which instantly made it a really difficult and expensive item to find. So instead I bought this cheap laminate bed for $250.

  

What I liked about the cheap bed was all of the storage. Here is what it looks like after I put it together. It fits all of my summer clothes! But… Still not quite like the one I wanted. 
   

The first step in the transformation was to actually add a headboard and footboard. I measured the width of the bed, and went off to Home Depot. I wanted the head board to be 60″ high, but I ended up settling on 48″ because that was the width the 3/4″ particle board sheets are sold in, and plus I figured out that a 60″ sheet wouldn’t fit in my car. So I had the wood cut at the store. The piece for the headboard was 62″ x 48″, and  the footboard was 62″ x 35″. 

   

I pre drilled the holes then used 1 1/4″ screws to attach the headboard and footboard to the frame.

  

I added a few screws from each side.  

So far so good. But then there was the issue of the joint showing, as you can see below.  Also, the headboards I was looking at were a lot thicker. 
  

So for the footboard, I found some scraps of trim to use to frame around the edges and make them thicker. The great part is that the corners and joins didn’t have to line up perfectly because it is going to be covered anyways.  

I used my nail gun to attach the trim to the front and back of the footboard.

And, I used scraps of particle board for the front of the headboard. I figure I wanted the padding to be a little more on the headboard.    
 

Now for the fun part! The upholstering! Btw, I am well aware that sometimes my definition of fun does not match everyone else’s! 

Here is the close up of the fabric I picked. I bought 8 meters at $8.00 per meter at Fabricland. 

I started by ripping apart a few old pillows I had laying around. The cost of cotton batting is pretty expensive, so once again, my inability to throw old things out paid off! I’m not quite sure why I wasn’t able to throw out our old, flat pillows when we buy new ones, but every time I use something I have saved, it just reinforces my hoarding habits. It saved money, plus is much more environmentally friendly. 
  

I used my staple gun to hold everything in place, and added a layer of cotton batting on the top to smooth everything out.  

I stapled the fabric on the back of the headboard, and stretched it not too tight because I knew I was going to need a little extra room for the tufting. I finished the corners by tucking the extra fabric under.
  

And, stapled all the way around to hold everything down.  
  

This is what it looked like ….
  Here is the most amazing idea… I looked at the cost of covered buttons, and they are close to $1.00 each, plus you have to cover them! So that option was out. Buying silver buttons was another option, but it meant that I would have to pre drill holes in the particle board and use a big upholstery needle the thread each one through, after I had added the padding and fabric. That didn’t sound like fun. So I went to Home Depot (yes again) and bought a pack of 100 washers, and 100 3/4″ screws for about $3 per pack.  

This is one of those rare times that I do measure. Every 6 inches I measured, and drew a dot with a pencil. Once I had measured everything, I used my drill to screw in all of the screws and washers.
    
       I started to work from one end, but then thought it might be better if I evenly stretched the fabric, so I started randomly adding the screws.

  

Tada! The whole headboard tufted in not too long, for only $6! Then, to add a little bling, and cover up the screw heads, using my glue gun, I added a little stick on gem from the dollar store. I am so happy with the way the tufting turned out!  
  

Next step was to add the nail heads. They are the one thing I splurged on. A pack of 25 costs $3.50 at Fabricland. I figure I need a few hundred. I added a twill tape to cover up the seams, and added a nail head every inch and a half. I actually measured this too, if the nails aren’t even, it would show.  
    
  

I will just gloss over the next few steps, but if you want details or pics, please email me, I am happy to share! I covered the rest of the frame of the bed, the footboard, and upholstered each of the drawers, with a little but of padding and tufting.  

  

Here is a finished drawer.  

And… Here is the finished bed!! Well, it’s almost finished… I haven’t finished the drawers on the other side, and I need to add a lot more nail heads, but here is the almost finished bed!!  
    
 

The total cost of everything, including the bed frame, fabric, other materials, and the nail heads I haven’t bought yet, was about $600. Much better than $3000!

The problem with making one thing nice is that you realize what else needs to be done… Now I have to finish the quilt I started in the summer, and the room needs painting! Another day… 

Have a great family day long weekend, and happy Valentine’s Day!