Best Of The Nest:: March

Welcome to the March edition of BOTN, 
where you can share your favorite project from the last month!
Thank you for pinning images from their original sources.

Our Guest of the Nest needs no introduction - the super fun 
Julia from Cuckoo 4 Design!
Julia's home has so many creative touches, it's a feast for the eyes!  
A couple of my favorite snippets......

The best from Julia's nest this month is her freshly painted kitchen wall - 
isn't this space so bright and cheery?
Thanks for joining us today Julia!
Julia @ Cuckoo 4 Design
Blog | Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram | Bloglovin' | Twitter | Google +

My best this month was how to make a mass produced piece of canvas art look a little more high end with the help of gel medium and a DIY frame. 
You can find me here…...
Kris @ Driven by Décor 
Jennifer @ Dimples & Tangles

Pam @ Simple Details 

Now it's your turn!!
Share and inspire with your ONE BEST 
art/craft project, tablescape, room design, home improvement or recipe from March.

Not a blogger? Join us on Instagram by using the hashtag #bestofthenestparty 
and tagging at least one of the link party hosts:
Lisa (@lisa_shineyourlight)
Kris (@drivenbydecor)
Pam (@pamsimpledetails)
Jennifer (@jenniferdimplesandtangles)
Julia (cuckoo4design)

LINK TO YOUR POST URL, not your blog home page.
the best of your nest! (additional links will automatically get deleted :( )

I always look forward to seeing everyone's BOTN link ups and reading through them over the weekend.  Can't wait to see what is the best from your nest this month!

Have a great weekend friends!


Making Mass Produced Art Look A Little More Special

Have you ever seen a really pretty piece of canvas art in one of your favorite home store that you love, except for the weird finish on it?  Or you're undecided on how you feel about the look of the unframed canvas?

I used to adamantly oppose mass produced art, but I've mellowed on this subject over the years because filling a home with original pieces of art or limited edition, signed prints is not exactly feasible for all of us, and finding unusual pieces that fit your budget and speak to your soul at antique and thrift stores can be quite daunting.

If we find something beautiful, feel a connection to it and it's within our budget then who cares if it's a reproduction from "Marshall's Boutique" instead of an original piece.  I'd like to think that a few "low" pieces will give me or my clients the budget to splurge now and again on a one-of-a-kind or more special pieces.  But "low" doesn't have to mean kitschy or tacky.

Lately I have seen so many pretty canvas-type pictures, but I just do not get the WEIRD, NOT-FOOLING ANYONE, CHEAP, AWFUL finishes.

Take this picture below:  there was something about it that I was really drawn to and I thought it would be perfect for clients who have a LOT of blank walls to fill.  Some of the places that are special to them are by the ocean, the colors would work really well in their home, and it would inexpensively fill up a very large blank space.

...but OH - the finish on it vexed me so.
This stamping technique on a printed canvas - why why why why why?  Does it fool anyone into thinking the picture was painted? This finish doesn't enhance the picture at all - it just cheapens the overall affect.  

I've always wanted to try using gel medium to give a paper print a painted affect (like this tutorial from Miss Kopy Kat), and with that in mind I decided to try to use this product to improve the canvas picture.

After applying several coats of matte gel medium, the stamped affect is still mildly visible but the end result is so much more subtle, the brushstrokes actually make sense, and the piece feels a bit more classy without the shiny leopard print.  It looks about a million times better already!

I also made a simple frame for this picture to give it a bit more presence, but before I get to that I'll tell you quickly how to re-texturize a canvas print.

To add texture to a canvas print you will need - 
L// inexpensive artist's paintbrushes  R//gel medium (I prefer matte)
(Both items are widely available at craft/art stores.  
The gel medium is a bit pricey - around $12 - so look for a coupon before you go!)

L// squirt a generous amount of gel medium onto the canvas and cover the entire picture with brushstrokes that follow those of the painting.  Allow to dry.
R// build up layers of gel medium in various areas of the picture, allowing the layers to dry in between applications.  

Building up the layers gives the finished product a much more natural look, gives dimension in the right places and tones down the original finish.  I left the picture on my coffee table one Sunday and every few hours I would stop by and add a bit more here and there as the applications dried.

To really finish off a canvas print and give it a more high end look, build a simple frame for it.

To frame a canvas print you will need - 
Wood moulding
Painters tape
Spray paint
Wood glue
Band clamp (optional)
Wood joiners
Finish nails, hammer, nail set
Saw (power or hand held)

First, measure the width of the side of the stretched canvas and then find a moulding that is at least as wide or wider.  (1/2" x 1 1/2" screen moulding worked for this piece.)

When you are choosing your moulding, make sure to check for warping.  Study the pieces to make sure they are straight.

Next, cut two pieces to the exact length of the sides.

Before cutting the top and bottom pieces to size, fit them to the picture to get an exact fit 
(any stretched canvas has has a little more material at the corners and therefore is not an exact 90 degree angle so I find this trick helps to make the cuts better):

L//  Place the left side moulding against the picture.  Use painters tape to tightly join this piece with the top and bottom pieces at the corners.
R// Place the right side against the canvas and mark the top and bottom pieces so the cut will be exact.  

If you don't have a power saw this kind of moulding is a piece of cake to cut with a hand held saw and miter box.

With all your cuts made, take the moulding outside and spray paint to desired color.  The inside edge of your frame will be visible so make sure to paint it.  I wanted the front of my frame to be gold and the outer side and inside edge to be black for a little definition, so I first coated all pieces in black and added the gold later.

To join the frame around the picture, put a bit a wood glue on the ends of the side pieces and place them flush with the sides of the picture, then fit the top and bottom on.

To make the corners join really well, I used a band clamp (which you can find at a hardware store for around $10).  The band clamp comes with corner braces that you place on each corner, then place the band around the frame and tighten with the clamp.  Make sure the corner pieces are flush with each other and wipe away any glue that squeezes out.

While the glue on the frame is setting, add a few finish nails to the top and bottom corners and set them into the moulding with a nail set.  The band clamp keeps everything together perfectly while you do this.

Once you have a nail in each corner you can remove the band clamp and add another nail on each side for stability.

Fill those nails in and touch up with paint.

Next, join together the frame and the stretched canvas.
These little buggers are SHARP, beware!! 

Gently place the framed canvas face down on a carpet or towels.
Lay a wood joiner on both the frame and the wood of the stretched canvas and gently tap into both with your hammer. I placed one about an inch from each corner, and then also one in the middle of each side, top and bottom, using 12 total so the two pieces (frame and stretched canvas) were solidly attached to each other.

Be careful not to place the joiner too close to the edge of your frame because the prongs could break through the side of the frame (in which case, just pull it out with your hammer, and fill the hole on the side of the frame.  No one will ever know!)

So here we have the re-texturized, framed canvas print....

....but I think one more final detail will really make this special.

My old standby, Rub & Buff.
 It makes everything magical!

Now I wish I was keeping this piece for myself!  
It's a bit of work but really not hard at all to make a store bought mass produced piece of art look a little more high end.  

So there you have it friends......
how to re-texturize and frame an inexpensive canvas print and turn it into something special for your home.  What do you think?

Are you coming to the Best of the Nest party tomorrow?  I sure hope so!!  We are welcoming another very fun Guest of the Nest so stop by with your favorite project from the month of March and join the party!  I'm looking forward to seeing what you've been up to!


A Simple St. Patrick's Day Table & Chicken Puff Pastry

Happy last official week of winter dear blog friends!  Let's all do an Irish jig!!

In addition to this much anticipated end of season, tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day.  Do you do anything special for it?

You may already know that my parents are from Ireland and we spent many summers there growing up.  On St. Patrick's Day my mother would make Irish bread (which was a staple in our house anyway), have us all wear something green (not olive green, not dark green - a kelly green that says, I'M IRISH AND PROUD OF IT!).  If we weren't old enough to be in school yet we would go to morning mass with mom too.  

I'm always bewildered by what has happened with St. Patrick's Day in the US.  When did it all become so cheesy?  The decor, the apparel, what?????  All of that does not equate in any way with my parents, my family and my Irish heritage which is rooted in a deep faith in God and is rich with literature, art, hardworking people and a beautiful country.  I'm not one to be oversensitive to political correctness but honestly I find it all a bit degrading of the Irish culture.  Crazy commercialism!

To make our home fun for St. Paddy's Day I mostly just pull out things that I already have that are green (representing the "Emerald Isle"), which is the perfect fresh color for the start of spring too.

I've had this little shamrock runner for years and I think it might be the only official St. Patrick's Day decor I own!

My kids have been to Ireland and their Irish grandmother is a huge part of their life, so I thought it would be fun to give them some trivia questions.
I found an image of a shamrock online, printed out a bunch and cut out one for each place setting. 

On the back of the shamrocks I wrote the questions.  

Prizes for correct answers - a handful of $1 gold coins.

I'm hoping a cold hard cash bribe will inspire my kids to brush up on their Irish facts before every St. Paddy's Day!  
(In which case I'll have to think up some increasingly harder questions year after year!)

So - what to serve on St. Patrick's Day.  I'm not a fan of corned beef and cabbage, how about you?

The following is in no way a traditional Irish meal, but it's a crowd pleaser that is easily customized for a holiday.

Chicken Puff Pastry.  Do you know it?  It's basically a chicken breast topped with herbed spreadable cheese, then wrapped with sheets of puff pastry and baked.  Make it festive for any holiday by using leftover scraps of puff pastry and cookie cutters to adorn the top.  It's a wee bit time consuming (prep to table takes about 1 hour 15 minutes), but my kids thing of this as special occasion food and so it elevates the ordinary Tuesday night dinner into An Event.

You can change up the topping by trying cream cheese with chives or various jams (Major Grey's chutney is a fave, as is straight up fig jam).  Take the recipe and make it your own!

6 boneless chicken breasts, trimmed
6.5 container Garlic & Herb spreadable cheese
1 box (2 sheets) puff pastry dough
1 egg

Preheat oven to 375.
Remove puff pastry from freezer about a half hour before you are ready to assemble.

Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the chicken breasts and pound them with a meat mallet until they are about 1/2" thick.
On a clean, flat surface (I use my countertop), dump 1/4 cup flour.
Spread the flour out into a square about the size of a large pizza box.

Lay out one sheet of puff pastry and use a rolling pin that has been dusted with flour to roll the pastry into a large square, about 20"x20".  I roll away from me, turn the dough, rough away, turn, roll away, until the entire sheet is evenly rolled and pretty thin but not tearing.

After the dough is rolled out, cut it into 4 even squares.  I do this with a butter knife because my gorgeous baloney colored countertops are IMPOSSIBLE to kill, scratch, or bang up in any way.  Which is so awesome.  Because I love them so much.  :)  Alternatively you could do the rolling and cutting on a silicone mat, or roll on your counter and then cut with a plastic knife if you are concerned about scratching your counters.  

Lay a chicken breast diagonally across each square, and spread the garlic & herb cheese on top (a heaping tablespoon or so).  (One container of Alouette is enough for 6 large chicken breasts so eyeball 1/6th of the cheese.)
Next, fold up the long sides of the dough onto the chicken.
Dip a pastry brush into water and apply to the seams of the pastry, then firmly seal.  After you have sealed the long sides to each other, fold up the short end pieces, stretching if needed, and seal with water to create an envelope shape.

Place the pastry envelopes on a baking sheet with the seams UP.  If desired, use cookie cutters and the leftover pastry to cut out a design for the top.  After it's baked, the design is kind of subtle but it's just a fun little detail.

Note:  don't put the seams down like in this picture.  The garlic and herb cheese is more likely to make it's way out of the envelope and you'll lose all that yummy flavor.  
(With the seams up a little cheese might still ooze out but not nearly as much as when the seams are down.)
(I had to flip these over and reassemble the shamrocks when I realized I had placed them seams down.)

Beat an egg and then use the pastry brush to apply to the top of the envelopes.

Bake for 15-20 minutes in your preheated oven.  Cut into the biggest chicken breast to see if it is cooked all the way through. Because the chicken steams inside the puff pastry it does cook quickly so be sure not to bake it too long or the chicken will be tough.

Before serving, use a fork to poke some holes in the envelopes and let out the steam a bit or they will be piping hot.

The shamrocks are hard to see in this terrible photo but my kitchen smelled SO good and these were gone in a flash!!!  No time to take a proper photo.  My apologies.

The chicken puff pastry bundles can be assembled a day ahead of time, just delay brushing with the egg until you are about to put in the oven.  

Chicken puff pastry is great with a salad or veggies on the side.  They are filling!

(a toast to your health)
and happy St. Patrick's Day!