Things We Like: Barn Doors in the Bedroom

Post by Kyle St. Romain.

Continuing through my bathroom remodel, which continues to surprise me in terms of how complicated and expensive redoing a small bathroom can be, I wanted to share with you a little design feature that I am going to incorporate into my master bedroom/bathroom: the barn door.

My bathroom renovation brings up a lot of design challenges, particularly because it is a small space and the plumbing for the toilet and shower cannot be changed. The way my bathroom was originally planned, the entry door (entered through the bedroom) opened inwards. While this layout made it easy to go between the two rooms, it took up too much of the precious space inside the bathroom. Worse yet, the door opened across the shower door, which meant that you had to enter the bathroom and close the door behind you before you could enter the shower. Talk about an inconvenience!

My first thought to remedy this problem was to have a pocket door installed; however, there were some major negatives to this approach. Since building code prohibits many condominium dwellers from installing any flammable materials, like wood, inside the wall, I would have had to get a custom pocket doorframe fabricated from metal (read: expensive). If the cost of the pocket door frame itself wasn’t enough to deter me from the idea, I would have also had to relocate light switches and electrical outlets installed on the inside of that wall (read: more expensive). Thankfully, my designer had a great idea: install a barn door on the outside of the bathroom. Brilliant!

I scoured the web to learn everything I could about barn doors. What I learned is that no two barn doors are alike, and its really an excersize in creativity and personal taste. One big thing I did read up on before finalizing my decision was the pros and cons of using a barn door vs. a pocket door. Below are some quick bullet points of what I learned:

  • Noise. Barn doors and pocket doors both do not provide as much noise insulation than regular doors, and barn doors offer the least due to the gaps between the door and the wall. If you’re using a barn door or a pocket door for a room next to a high traffic area in your home, you may want to consider other options. My bathroom is tucked away in the back corner of my apartment, inside the bedroom, so noise issues weren’t a big concern for me here.

  • Cost. Barn doors can be more expensive than pocketed doors due to increased cost of the door and the track hardware it glides across. There are some really clever DIY solutions for making a barn door on the cheap, but I wanted something that would really stand out and enhance both the bedroom and the bathroom. Plus, a metal frame pocket door was going to be much more expensive than its wooden counterpart, so the price difference really wasn’t that much for me.

  • Design. Barn doors are more in-your-face than pocket doors, and some people are not fond of seeing the exposed track system on the outside of their wall. This is more of a personal preference, and I actually like the rustic style. That said, barn doors come in all shapes, sizes, and colors – so there is a lot of flexibility in finding a door that suits your décor.

  • Other considerations. With a barn door, you will also need an empty space on the wall adjacent to your doorway for the barn door to slide over when the door is open. This can be tricky in smaller rooms, and the space needs to be a bit wider than the doorway itself. You’ll also want to reframe your doorway or just have drywall edges if you’re using a barn door. This helps create a slicker look and makes it look like the barn door was meant to be there, not just an afterthought.

Feeling a bit more educated about barn doors, I headed over to Houzz to browse the galleries for some inspiration. One thing I noticed that really made certain barn doors stand out from the others was the use of reclaimed, or at least distressed, wood. Reclaimed barn doors can be very expensive though, and I wouldn’t have been saving much money vs. going with a pocket door. Thankfully, I found a local carpenter who takes apart old barns as a hobby and turns them into reclaimed treasures. I met with him, and we agreed that he would build me a custom barn door at a reasonable price. I think the fact that the door would be going into a reclaimed building (the building used to be, and still is to a certain extent, an old train station). I’m still waiting on my door to be finished, but am very excited about getting it! You can expect to see some photos when the project is complete.

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Breakfast in Bed – Valentine’s Eggs, Sunny Side Up

Post by Alison Hein.

If there’s one perfect day for serving breakfast in bed, it is, of course, Valentine’s Day. Well, it’s right around the corner, so now’s the time to start thinking about making a festive morning meal for your special someone.

For starters, pull out a tray. Then dress it up. Try linen napkins, a red rose, a tiny goblet of fresh berries, a love note, or even your dear one’s favorite newspaper tied up with golden ribbon. If you have a shocking red plate, by all means, place that front and center. Now, what to put on the plate? For just a couple of dollars, you can purchase a heart-shaped egg ring – a thin metal band in the shape of a heart, reminiscent of a large cookie cutter. Simply set the ring directly in a heated frying pan, drop a cracked egg into it, then let it cook a couple of minutes until the white is set and the yolk is glossy and golden.

You can use the ring to make accompanying heart-shaped toast, if you like. Or cook up some bacon first, then fry your heart-shaped eggs in the rich, salty drippings. Or, use your rings to make a few heart-shaped pancakes. Use your best judgment to tailor the quintessential breakfast in bed for your loved one. Then, don’t be upset when your heart gets broken. 😉

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Equipment
Heart-shaped egg rings

Ingredients
2 slices bread
1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 eggs
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preparation
Use the heart-shaped egg ring to cut out two hearts from the bread slices. Set aside while cooking eggs.

Heat a heavy frying pan over medium-low heat. Add olive oil and butter, continuing to heat until butter is melted. Crack one egg into a small bowl, making sure the yolk is intact. Place a heart-shaped ring in the frying pan, then carefully pour the egg into the ring. Repeat for the second egg. Season liberally with salt and pepper. If you like, baste frequently with the oil / butter mixture to accelerate cooking time. Cook until whites are cooked through and yellow centers are still soft, about 2 to 3 minutes.

While eggs are cooking, toast bread. Place toasted hearts on a warmed plate, then top with the sunny side up eggs. Serve immediately.

Makes 1 serving.

You can find heart-shaped egg rings in local kitchen specialty stores, or on many popular websites, such as Amazon.com

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Bedtime Stories: Boy + Bot

Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman. Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino.

Looking for something simple and adorable to read? I’ve just stumbled across this cute little story by Ame Dyckman and Dan Yaccarino. I recently refurbished my e-reader to make it more functional than it was (which was not very) and have been borrowing digital picture books from the library. The selection is somewhat limited (though I expect it will grow) so I’m likely to read every picture book available. This is one that I would go borrow a paper copy of, it’s so durn adorable.

A boy meets a robot and they become instant friends. Unfortunately, while rolling down a hill the bot’s off switch is pressed. The boy carries him home and tries to make him better the only ways he knows how: applesauce, stories, and so on but nothing works. While the boy sleeps the parents accidentally hit the on switch. Robot sees the boy is off so he does the same for the boy: takes him home, reads him instruction manuals, gives him oil. Luckily the inventor intervenes and explains that they have a BOY not a bot. Don’t worry: everything turns out okay in the end. The last several pages are cute-as-can-be pictures of the boy and the bot playing together. It’s a great picture book for kids of all ages. Seriously. Go get it. Or download it from your local library’s e-book collection!

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Breakfast in Bed: Benne Wafers

Post by Alison Hein.

Now that we’ve gotten all the Super Bowl hoopla out of our systems, it’s time to focus on more important things – like African American History Month. Historian Carter G. Woodson initiated focus on African American history back in 1926 when he decreed that the second week in February become “Negro History Week.” Woodson chose the month of February, when both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass celebrated their birthdays.

It wasn’t until 1976 that the US government officially expanded Woodson’s initiative to become “Black History Month.” President Gerald Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Our country’s food history, too, owes a lot to our African American forbears. Popular soul food, like collard greens, johnnycakes and chitlins, stems from African roots. Benne (the Bantu word for sesame) was brought from Africa to this country during the slave trade era. Benne Wafers are still very popular in the south, and are considered a specialty of Charleston, South Carolina.

Sometime this month, I urge you to make these nutty little wafers. Pack some up and head out to a local park or museum for an event honoring African Americans. Here are some links to get you started:

http://www.africanamericanhistorymonth.gov/

http://www.nea.org/tools/lessons/black-history-month.htm

http://www.nycgovparks.org/events/black_history_month

http://americanfood.about.com/od/resourcesadditionalinfo/a/Soul-Food-History-And-Definition.htm

Ingredients
½ cup benne (sesame) seeds
¾ cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder

Preparation
Preheat oven to 350°. To toast seeds, place them on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake until golden brown, stirring once or twice, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

Reduce oven temperature to 325°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Mix in egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Stir in flour and baking powder to form stiff batter. Drop batter by rounded ½ teaspoons onto prepared sheet, leaving about 1½ inches between wafers. Bake until lightly browned, about 12 minutes.

Makes 5½ to 6 dozen wafers.

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Bedtime Stories: Dad, are you the tooth fairy?

Post by Mark T. Locker.

Dad, are You the Tooth Fairy? By Jason Alexander.

My son lost his first tooth the other day. They grow up so quickly! The next day, he brought home this book from the school library. It’s all about a kid losing teeth and the tooth fairy. How appropriate! Right? Wrong! If you want to instill a sense of skepticism early in your child’s life, this is the book for you. It basically spells out for the children that perhaps all of those childhood beliefs are bogus. Hence the child asking the dad if he is the Tooth Fairy. It’s a terrible book. It’s basically one man’s attempt to cover up, in a really lame way, that his son discovered the truth. His answer? Well, yes, technically, I put the note and the coin under your pillow. But it’s the fairy speaking through me! But it will only work if you believe in the face of all the proof to the contrary. It never crossed my little boy’s mind that I had cleverly folded that dollar bill into a butterfly. Until Jason Alexander (yes, that’s “George” from Seinfeld) decided to write this book. Don’t read it to your children unless they are already fully skeptical of the presence of magic and wonder in the world.

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