Monday, April 30, 2012

DIY Concrete Counter Top

We finally got our concrete counter top done for our kitchen island.  Let me just say it was a lot more work than I anticipated and it would have been very frustrating without the help of our friends from Concrete Contracting Solutions (Chris & Kevin Paisley). 

But it turned out amazing and I love it. 

Read on to see our DIY project come to life.

To begin with I searched the web looking for directions. I found a lot of You Tube videos and websites on how to make a concrete counter top, but the one I thought looked the most practical for us was the on this link -

Thus, I began by going to our local Home Depot and ordering Quickrete Concrete Counter Top mix and gathered our other supplies: melamine board, charcoal colorant.and silicone caulking. In the mean time I contact our friend Chris who owns a concrete business and asked if he had ever made a concrete counter top.  He hadn't, but was interested in learning and wanted to help with our little project. And we were glad to have his help!

We purchased 6 bags of the mix based on the size of our counter and the directions on the bag. The bags were about $12 each. This was special order so any extra was not returnable - we have 2 extra bags.  That's OK, I am excited to find a project to use them for.  Perhaps concrete flower boxes:)

To begin with we measured and remeasured the size we wanted the island top. Then Bob and Todd began to cut  the melamine board  to make our form.  Melamine board is ideal for this project because it is very smooth.

We used drywall screws to put the form together.

Next we caulked the seams. We did not use painters tape around the caulking as the link suggested.  But in the end we think this might have been a good idea.
Smoothing the caulking 

Todd cutting old fence to use for support in the concrete.

The first time we used the colorant, Chris mixed the colorant with water before adding it to the concrete mixer.  We later decided this wasn't necessary and just added it to the concrete as it was mixing. Figuring out how much colorant to use was a little tricky. We started by just adding a little to see how dark we could get it.   I wanted the counter to be a dark charcoal, so we used 4 bottles of colorant.  In the end I wish we would have used more.

Pouring the concrete into our little mixer.

Making sure the concrete was the correct consistency. 
 It should be about the consistency of a Wend'y Frosty.

Pouring our first batch into the form.  The directions on the link we were following suggested using a  release agent on  the boards before pouring in  the concrete.  We didn't feel this was necessary so we skipped this step and the form came off just fine.

Spreading the concrete in the form

We had to make several batches of concrete so it was tricky to get the color the same with each batch. In the end we blended the batches together as we spread it around in the form.

We placed a piece of old fence in the concrete for reinforcement.

We pushed the fence down into the concrete and also added  some re-bar for extra reinforcement.

Adding more concrete on top of the fence.

We smoothed the concrete with a board making sure to tap the sides and bottom to  get the concrete down in the form.

This is actually the underside of the counter, but we still wanted  it to be nice and smooth.

Bob added bolts to the counter as a way to hold the counter top in place on the island.  The counter top is about 400 pounds so we knew it wouldn't move very easily, but we want some way to keep it from shifting..  The bolts  are not fastened to the island,  but sit in the corners of the island top's frame.

We let the concrete sit for about a week before we removed the forms. I was really excited to see what things looked like once we took the forms off.....

It didn't look too bad.  
The edges were a little rough.

Just a few air pockets that made little holes on the top or so I thought.....

Until Todd started rubbing over the light colored spots. Then lots of little air pockets popped and we had a ton of little holes on the top.  Now what?     That's when I  called in the experts.   
Thank goodness for friends in the concrete business!

Chris and his brother showed up with some ideas...... First they sanded it to make sure all the air pockets were opened up.  
Making concrete dust 

They took things down to floor level to make it easier to work on .  

Then they made a mixture of cement and  a little sand with a rapid set acrylic polymer (basically glue) added and skim coated the hole thing to fill in all the holes. 

Everything was we needed to let it dry and harden - and hope all the holes were filled in 
Click on "read more" to see the finished project.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

T-Shirt Scarves 101

The other evening my friend Janelle and I held our first Pinterest inspired class at Sugar Creek Homestead.  We had a great group of eager women who learned to make scarves and flowers from t-shirts.  It is a great way to give new life to your old t-shirts and a fresh look to your wardrobe. So much fun!
cutting up t-shirts

making t-shirt flowers

stretching the t-shirts to get a nice rolled edge

Beautiful mother & daughter made beautiful scarves together

Don't they look just smashing in their new t-shirts scarves!

Check out our next Pinterest inspired class.... paper flowers using old book pages.  Be watching for more information.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Growing Marigolds and Zinnas from Last Season's Flowers

Spring weather has come rather quickly this year,so I decided to jump in and get my hands dirty for a few hours last week.  I love flowers and the beauty they add to our landscape, but I don't necessarily like the money that needs to be spent to keep my flower beds looking good.  So over the years I have saved money by planting perennials. I have also learned to dry my blooms and use them for seeds the next spring. It is rather simple and an easy way to save money.

I have never really been a big fan of Marigolds, 
but I have learned to like them for their long blooming 
season, easy care AND they are easy to dry and save the blooms to use as seeds the next year.

It is really easy to dry them.  When they start to look crummy in the fall and you are ready to clean out your flower beds, just pull the whole plant out of the ground. Shake off the excess dirt and tie a piece of jute around the stem.  Hang them upside down in a dry place.  I usually hang mine in the barn, but your shed,  garage or basement will work.

Zinnia's, on the other hand, are one of my favorite flowers and are another really easy flower to dry and plant the seeds the next spring. With Zinnia's, I just pop the heads of the stems once they start to dry up in the fall.  I place the flower heads in a brown bag in a dry place (like the shelf in my garage)

With both marigolds and zinnias you can pick them while they are still looking good, they do not have to be dried up on the stems.  They will dry out just the same.

Last week I planted the seeds that I had saved from last year.

Marigold seeds

Zinnia seeds

Prepare the area where you want to plant your seeds.  I usually just take my hand and brush back some of the dirt or mulch.  You don't need to plant the seeds very deep.  Then break apart the dried flower spreading all of it in the area you prepared (it is easier to spread the dried flower petals, stem and seeds rather than pick out all the indvidual seeds.)

marigold seeds

zinnia seeds

I like to plant marigold and zinnia seeds throughout my perennials so I am guarantteed color all summer and into the fall. Oh, and don't be afraid to spread the seeds too think.  You may get them a little clumped together, but I think they look pretty that way.  I never plant my flowers the recommended distance apart.

Seeds stuck in between some perennials

Once you have your seeds on  the ground, gently spread a thin layer of dirt on top to cover the seeds and protect them from the wind.  Before you know it you will have little seedlings.  

You will feel good knowing you really grew your own flowers from start to finish.  
And the best thing is you can do it all again next year!