When we decided it was time to purchase our first home four years ago we had some differing views on what that home should look like. My dear husband hates a weekend project, or at least he did at the time and wanted a house that didn’t need any work. I, on the other hand, love a project and didn’t want to get a house that was already beautiful. In the end we went with a newer home that was already beautiful. I understood my sweet hubby’s desire to have a new roof and HVAC system.
This however left me feeling like I couldn’t make this house truly my own. I didn’t want to destroy or remove all the things that were already in it and nice. The mudroom had cost the original owners quite a bit of cash to have the builder put it in, it was a nice addition. However, we never used it. When the kids come running in and out with all their stuff they come through the front door, not the garage. The beautiful space sat unused for our family. I had a strong desire to turn it into something more functional for our family, but I didn’t want to diminish the home’s resale value for whoever may come next.
Recently I have decided I don’t fully care about the family that will come next. For the foreseeable future, our family lives here and this needs to be a home that makes sense for us. With this firm resolution on my mind, I began some projects that would make this house make sense for us. The transformation of the mudroom to a Coffee/Tea station was high on my list.
I get irritated when there is clutter on the counters in the kitchen. If the entire house if clean but there is stuff on the counters everything feels messy. The tea set-up on the kitchen counter felt like constant visual clutter to me. The drawers didn’t offer proper storage of the teas, and the basket and electric kettle along with my Soda Stream, all made me feel claustrophobic on that counter. I also hated being able to see the trash can, which sat right next to the counter on that side of the kitchen. The mudroom had become a dumping ground for all the recyclables which didn’t properly have a home.
So I came up with a plan. The space would need an electrical outlet, house the trash can, have a drawer for the recyclables, and a big and deep drawer for all the many teas that the Hubs enjoys. This project was NOT the first project that I tackled during covid - it is just the first one I am taking the time to post about. In all honesty, I doubted my ability to make a cabinet and make drawers. I strategically did several other projects first that I felt would test my ability to make a perfectly square box and make exact measurements. Have I said it before? I have fine gross motor skills, my fine motor skills are lacking and my attention to detail (like 3/16 vs ¼) is super - how do I say this - lazy. If you watch me doing a million projects and cooking and cleaning I don’t know if you would really know that I am lazy - but I am. Perhaps I have minimized our stuff and organized our life so that I can be lazy.
So here it is in all its glory.
coffee bar, tea station, drink bar, coffee, tea, soda stream, storage
Let's face it there are a million Sugar Cookie recipes out there! Why add one more? Well because this one is pretty darn good. The flavor is spot on, but my little secret ingredient does that to all my cookies, and they hold their shape during baking amazingly well. You can bake them straight after mixing or you can chill them and come back to them later. It's a very forgiving recipe, and let's face it with 5 kids running around I need my cookie dough not to be high maintenance.
1 cup Salted Butter (any temperature will do for this, remember I said it wasn't a high maintenance recipe)
1 1/4 cup Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 tsp Almond Extract (the secret ingredient)
4 cups Flour
1/8 tsp Baking Soda
3 tsp Baking Powder
Beat together the butter and sugar until mixed through. Add extracts and eggs and beat just until mixed in. Next add your baking powder and soda, no need to sift this in if you add it before you add the flour. Turn your mixture on medium-low and add the flour 1/2 cup at a time. The dough will become fairly stiff with that last scoop. Now I have my kids help me when I make these most of the time and they aren't particularly precise about their 1/2 cup scoops. Sometimes we have to add a tad bit more because they have under filled the measuring cup. You want the dough to hold its shape and be the consistency of Play-Doh. It is a very forgiving recipe, one that works well for little helping hands, as long as you aim for that Play-Doh feel you will be good.
Pick out your favorite cookie cutters and roll the dough out between two pieces of parchment paper. About 1/4 inch thick will cook up nicely at 350 for 10 minutes. If you go thicker around 1/3 inch you can drop the temp down to 325 and cook them for 15 minutes. I usually do thinner ones simply because it yields more cookies and with 5 kids and the friends of those 5 kids I want a few extra cookies.
1 lb Powdered Sugar (that's a whole bag)
3 Tb Meringue Powder
1 Tb Kyro Syrup
3-4 drops Lemon Juice
1 tsp Extract of choice
In a mixer add the meringue powder and about 4 Tb of water and mix until frothy. Add the kyro syrup and another minute. Slowly add the powdered sugar, SLOWLY or you'll have a giant sweet and sugary mess on your hands. Add water about 2 tsp at a time until the icing is the desired texture. I generally go for Elmer's glue consistency for the flood coat. The icing that goes above the flood coat, the stuff I want to be more precise I will add 1 Tb of powdered sugar to every cup of icing. Now with the kids helping to decorate one of our favorite things to do is flood all the cookies with white. We then pull out the gel food coloring and dilute it with 1 tsp of milk and we paint the cookies, it is like doing watercolor on cookies. It seems to be the easiest and least messy way for them to decorate AND they still get the fun of decorating. We also love putting the undecorated cookies in bags along with 1-2 piping bags of frosting and delivering them to neighbors for a fun afternoon of family cookie decorating.
*This article contains affiliate links to some of my favorite products. These aren't just any products though, they are the actual ones I use and order (or have on subscription). By choosing them you know your cookies should taste exactly like the ones I make.
Supplies And cut list
(40) 1 ¼ inch screws
(4) 2 ½ inch screws
Cut into (2) 36 inch pieces
*Optional Piece of Solid Plywood or MDF cut to 24x36. Joining the two pieces of wood together will leave a small joint on your desktop that will affect your art piece on top if you are not using a thick stock of art paper. If I had to do this over I would have gone with a hardwood plywood top so I don’t have the center seam.
(1) 1x24 Wooden dowel
1 inch shank or forstner bit
Mitersaw, table saw, or circular saw
- Hinge and Leg Template
- Side slat Template
- Desktop slat Template
*Optional router fitted with a roundover bit.
If you want to get this done in a single day follow this order and you can get your glue up done first and drying while you work on the side units.
Cut your legs and your small hinge units and your dowels first (click here for the template). I highly recommend using a router with a round-over bit on the inner circles that the dowels will be inserted into. This makes assembling the parts much easier. Once all the pieces are cut and routed (if you are doing that) you can glue them up. The legs have one end with a dowel only in them and one end with desktop hinge between the two legs, use the 4 inch dowels on the legs. The remaining 2 dowels and 4 desktop hinges go together. Use a clamp to tighten the hinges on to the dowels. Set these aside to dry while you do the rest of the work.
Next print cut and lay out the side slat template on top of your 8x6 side piece. I laid my foot piece at the bottom to see where I wanted the first slat to be. For me the circle ended up being 8 ¼ inches from the bottom of my board. My jigsaw was pretty powerful so I laid both pieces on top of each other and clamped them together real good. I highly recommend you do this so your sides match exactly, but if your tools aren’t powerful enough you might have to do them separately. Use an exacto knife and a straightedge to cut along all the straight lines, this will make cutting them with the jigsaw much easier and way more exact. Once the straight lines are outlined, put a piece of scrap wood under your board(s) and use your drill fitted with a 1 inch bit drill to carve out the circles. I say use scrap wood under this because I got a fair amount of chip out from my brand new shank bit.
Once the circles are drilled out begin connecting the cuts with your jigsaw. Take it easy and go slow, accuracy is important on this project. Once you get one slat cut out take a spare scrap of dowel and make sure everything is working as it should. You want the bottom of the circle to be a little tight so that the desktop doesn’t pull out if you put your elbows on the front of your desk. Check out Bored Panda’s desk where he discusses this problem. Once all the slats are cut out take your router and go around the edges of BOTH sides of the wood. A chamford bit would also work on the edges to give this desk a polished and finished look.
Next cut your top shelf, foot rest and feet. Using the 1 ¼ inch screws and a square if you have it, attach the foot to the bottom outside of your desk. I used 4 screws on each foot. Next I attached the 33.5 inch foot rest to the top of the foot rest. Last I add the 32 inch shelf at the top (I had a scrap piece sitting around that was 36 inches so I used this on top for an overhang. Screw in one of the 32 inch pieces about midway up the back of as a stretcher (see picture). Depending on your wood and what the actual width of it is you may need to shave off a small mount of this piece depending on the inner width of the desk after you have assembled the foot rest.
*If you want any of these pieces to have a round over on them do that BEFORE you attach them.
Now I used pocket screws and a piece of scrap that I had around to join the two desktop pieces together. If you have large clamps then you could glue these pieces together at the very beginning when you do the legs and hinges. If you are doing traditional art I would not use this method I would use a piece of hardwood plywood cut to 36x24 inches.
Once your desktop is made line it up on you side slats and mark where the back slats should go - use the template. As you did with the side slats cut the desktop back slats and round over all the edges on the desktop.
Next you will be attaching the two back desktop hinges. Line them up with the all the way back of the desk and make sure they are centered on the desktop slats. You can put pocket holes in the hinges and drill in from the bottom or you can drill down from the top. I countersank my screws and drilled down from the top because I had some small dowels on hand that I could cover these holes with.
Now you are going to insert your legs into the bottom slats. Measure the inner distance between them once you have them centered and trim down your 1x3 inch board (you should have one already cut to 32 inches). Using pocket holes (or a domino if you have one) attach the stretcher to the two legs just above the dowel.
Now lay your desktop face down on a cloth and attach the legs to the desktop. Use a straight edge to draw a line through the center of the back slat and align the desktop hinge in the leg on this line. The desktop hinge should attach at the very front of the desktop. If you have used all my measurements that will give you one good flat position on the desk. If you have changed the measurements at all you will need to put the legs on the desk and the desktop on the desk. Once they are both on the desk lift the desk to a flat (90 degree) position and raise up the legs to see where on the bottom of the desk they need to attach and mark it. Then remove the two pieces and attach them together.
I don’t generally like to make New Year’s resolutions, but I do like to have a phrase that defines something I’d like to work on for the year. For this year my phrase was “Progress over Perfection” and to support this I wanted to focus on “the next right step” and enjoying things even if I didn’t have perfect mastery of it.
It has been an extremely humbling year. I have had moments when I wanted to completely trash projects I had spent hours on because I failed to achieve the exact vision in my head. I had to slow down and focus on enjoying the process and not the end result. I’ve started many projects and not finished most of them accepting that they are works in progress and for some that my level of skill will have to grow over time with practice.
As I child I was blessed with a very crafty and artistic mother. She made lots of things and she could look at many other artistic things and understand, without a lesson, how to recreate it. She passed this on to me. I don’t know if she taught it to me intentionally or if I just learned many new craft forms from her and with a naturally brave and arrogant disposition I didn’t let obstacles stop me from going after my goal.
Case in point; our dining room table was custom built entirely by me. I had NEVER made a dining room table before! I had never made furniture of any sort before. I took woodshop in middle school for a quarter of a semester - because it was required - and I hadn’t touched a major power tool since. That was over 20 years ago. I simply looked at tables and seemed to have a basic understanding of how they should be put together and away I went. Our table is awesome! First try it turned out exactly like I was envisioning and it was quite amazing.
This has been my expectation of myself my entire life. I would observe something until I was reasonably assured I understood how it worked or was put together and I would tackle a like project with mastery on my first try. This is unrealistic for sure! It has also lead me to not bother trying many things I have wanted to simply because I wasn’t “reasonably assured” of success before I began. And on the few occasions that I did try something I had been sure in and I failed it left me feeling completely miserable.
Case in point; wood-burning is hard! I am artistic and can create in many mediums with confidence - watercolors, acrylic, pencils, crayon, charcoal, etc. Why on Earth would wood-burning be any different? I have no clue why it is different but it is! It is so ridiculously hard. And engraving? Why can’t I manage to do it? Why do I suck so much at these two things? Why does my inability to have mastery affect my enjoyment? It is art after all, just like sketching and drawing that I love so much, so how come I hate these two mediums so much? I hate them because I am not masterful at them.
I had really grand visions for the wood-burning too. I had a great piece of artwork all planned out and I don’t think this particular piece will look near as good in any other medium. I am torn between giving up entirely and taking the time to learn how to do it well. We’ll see, the debate is raging inside me still. Maybe this is a “not for now” skill that I tackle when the kids are older and I have the time to actually dedicate to learning. But do I have the stamina and patience to wait to learn something and then wait some more to attain mastery? I doubt myself significantly here!
Podcasting - Y’all I really hate it. I get so nervous before an interview. I have mild anxiety and a million times I tell myself “Oh maybe I just won’t call this person and maybe they will forget.” It is a war inside just to get myself to hit that dial button and start the interview. If you listen to the podcast you might think it simple and nice (I sure hope you do at least) but let me tell you the war I have win inside myself for EVERY SINGLE episode is REAL and it is FIERCE. Then I make the phone call, get over some awkward and uncomfortable small talk and I relax. Once it is all done I feel accomplished and well pleased until I have to listen to my own voice to edit the audio at which time another wave of anxiety rushes over me.
I am not a great parent. I have no clue what I am doing most days and there are some moments I just have to focus on the next right step. Because I know I have this weakness I have been interrogating friends who I admire for years, trying to glean as much wisdom as I possibly can from them. My particular temperament combined with my enneagram leaves me often feeling alone when I am not, so I am assuming there are other parents out there that feel the same way I do, and it is that alone that drives me to continue recording the podcast. What is the next right step? Continue asking questions, continue learning, and continue to share all this with others. Is the podcast perfect - nope. Am I making progress - yes.
It is humbling to bring forward something that is not perfect. It is humbling to admit that at this moment I do not yet have the skill or experience to attain mastery. Yes, it has been a humbling year indeed! I thought about getting myself a t-shirt for Christmas that says “recovering perfectionist, I have been flawed for my whole life” but then I thought others might not get my sense of humor or understand how much I like to laugh at myself on the inside. It’s laugh or cry folks - and I’d rather laugh even if it’s an awkward and uncomfortable one!
What’s the next right step for 2020? Well, I think I am going to lean on my old favorite vision for the new year “Speak less say more.” Having spent much of this year forcing myself to talk and become okay with talking on the podcast I think I have gone back to my nasty tween habit of speaking too much, but really saying nothing at all. So I am going to work on being a better conversationalist who speaks less but says more - do you all start to get my sense of humor? Another year I am sure I will be humbled as I try to say only what matters, only what builds up, only what will benefit others. I know I will once again have to navigate speaking with wisdom and knowing when to speak hard truths with kindness and grace. And I also know there will be times, out of laziness and an overall resistance to speaking, I will try and lean on this phrase to get out of saying something I ought. That is what I am looking forward to in 2020.
Janelle Draper is the founder of Foundation to Fly, a non-profit organization that is helping to empower elementary-aged girls with confidence, problem-solving skills, and much more. Upon popular request, she also hosts Mess of a Mom, a program designed to help and empower moms in the same way she is empowering young girls.
As well as having a heart for serving and training up young ladies she is also a full-time teacher and dedicates her working hours to pouring into the next generation.
Do you think she is remarkable yet? There’s more! Janelle and her husband are also foster parents. In today’s episode, you’ll learn a little bit about her wonderful organization and how she and her husband have approached conversations with their biological children about their heart for fostering and loving others.
I hope you find Janelle as heart warming and wonderful as I do. If you are interested in keeping up with her or contributing to Foundation to Fly follow Janelle on Instagram or visit the website, links can be found in the show notes and on my website.