It’s a trigger. It’s been three years.

Things have been crazy busy around the Coconuts household recently. Many new life experiences intertwined with daily routines, leaves us thankful for our blessings while recognizing the tenuous thread that holds our lives together. All too often we forget to see the miracles that comprise our stories; often forgetting that we, ourselves, are such incredible miracles. It takes dramatic events to remind us to open our hearts further and grasp at the pearls of beauty that grow from the banal events of day to day living.

When faced with incredible painful fear for the future, something as simple as your loved ones faces become the ambrosia that we drink in; desperate for one more glance, fearful of our last breath and what that would hold.

Am I the only one that holds this pain? The only person who still feels the sharp stab in my heart and the anguish in the pit of my stomach. The last memory of that precious little life deeply guarded in the farthest reaches of my heart, to be remembered by me, and me alone. I feel that way. I fear I am the only living human who remembers the child that was lost in my womb. The little one who arrived in this world in a rush of blood on the anguished cries of her mother. The one who is not spoken about. Words are truly unnecessary as the pain and regret stain my soul and quietly speak volumes.

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I’ve not opened up about the baby. Few know of the circumstances, yet none speak of it. As if to speak of it would mar the beauty of the life we’ve crafted. And yet still, occasionally there is the oft well-meaning comment that states I have two living children – appreciate that…at least you have “X,Y,Z.”

Please don’t say that to anyone who has experienced the loss of a little one. Ever. Even with the best of intentions that is salt to the wound. Yes, I have two living children. But it would never erase the pain or the guilt.

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It’s been three years. I look at my boys, and I tell them everyday how much I love them. I see in them the beauty of creation, the life of innocence, the trust, their dad, parts of me, love of life. I want to preserve that in them forever. Encourage them to see the good in the world and create great change.

I look at my boys and wonder how my little love lost would have spiced up our world. Would she be have liked superheroes? Chocolate chip cookies? Would I have sewn more, collecting patterns for frilly dresses done up in comic book fabric? My blue eyes? Her daddy’s brown hair?

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These are the thoughts that swirl, always. It seems a constant reminder of the life I couldn’t keep. My hands are shaking, and my heart is racing as I type these words. This reminder. This memorial. The little life of which only I seem to remember and pine for.

I have three children. One is crafted in the ephemeral, golden dust of the Universe, and two of them happily shenanigate with me in this realm.

There will always be the question of what if, there will always be the twist of my stomach at the memory, but as with all things, time blurs the edges a little bit. Makes it easier to compartmentalize the pain but it never ends. I will mourn the little life that touched me. I will always love her.

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Brown Sugar Cookie Bars

I’m way behind on my posting. So awful! I have a ton of reasons, and they’re all fantastic, but I will, however, spare you and jump right in.

I recently tried a new recipe, it’s Pioneer Woman, so you *know* it will be superb. I dawdled on making this recipe for a while, because I love to make my own recipes. But lately, I’ve been so busy that I haven’t created anything new and really wanted a quick treat.

I didn’t want cookies (I know, blasphemy, right!) but I really wanted that brown sugary goodness of a chocolate chip cookie.

Enter the “Spreads” from Pioneer Woman. The lady is brilliant.

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Even Mr. Coconuts was enthusiastic about the recipe but he requested that I do the chips the way “He likes them.” To keep you from too much suspense, I have a canister where I blend together semi-sweet and dark chocolate chips. Nothing fancy, I just pour both bags in, then shake the container. Voila. He loves it, haha.

I happily whipped up this recipe (SO easy!) and was thrilled with the results. I ended up doing two batches because the first one disappeared rather quickly.

Even the Littlest Coconut loved the Spreads, reaching as tall as possible to beg for more (I’m laughing quite happily at the memory!).

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So I must say, this recipe would is a perfect treat. It’s easy, yummy, and soooo satisfying. Plus, these bars are easily customizable – you could add pecans/walnuts, white chocolate, peanut butter on top or even in the bars. I chose to follow the original instruction, the only difference is that I added a mixture of semi-sweet and dark chocolate chips on top.

Plans are already in the works to make a batch of these bars next week. We have some very special, much loved guests coming to stay for the summer and I can’t wait to spoil them with some baked goodness!!

Brown Sugar Cookie Bars
(adapted from The Pioneer Woman)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 -1 cup chocolate chips (any mixture/variety you wish!)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350. These don’t need to wait or chill or any of that impatience-ness.

In a medium bowl, quickly whisk the flour and salt together.

In a mixer, beat brown sugar and butter. Add egg, followed by the vanilla. Slowly combine the wet with the dry (i.e. put in the flour/salt mixture).

Make sure to mix well. I used my mixer for most of this process, but after adding the flour I switched over to using a sturdy spatula and my good old fashioned arm muscles to ensure a well blended mass.

Put parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Using a spatula (I used one with a flat side, like a scraper) spread the dough onto the sheet, until it is about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thin.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the edges are a nice light brown.

Pull it out and immediately sprinkle chips over the top, I wanted a nice coverage so I used quite a bit. Put back in the oven for a minute or so (just long enough to melt the chips).

Pull back out and gently spread the melted chips over the bar, carefully smearing chocolate all the way to the edges (chocolate coverage, amiright?!).

Now comes the hardest part – the chocolate needs to set before you can touch it. So put in fridge for at least half an hour. Then you can cut/devour.

Just like that, super easy and DELISH!

brown sugar cookie bars

I must apologize for the photos. The Littlest Coconut decided that my nice camera was a great toy, and sadly, he dropped it when pulling it off the table. It’s been toddler-fried.

Hopefully these photos will make do until I can get better…

 

Chocolate Sugar Cookies for Rynn

The Littlest Coconuts is a huge fan of sweets, chocolate in particular. The saying is that a person has a sweet tooth, and I’m fairly certain that Rynn is growing a mouthful. One of his most recent favorite treats is a Pepperidge Farm brand chocolate cookie that Grandma bought.

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Those cookies are pretty great, but they tend to crumble in his little hands, leaving a not-so-great mess.

Since I always have cookies on the brain, I started thinking about making Rynn some knock-off chocolate cookies that weren’t quite so sweet and that were firmer and could hold up well in toddler whirlwinds.

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But the catch was that I only had two tablespoons of cocoa powder! So what is a gal supposed to do??

Throw in some Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Pudding mix and hope for the best haha!

I can’t really call it a secret ingredient, but it does make these cookies special. It provides such a smooth chocolate flavor without overwhelming your taste buds.

Nailed it. And they’re pretty, too!

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Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 sticks butter (1 cup), room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 box (3.5 ounces or so) Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Pudding mix

Directions

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder; set aside.
  2. In mixer, whip the butter and sugar until fluffy and gorgeous. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Follow this up with the vanilla.
  3. Slowly add in the pudding mix and beat until combined.
  4. Now it’s time to combine the wet with the dry. Add the flour mixture, a little at a time, until all of it is combined in. This may become thick, and you may need to use your arm powers to get it done, but that’s good.
  5. Turn the dough out onto plastic wrap and roll into a tube. Toss in the refrigerator for at least half an hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 350° and prepare your baking sheets with either a silpat or parchment paper.
  7. Pull dough out of fridge and create 1″ balls. Place the cookie balls on your baking sheet and bake 10-12 minutes (depending on your stove, 11 was perfect here).
  8. Let cool thoroughly *on the baking sheet* before transferring to plate, mouth, tray, etc. (It’s important to let them cool on the baking sheet. When you transfer them to a wire rack, it lets the air cool them from under, letting some valuable moistness slip away. We don’t want that on these babies).

This recipe will make about 4 dozen cookies.

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They are firm, yet soft, with slightly crisp edges and a chewy center. They are sturdy, too, and held up very well in Rynn’s chubby fingers. I chose not to add any chips or additional candies in them since I wanted to treat him with chocolate cookies but not overly sweet cookies; however, I’m fairly certain that M&M’s or even chocolate chips would only boost the flavor of these cookies.

 

And so now it seems as though all of my boys have a favorite cookie. Ethan loves my chocolate chip cookies, Joey adores my Snickerdoodles, and Rynn can’t resist these new chocolate sugar cookies.

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Irresistible. Chocolate. Cake. 

You guys know that I am a cookie lady. I love cookies. Love creating new recipes and sampling them (even the failures).

But lately I’ve been in a rut. A cookie rut. I never thought that I’d ever say that…but it’s true, and I took a break.

I’m currently working on a new recipe, but it hasn’t panned out yet. Think cinnamon imperials, sugar cookies…right now they’re just hot messes, haha.

But today I decided a cake was in order.

A from scratch, chocolate, homemade confection topped with a generous layer of my momma’s homemade chocolate frosting.

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It was the mother in law’s birthday after all.

A special occasion.

A nice excuse to try my hand at caking it up. Just don’t overbake it like your friendly neighborhood Coconut 😆

This cake is so moist and chocolately without being overwhelming.

 

It’s delightfully chocolately without being too chocolately, while still managing to be light and fluffy.

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The frosting is one that I grew up with, and it brings back all these memories of my momma singing along to Meatloaf while hand mixing a huge bowl of this scrumptious chocolate deliciousness. I would always hover, waiting so impatiently, for a taste! I so loved to lick the spoon!

 

This cake and my momma’s frosting is a match made in proverbial heaven.

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For the record, this is not my original cake recipe,  I found this chocolate cake recipe from Nelliebellie.com the chocolate icing is a family recipe that I tweaked to fit my tastes (and trust me, I’ve had a lot of tastes!!).

If you look closely, you’ll recognize it as the same chocolate frosting I used for Baby Coconuts’ first birthday party, in my Birthday on A Budget post.

This frosting is one that I’ve used quite often, since it is so easy to whip up. Even easier with a stand mixer!

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⇒ Chocolate Cake ⇐

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter, room temp (1 and a half sticks)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, room temp
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350° and grease bottom of baking pan (I used two 9″ round pans).
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and a prayer for our first homemade cake. Set aside.
  3. Using a mixer, generously beat the butter (don’t beat it like you’re sending it to the hospital, just, ya’know, whip it. And whip it good.) After about 30-45 seconds, add in the sugar, just a little at a time, allowing it to blend together.
  4. Pour in the vanilla. Blend well.
  5. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Don’t let any shells in. That sucks.
  6. Now slowly add the flour mixture, making sure to combine it thoroughly. (The mixture was thickish at this point. I had to stop the mixer, lift the lid, and use a spatula to physically pull the bottom to the top and blend to ensure it was mixed properly).
  7. Very carefully pour in the milk, a little at a time, beating after each addition. You’ll know when the batter is ready. It will be smooth and dreamy. Like Luke Cage.
  8. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared cake pans.
  9. Bake for 30-35 minutes. It is done when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  10. Let cool completely. Then smother in the deliciousness that is chocolate frosting!
  11. EAT.

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I think this is my first time sharing two recipes in one post. It’s kinda exciting. Daunting at the same time. But fun!
This recipe is The Best.
Make a bowl of it and just eat it. But don’t get sick and blame me. Have some self-control, love.
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⇒ Momma’s Chocolate Frosting ⇐
Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup butter, room temp (I like to use sticks)
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar (more or less on taste!)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa (more or less on taste!)
  • 2 tbsp milk (or half and half)

Directions

  1. Beat the butter until it is super fluffy and smooth. Don’t give me side-eye, just do it. You’ll see it change and you’ll be so happy!
  2. Add the cocoa and combine well.
  3. (This part is important) Add the confectioner’s sugar 1/2 cup at a time, thoroughly beating the ingredients and tasting after each addition. If the frosting still tastes like butter, add more sugar.
  4. If the frosting gets too thick, add a few splashes of milk to loosen it up.
  5. You can play with it, adding more or less cocoa, confectioner’s sugar and milk until you get the taste and consistency that you want.
  6. There really is no way to ruin this frosting. Trust me, you can’t go wrong!

 

Now combine the two and tell me how yummy they are together!

But seriously, let the cake cool enough before frosting. Or else you get disappearing frosting between the layers. It’s a divine smooshery of cake and frosting melting together, but I like how cakes look when they have that thick layer of frosting between the cakes parts.

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Overall, this was a hit. And it kinda makes me want to bake more cakes. From scratch. Like, on purpose and stuff.

 

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Birthday on a budget

My darling littlest coconut turned one last week. I’m not sure how that happened, or even why the days have gone by so very quickly, but there he is, a chubby, sticky, happy little One Year Old.

First birthday

My baby, my little tiny human, is leveling up.

We had a small celebration with cousins, and we were so lucky that some out of town family was able to be here to join our fun.

Unfortunately, the party was around the same time as Thanksgiving, and let’s be honest, funds are not unlimited.

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I spent less than $7 on this party. Since we had a huge turkey dinner the day before (with the same people), we decided to have a simple party with chocolate chip cookies, cake, sweet tea, and Kool-aid (I’m a Southern girl, what can I say, haha).

I only needed to buy a few items for the party – cake mix ($1.48), icing ($1.25), table cloth ($1) and balloons (2 packs at $1 each).

Total cost (before tax): $5.73

 

After scouring Pinterest, craft magazines and Party City.com, I knew that I wanted a star theme with a birthday banner, a centerpiece, cupcake toppers, high chair swag, and a cute birthday sign.

There was no cost for the decorations, outside of the balloons, because I raided my craft stash.

I’m one of those crazy people who loves craft supplies. I will buy something because it’s pretty, or on sale, or there, then stash it away.

The stash in question this time was paper. I have too much paper (but I will never admit that, ever again!)

To keep it simple, and to not overwhelm me, I chose a basic primary color scheme and since Teeny Coconut loves red, it was an easy choice!

The biggest project was the birthday banner, which created a fun, whimsical effect when hung.

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The banner took a bit longer than anticipated, and Mr. Coconuts questioned my sanity (he pointed out I could’ve bought one for a buck at the Dollar Tree. And you could. But this one has style. It has spunk. It was made by me!)

It was simple, though. Here’s my process – using my cricut (or any cutter, or even your hands!) I cut out stars. Lots of stars. 30 each of red, green, blue, and orange. My stars were 1 3/4″ high. I also cut out the phrase, “Happy Birthday” in Don Juan font with each letter 7″ high and 3″ wide.

Next I stacked up the stars in the order I wanted them on the banner – orange, blue, red, green; then I pulled out my sewing machine, chose a coordinating thread color and off I went.

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Super simple. Just sew the stars, leaving a tiny bit of thread in between. Mine aren’t perfect, but the overall effect was so cool. Once I had about 15-20 stars (I lost count) I started adding in the letters. I patterned a star in between in each letter. After I finished the letters, I just sewed all the stars. I figured after the banner was completed, I could hang it up and cut off what I needed in order to make the banner the perfect size.

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I used the banner bits as further birthday decor and as the high chair swag.

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The centerpiece is another star project. I already had the red mason jar and thought it would be a perfect addition. I then used bamboo kebab skewers to attach stars in various shapes. The “1” is Birthday Bash font from Cricut Design Space.

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The picks are really easy to assemble. Cut out two of the image you want on the stick, and using a good quality glue stick, liberally apply glue to both sides, place the skewer on the wrong side of one image then layer with the top portion, lining up the image. Press the edges down firmly. Let dry over night and ta-daaaaa! (I’m sure this could be the same process you would use to make photo booth props.)

Same process for the cupcake toppers and smash cake decorations, but with toothpicks. So cute.

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My favorite part, however, is the framed saying. Oh, how I love that. I already have it hanging up in his room, with plans to drape stars around it on the wall.

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I found the inspiration on Pinterest, and whipped it up using my cricut, vinyl, paper, free fonts, glitter and glue (I already had the frame in my craft closet).

I had a brilliant idea, too! I didn’t want to hang it because I wanted it displayed on the table, so I used my recipe book holder to keep it sturdy and prominent on the table. Brilliant!

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The star theme really worked out. It was so easy to incorporate stars and primary colors and it didn’t cost me over $7 for everything…and I love it.

It was definitely a day to remember.

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My favorite chocolate chip cookies…

I am so excited to share this chocolate chip cookie recipe. I know it’s just another cookie recipe, but seriously, this is THE cookie recipe.

Coconut dark chocolate chip cookies

I took a big hiatus from baking (what with the move and unpacking, it was just not feasible to spend all day baking) but recently came back to it after suffering a minor heartbreak.

When your heart is demolished, freshly baked cookies can help.

Except I ruined them. In my doom and gloom I created an awful batch of cookies. I was so embarrassed.

Luckily I always keep baking supplies in hand, so I just put on my big girl undies and forged ahead. Only this time I sat down with my collection of recipes and tweaked, poked and prodded my original recipe until I came up with one that I wanted to experiment with.

It was a great experiment! I absolutely love how these cookies turned out, but I will admit that the hubby did not like the chips I used.

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These are dark chocolate coconut chip cookies with semi-sweet chips added for good measure (so what is that… Dark Chocolate Coconut and Semi-Sweet Chip cookies…that’s a mouthful!).

Unfortunately, even though they’re Nestlé, hubby does not care for the “strange, fake aftertaste” courtesy of the coconut in the chips. So after taste testing, and liking the texture, the soft center with the perfectly crisp outside he requested a second batch, but without the icky coconut chips.

The batch made for hubs. Dark chocolate and semi sweet chips

The batch made for hubs. Dark chocolate and semi sweet chips

I happily obliged and can attest to the repeatability of this recipe. I followed it exactly, and I was able to replicate the delicious results. My second batch consisted of semi-sweet and dark chocolate chips. The husband gave it two thumbs up and the seal of “regular rotation” approval! Even the littlest coconut loved them, begging for a second cookie (you know how 11 month olds beg? By staring at the cookie headed to your mouth, while their own mouth hangs open… Kinda hits you in the guilt spot, haha).

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But trust me when I say that this recipe is a keeper, and is truly the only chocolate chip cookie recipe you will ever need, ever again.

It’s incredibly versatile. My first batch included coconut-dark chocolate chips, while my second batch had two different types of chocolate chips. You could realistically include any combination of chocolate chips or add ins that you want, and the cookie should still come out beautifully.

chocolate chip cookies

An addendum to keep in mind, too, is that I chilled these cookies for 12 hours. I wanted to see what would happen, and this is what I will do from now on.

It actually helped my poor joints doing it this way. I made the dough, cleaned up, then the next day, I was able to bake without much mess. It was lovely!

When preparing them for refrigeration, make sure you use enough flour that your dough isn’t sticky, then roll it up in plastic wrap. When ready to bake, unwrap and slice. With your hands, roll the dough into roughly 1″ balls, making them taller than wide, and flattening the bottom.

Slice the chilled dough, and flatten the bottom of the cookie dough balls

Make the cookie dough balls taller than they are wide

This method helped my cookies bake evenly and look like gorgeous bakery style cookies!

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And the taste…oh, heavens to be, these cookies will make your knees buckle from joy! If you don’t believe me, come over and have a few!

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Another view of the second batch, with the dark chocolate and semi sweet chips…you can drool, now!

Without further ado, the recipe!

Honey’s Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup your choice chocolate chips (dark chocolate, milk chocolate, etc)

Directions:

  1. Do not preheat your oven, these cookies need to chill for at least 2 hours up to 12 hours.
  2. In mixing bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Gently whisk with a fork to combine.
  3. Using a stand mixer (or handheld mixer) beat together the butter, and both sugars until light and fluffy. Then toss in the vanilla, followed by the eggs.
  4. Slowly add in the flour mixture, on low speed and gently mix until combined.
  5. Using a spatula, fold in the chocolate chips.
  6. Lay out sheets of plastic wrap, and using the same spatula, spread the dough on the wrap, rolling the dough and covering it. Once covered and in a log-ish shape, pop it in the refrigerator for a few hours.
  7. Once ready to bake – preheat oven to 350° and prepare two baking sheets with either silpats or parchment paper.
  8. Unwrap the chilled dough, slice sections off and using your hands, roll the dough into 1″ balls. Flatten the bottoms (as seen in the above pictures) and then mold the balls to be taller (more of a mound vs round).
  9. Place dough balls on baking sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes, depending on your oven.
  10. Let cool completely on the baking sheet before removing.
  11. Enjoy!

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Hiatus over, furniture redo

Hey guys! I’m back again, hopefully for a good stretch! We have been so busy lately that I’ve barely had a chance to catch a breath. We’ve gone on a mini vacation to Michigan (an amazing family reunion), multiple doctor and VA appointments, bought a house and moved in, all since my last post. It seems like it’s been forever! 

I’ve really missed the blog and all of you.

But not to fret, I have some fun stuff in store! There’s not much craft stuff to share, sadly enough, I’m still working on unpacking and organizing my crafty goodies (there’s just so much of it!). 

In the meantime, I wanted to share a furniture makeover – my first ever attempt! I have to admit, of all the things I needed to get done, this table should’ve been bottom of the list. But the moment I set eyes on this beauty, I *had* to dress her up!

  
 

Coconuts Husband was the one to find her, an old sewing table, tucked away in a corner of our (new) favorite thrift shop. The table had been marked down but was in great shape (if you look past the chipped veneer). 

I knew I wanted a dark brown top, with a distressed cream bottom.

Luckily the paint guys at my local Home Depot were showing off some Valspar Chalk paint. They walked me through the basic steps, even showing an example they had in store. That was enough to convince me, so I grabbed a can of Valspar Chalky Finish in Moonstone Ring, along with a can of the Valspar finishing wax, and two cans of Rust-oleum metallic spray paint in the color of Flat Burnished Amber.

  

It was such an easy redo. I couldn’t believe how satisfying and quite simple the whole project was, from start to finish.

  
My very first step was to remove the old heavy sewing machine and all of the hardware.

Then, for the top, I sanded, cleaned it, laid down a layer of Zinsser Primer then spray painted two coats. I also spray painted the original hardware in the same color. I love this color, it has really pretty glittery specks (to the delight of my niece who watching my progress).

For the bottom, I didn’t apply any Zinsser because the Valspar chalk paint said it doesn’t require a base coat. I decided to go along with it and see what happens.

After applying the chalk paint, I let it dry for two days, then sanded like a mad woman (trust me, that killed my poor joints, but it was so worth it!).

  

I followed up the sanding with a gentle wipe down with a damp sponge then the little Coconut and I waxed it. Seriously, waxing is so easy, even my 5 year old could do it.

Because, no joke, he did do it. The basic premise is to dip your brush into the wax, brush it on, let it wait for a few minutes and then wipe off with a lean, dry rag.

  
I absolutely love the finished look.

This was my first time doing this, and I can say that I’m already addicted! I find myself scouring thrift stores and yard sales looking for other pieces that can be painted and revived!

Here is a nifty little “Before/After” photo:

  

I feel like I need to let y’all know too, that my little blog isn’t cool enough or big enough or even important enough to have a sponsor with promoted items. Rather, the items I discuss are ones that I bought on my own and paid for myself.

What are some furniture projects you’ve enjoyed? Share them in the comments, I’d love to see them!