Gray Duck Turns 3!!!

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I can’t believe yet another year has gone by in the life of Gray Duck. This platform has been such a joy for me. A great place to direct my creative energies, to learn new things, and to connect with the people who have been loyal readers. I truly appreciate each and every one of you who read, comment on, and share my posts. It’s the greatest feeling. For the year to come, I have plans already in the works to streamline Gray Duck’s organization and to freshen up its look. But the one thing that won’t change are the pictures, tips, tricks, tutorials, and stories I love to share. Cheers to another year!

Amy

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Before & After: $75 Craigslist Find Gets Chic New Update

Before

I collect used furniture. It’s one of my greatest joys in life. The hunt, the find, the rejuvenation of discarded pieces, it is oh, so fulfilling. And addicting. As I’ve gotten older and fine-tuned my style, I have developed a very strong preference for aesthetic variety in my living spaces. Buying second-hand makes it easier to meet that desire. I also think my preference for used furniture has something to do with my long love of history. A want to learn about stories of furniture-owner-past rightfully manifests itself through the scouring of antique store basements and the poring over of Craigslist ads for the next great tale. As an added motivation for second-hand shopping, furnishing with used pieces adds a level of warmth to a home that new stuff just can’t replicate. In fact, I would say at least 90% of all the furniture in our home was purchased second hand.

In full disclosure, I am not against buying new pieces, but if I can find a deal, I’d rather buy a used table and dresser for the price of a new chair. And since there are so many good quality used pieces that, with a little TLC, can be amazing, there is fulfillment in the search and rescue that I just can’t get from new furniture. Plus, there is something freeing about buying a piece that has already been dinged or scratched, not having to worry about being the first one to do it. And I tell ya, the compliments I get on used pieces far outnumber the ones I get on the new stuff – and I am OK with that.

Now, I do have a few rules for what I will and will not purchase second-hand. First, I have to get a “feeling” about the piece. A sense that my home won’t be complete without it. And, trust me, when I get that feeling, it is unmistakable. Second, it has to be in *usable condition (or easily fixable). My refurbishing skills only go so far, so if I find a piece that needs to be completely rebuilt or reupholstered, that’s a hard pass from me. Third, the price has to be right. Although this part is important, to say I have never overpaid for a piece that met rules #1 and #2 would be a flat out lie. If I connect with a good quality piece, I will be flexible with price. Well, to a point. 

With that being said, I was recently in the market for a new sofa. I had some ideas in mind in regards to style and color but was open to anything as long as it was in good condition and priced right. Late one night, while perusing Craigslist, I found what I was looking for: a 7ft long blue, chenille sofa from the 1960s. And it was only $75. I immediately put in a request to view it and after about five minutes of looking it over, I was loading it in the back of my rented van.

When buying fabric pieces there are a few things to keep in mind, and unless you are a master upholsterer, which I am not, avoid anything that smells pungent, or has large stains or tears in the fabric. Also, check to see if the covers are removable, and if there are zippers, what condition are they in? Are the legs stable? Are the cushions in solid condition? Are springs poking out? Not every piece is worth the cheap price. Reupholstering an entire sofa or even replacing the foam in the cushions can add up quickly. Make a list of “musts,” and definitely check it twice.

The piece I purchased is one of those sofas built with an incredibly sound construction, and boy is it heavy. I feel supported, yet cozy when I sit on it and the massive cushions weigh a ton because they are filled with high-quality foam. No squeaking, no sagging, and no rocking. This was, indeed, a good find. But, as you can see from the “before,” it needed some tweaking.

After we got it home I let it air out in the yard. An important note: don’t leave any piece in the rain or in direct sunlight. After a few hours, I gave the piece a good cleaning via my vacuum. Then, I began the updating. 

The first thing I wanted to do was remove the skirt. So, I closely examined how it was attached and verified that all the fabric beneath was in good condition (which I checked at the viewing, but it is always a good idea to look again before you tear anything off). The upholstery looked great so I loosened a few staples and pulled it off – it took about five minutes. 

The upholstery is in great condition (no rips or tears) but the color had faded quite a bit and was splattered with some water stains. One of the reasons I was excited about this piece is because it is upholstered in chenille fabric. Why? Well, for several reasons. Is it soft? Yes. Is it classically chic? Of course. But most importantly, chenille fabric has an incredible ability to take color. Dying fabric is an amazingly affordable way to update faded furniture. And, it’s incredibly easy:

First, I mixed a spray bottle of hot water with 1/4 cup of blue Rit fabric dye. I then soaked a sample of the fabric (this was a good use for the skirt I just removed). I didn’t want to change the color, just brighten it up, so I diluted the dye with plenty of water and tested a few swatches until I found the color I wanted. I then made up a new bottle with the appropriate portions and went to work.

To spray furniture, take it outside if at all possible, otherwise protect any surrounding areas you don’t want to be dyed (including your hands). Soak the fabric evenly and thoroughly. Be sure to let it dry completely – the dye will not come off on your clothes once it dries. An important note, however, is that water will reactivate the dye, so, just be sure not to put anything wet on your newly dyed fabric. 

The final step in my sofa update was to replace the legs. I had an old ottoman with the exact legs I wanted, so I swapped them with the sofa. I added a few pillows, arranged it in my living room, and am thoroughly enjoying this awesome “new” piece. 

*Edit* This piece was recently featured on Apartment Therapy

After

Cheers,

Amy

*As a rule of thumb, I never buy old glassware or kitchen gadgets for anything other than putting on display. A lot of vintage glass, cookware, or utensils were made with lead. No good.

New Project Announcement!!!

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If you’ve been following Gray Duck for a while, you likely know a few things about me. For example, you may know this past December I finally finished grad school. And you may know I spent my years as a student studying women’s health. You may know I wrote my thesis on menstrual health and how websites meet the needs of pre- and newly post-menarcheal girls (hint, they don’t). And you may also know I filled what little free time I had writing for various outlets about sexual and reproductive health.

But what you may not know, is that now is the time to knit together all of the experience, knowledge, and confidence I have gained over the years to tackle my next project. And, that’s just what I’m doing by creating a health education website for teens called Harlot.

Although I am still very much in the early stages of development, my vision for the site grows clearer by the day. I’m excited and terrified all rolled into one, but my courage is steadfast. My long-term vision for the site is to create an all-in-one place for teens to learn about their health, their bodies, relationships, and yes, sex, from a trusted friend.

I do not yet have an official launch date, but I am spending some time getting the word out early. If you are interested in learning more or know someone who is, you can subscribe on Harlot’s landing page. By doing so, you will receive an announcement (and some free goodies) when the site officially launches!  I hope you consider joining the Harlot community. Now, time for me to get back to work…

Cheers,

Amy

One Ingredient Frozen Custard

one ingredient frozen custard vegan low sugar gluten free

Although summer doesn’t officially start until June 20, the weather is already heating up. Predicted to be a summer of record-breaking heat, I am already putting together a survival kit. My favorite thing for keeping cool in the summer? Ice cream. Maybe it’s childhood nostalgia, maybe it’s my cravings for sweets, but there is something about ice cream that helps alleviate the swelter of Minnesota summers.

The only downside to having a love for ice cream? Empty calories and sugar. Fortunately, I’ve discovered the perfect recipe to hit all those pleasure zones without the negative ramifications of a high sugar sweet. This frozen treat is textured more like a custard than an ice cream, but it’s fast to make, requires one ingredient, and is just as creamy and just as delicious.

Curious to know what the one ingredient is? You might be surprised.

It’s banana.

Yup. Banana. The trick to this recipe is to store your bananas in the freezer. When you blend them in your food processor they become creamy and delicious. Although fantastic on its own, this recipe serves as a great base to play around with different toppings or ingredients. Try mixing your bananas with cocoa or matcha powder, top with fresh fruits and whipped cream, or dress them like you would a sundae. Either way, they are a healthy treat to help you stay cool all summer long. Enjoy.

One Ingredient Frozen Custardmakes 1 serving

Supplies:

  • Food processor or blender

Ingredients:

  • 1 large banana – frozen and peeled

Directions:

  • Place frozen banana into blender or food processor
  • Blend until smooth, periodically scraping down sides
  • Serve immediately with your favorite toppings or store as a single serving in your freezer for up to 2 days

Download Recipe

Helpful hint:

Buy a bunch of bananas from the grocery store and allow them to ripen on the counter until they start to develop brown spots. Peel and store them in an airtight container in your freezer until you are ready to make your custard.

Cheers,

Amy

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

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I have to say, I am borderline obsessed with avocados. I spread them on my sandwiches, top my salads with them, and mix them up as guacamole. And aside from tasting great, avocados are a fantastic source of healthy fats, dietary fiber, potassium, and vitamins C and B-6. Plus, they are low carb. Bonus.

Anyway, I’ve recently heard of people baking sweets with avocados and thought I would give it a try. Keeping it simple for my first attempt, I mixed up a quick chocolate pudding as an afternoon snack. Honestly, I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner. The texture of the avocados whips up just like any old pudding, smooth and creamy. If I didn’t make this myself, I would’ve  never guessed it wasn’t the real thing.

This recipe is quick, takes only a few ingredients, hits all those dietary requirements (vegan, gluten free, low carb), and is the perfect treat to assuage any sweet tooth. Enjoy.

Chocolate Avocado PuddingMakes about six 1/2 cup servings

Supplies:

  • Food processor or blender
  • Bowl with lid

Ingredients:

  • 2 large avocados, pitted and scooped
  • 1/2 cup raw cacao or unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup cashew, almond, or coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup honey or maple syrup (for a vegan option)
  • 1/8 tsp coarse salt

Directions:

  • Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth, periodically scrape down sides
  • Transfer into a container and chill for 30 minutes before serving
  • Store in airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week

Download Recipe

As with any pudding recipe, additions are always a good idea. A few drops of vanilla or mint extract will add depth to the flavor, coconut whipped cream is always a fantastic choice for toppings, or mix it up with some fresh berries. As a bonus, because it is supposed to be 100 frickin’ degrees here on Saturday, put some pudding into a few dixie cups, stick a popsicle stick in the middle, and freeze them for a few hours. Voila! Fudgsicles!

Cheers,

Amy