How to Make Cork Bulletin Boards

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Ten years ago we took our children to Sicily to explore my family’s roots. One daytrip found us driving up a scenic mountain road looking for the small town of Isnello, home of my great-grandmother on my father’s side. The winding country road was slow-going and more than once we had to wait for a herd of goats to pass. Along the way, we passed something very unusual — a grove of nude trees.

As we continued along the road, we saw more nude trees and then, stacks and stacks of bark on the ground.

We pulled over to investigate and suddenly realized we were looking at a forest of cork trees. Cork oaks (Quercus suber) to be exact. We were all so excited to figure this out; it seemed like the light bulb went off in all of our heads at the same time. Where corks came from was just not one of those questions any of us had ever considered, and now the question and the answer were presented to us at the same moment. That was memorable.

Slabs of cork bark are harvested from cork oaks, by hand, every nine to twelve years. The trees, which often live for 250-300 years need to be 25 years old before they can be harvested. It is a good example of a renewable resource. The harvest from each cork tree will be used to make 4000 corks.

Here is a good video that shows the production of corks from harvest to bottle cap. Section 4:45 on the video’s timeline shows the drill that punches out the wine corks from the bark strips. If you look closely at the corks in the photo, you can see the age lines from the 9-12 years of tree growth.

I was already a collector of wooden wine corks with their interesting texture and graphics, before seeing the cork oak grove. Since visiting the grove, I’ve become incapable of throwing away a wooden wine cork. I am that person who subtlely slips corks into her purse at dinner parties.

A year after our trip, I was in the middle of a kitchen renovation when the idea hit me to make a wall-sized corkboard on the space above my cookbook bookcase.

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My husband built the frame for the bulletin board using a very thin sheet of plywood for the backing and pine trim for the frame. I used a polyurethane stain as a wood finish.

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The board is anchored into the wall studs with four screws, each of which is covered with corks that have pink nail polish dots painted on them so we can locate the screws should we ever want to remove the corkboard.

I made another corkboard for the wall space above my sewing machine table.

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I did not frame it. Instead, I custom built it to fit into the cabinet space that surrounds it. The corks are glued onto thin plyboard which is fastened to the wall with screws.

Over the summer, I made three corkboards, one for each of the new apartments my sons and niece were moving into. They all wanted black frames.

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My husband built the frames, and another relative who was visiting, puttied, sanded, and painted the frame for me. Friends and family, both near and far, either mailed boxes of corks to me or dropped off boxfuls at my front door after I posted a plea for corks on Facebook. I am so grateful to all of the generous cork savers who nicely shared their stash with me.

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Each of these new cork boards is two feet by three feet and uses about 500 corks. The frame and backboard weigh five pounds, and the corks weigh about six pounds. Before you take on this project, you’ll need to save a lot of corks.

Two tips before we get started. Once I used an old wood-trimmed bulletin board I found at a yard sale for my cork surface. I glued the corks directly onto the board, and that worked fine. I’ve also recycled the particle board panel from 24″ by 36″ poster frames from Wal-Mart.

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Supplies You Will Need:
About 500 wooden corks (weighs about six pounds)
Plywood backing
Two six-inch strips of wood trim to build the frame (see photo)
Miter box and saw
Hot glue gun with a refill package of long glue strips
Cutting board and knife for trimming corks
Yardstick and pen to draw guidelines on the plyboard
Lightweight wood filler
Sanding block (fine)
Primer, spray-on works fine
Paint- I used one with a satin finish
Small paintbrush
Two eyelet screws
40-pound picture hanging wire

Instructions

Buying the Backing and Frame Materials

To keep the weight down on the finished product, I use the thinnest and lightest sheet of plywood backing I can find. I always ask the salesmen at Home Depot to cut the plywood down to the size I need. They also cut the molding strips down to the approximate size I will need. I add a little extra length of trim, in case I/we mess up on the mitering when I get home.

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Building the Frame

My husband took the two six-foot long trim strips and used a miter-block to cut them down to the proper size which was previously measured to fit around the plywood exactly.

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He then used wood glue to attach the molding to the back board. He used clamps to keep the trim in place while it dried. You could also use a nail-gun to keep the frame in place, but you will have to come back and fill in the nail holes with putty.

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Putting a Finish on the Frame

First use wood putty to fill in the crevices of the mitered corners. Allow to dry and then lightly sand with a fine block sander.

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Apply a coat of white primer paint. Primer raises the fibers on wood, so once it is dry, you will need to sand the surface again. Wipe away the dust with a cloth.

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Use a paint brush to apply the paint. I tried using a can of spray paint, but I didn’t like the drip marks it left, so I switched to regular paint.  Allow paint to dry overnight.

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Applying the Corks

Draw horizontal guidelines across the plyboard, approximately every three inches, to help you lay out even rows of corks.

Start at the bottom of the board, two corks vertical followed by two corks horizontal. Choose corks that are the same length for each of the twosomes. When you get to the end of the row, you may have to use a knife to trim corks to make them fit.

I lay out an entire row of corks first and then come back with a hot glue gun to glue them into place. The corks should fit snuggly.

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I place all the corks with their graphics and words readable from the same direction, both vertically and horizontally. Thus, whether you choose to hang the finished board vertically or horizontally, the corks will all face the same direction.

Continue in this pattern all the way to the top of the plyboard.

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I usually need to do some finagling to make the last three rows of corks fit nicely into the frame. It is definitely like a puzzle at the end. This is not the time to be a perfectionist. Once you start pinning things on your finished bulletin board, nobody will notice what you did to make the corks fit.

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Installing the Hanging Wire

You will need two small eyelet screw and 40-pound picture hanging wire.

Lay the frame face down. Mark the frame on each side with a pencil one-fourth of the way down from the top corners. That’s about six inches down.

Make a small pilot hole over the pencil mark using a hammer and a nail one size smaller than your eyelet screw.

Screw the eyelet hooks into the pilot holes. The eyelet holes should face each other when properly installed.

Wrap the hanging wire through the eyelet hole a couple of times before running the wire across to the other eyelet screw.

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More Ideas:

My friend, Libba, just sent me photos of the cork wall of the bar in her home. I love the design! It looks like it was sprayed with a coat of polyurethane.

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Thank you for sharing your stash of corks, friends!

Thank you to all my friends who left corks at my door and who took the time to mail their stashes to me: Wayne, Maribeth & Michael, Albie and Sara, Bill & Kim, Frances, Beth, Millie, Caroline, and the people I’ve missed. It’s nice to know I am not the only one who can’t throw away a cork.

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Thank you for reading my blog! Please consider subscribing. It’s free! If you are reading this post on a laptop, the FOLLOW button can be found in the sidebar on the right side of the page. If you are following on a mobile device, you’ll need to scroll down a few posts to get to the button. If you do sign up, please be sure to complete the next step of checking your email for a confirmation letter that requires you to push one more button.

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© 2016 Judy Wright. All rights reserved.

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Ellen’s Most Moist Zucchini Bread

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I love this recipe for zucchini bread. When my children were young, we lived in one of those neighborhoods where there were lots of children, fenceless backyards, car pools, and lots of sharing of recipes. This was one of those recipes. Lucy, our perky neighborhood teen babysitter, used to ride her bike down Sneed Road to our house; believe me, my children were as happy to see her as I was. One day, she brought a loaf of her mother, Ellen’s, zucchini bread. It was unusually moist and dotted with colorful green flecks from the zucchini peel.

The flecks give the bread texture and color that make it visually appealing.
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The only change I made to Ellen’s recipe was to add more zucchini, nuts, and chocolate chips. One of my sons will not eat zucchini but loved this bread.
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What to do with a baseball bat-sized zucchini?

Like for many of us, I often make zucchini bread when I find one of those baseball bat-sized zucchinis in the garden. If you do that, too, be sure to remove the large seeds before grating the flesh by quartering the zucchini into long strips and cutting out the triangular-shaped seed section. For large amounts of grating, I use the shredder blade in the food processor. Put the grated zucchini in a colander until ready to use. They will start to sweat, and you want that liquid to drain away.

Have no idea how I missed this!  7 pounds 6 ounces
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Yield: 2 loaves or 1 loaf and 2 mini-loaves

Ingredients:

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3 eggs
1 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 pound unpeeled zucchini (a tad over 3 cups when grated)
1 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped
⅔ cup chocolate chips (optional — ⅓ cup per loaf)

Mise en Place:

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Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325º if glass pans, 350º for metal pans. Grease loaf pans.

Coarsely grate the unpeeled zucchini and set aside. If liquid forms at the bottom of the container while it rests, discard it.
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Beat eggs in a mixing bowl for 30 seconds on medium speed.

Add the oil, sugar, and vanilla and mix for two more minutes on medium-low speed. Beating these ingredients together at this point in the recipe is one of the things that gives fruit bread “lift” by incorporating air into the batter.
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Add the dry ingredients: the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Remember, when measuring flour, spoon it into a measuring cup and level with a knife as opposed to packing the flour into the measuring cup by dipping it into a package of flour. You can read more about measuring ingredients in my home ec post.

Mix on slow speed for 30 seconds. Mix gently, you don’t want to stimulate the gluten in the flour to become tough and elasticky.
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Add the nuts and zucchini and mix on slow speed until just mixed, about 30 seconds max.
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If you plan to add chocolate chips, stir them in now.

Pour batter into prepared pans.
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Cook for about an hour, or until a knife inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in pan for about 15 minutes and then remove from pan and allow to continue cooling on a wire rack. I usually need to use a knife to loosen the bread from the edges of the pan before turning it over to release it.
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My friend, Patty, describes how she made the recipe gluten free in the Comments section. Patty also substituted 3/4 cup of honey for each cup of sugar. This makes for a darker bread that is delicious, but needs to be called Honey Zucchini Bread because the final flavor left in your mouth is honey instead of zucchini.

I never thought of adding chocolate chips to this recipe until I started making my cousin’s recipe for pumpkin bread: Marion’s Crazy Good Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate ChipsI thought her recipe was great with chocolate chips, and since zucchini and pumpkin are in the same family, I thought, “Why not?” It was delicious! Surprisingly, not too sweet.
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Thank you for reading my blog! Please consider subscribing. It’s free! If you are reading this post on a laptop, the FOLLOW button can be found in the sidebar on the right side of the page. If you are following on a mobile device, you’ll need to scroll down a few posts to get to the button. If you do sign up, please be sure to complete the next step of checking your email for a confirmation letter that requires you to push one more button.

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© 2016 Judy Wright. All rights reserved.

Fresh Marinara Sauce with Pasta and Mozzarella

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When I have heirloom tomatoes growing in the backyard that are so ripe, they turn purplely-red,

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I shoot pictures of them. Glamour shots. Ad nauseum. That’s what I was doing when my husband came home from work a few nights ago. No dinner in sight. He gently asked what we were going to do for dinner. I lied and said, ” I was just getting ready to make a marinara sauce. Would you be a sweetheart and run outside and snip some basil [while I take a few more photos]?”

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I hadn’t planned to blog the cooking of this meal. There was no mise en place. No specified amounts. No recipe. Just a lot of gorgeous tomatoes and a long history of making marinara sauce. As my husband walked out the door and saw me start taking pictures, I detected the tiniest of sighs. I told him not to worry; dinner would be ready by the time the pasta was finished cooking.

I put a pot of salted water on the stove for the pasta and started chopping the garlic and tomatoes. By the way, there is no reason to peel or seed fresh ripe tomatoes. You wouldn’t do that if you were eating them over the kitchen sink with a salt shaker in your hand like my grandfather used to do (“before my heart attack,” he always lamented) so why do so with a marinara sauce that is only going to cook for ten minutes?

Garden Fresh

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Yield: Approximately 2 quarts of sauce

Ingredients:

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced
About 3½ pounds of very ripe tomatoes, rough chopped
Salt and cracked pepper to taste
Pinch of cayenne pepper, to taste
Leaves from 5 stems of basil, rough chopped
8-12 ounces mozzarella, cut into one-inch cubes
1 pound pasta, cooked al dente
Grated Reggiano Parmesan cheese, to pass

Instructions:

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

While waiting for water to come to a boil, start prepping the tomatoes, garlic, and basil: core tomatoes and chop into 2-inch chunks, peel and mince the garlic, and snip the basil leaves off the stems. By this time, the water should be boiling, and it’s time to add the pasta to the water.

Next, heat the oil and garlic together and, when hot, add the chopped tomatoes. Do not brown the garlic. It will soften with the tomatoes. Add salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Cook the tomatoes on medium-high heat for about 10-12 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked.

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Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Al dente is the goal; do not allow pasta to overcook. If all goes according to plan, the pasta, and the tomatoes will be ready about the same time.

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Add cooked pasta to a serving bowl. Add the mozzarella chunks. Add the basil to the hot tomato sauce and stir it in just before you are ready to add the sauce to the bowl of pasta. Mix it all together and serve hot.

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Pass the grated Reggiano. Buon appetito!

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To see which varieties of tomatoes I am growing this year, check out this post.

To see which varieties of cherry tomatoes I am growing, check out this one.

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A note to readers:

Thank you for reading my blog! Please consider subscribing. It’s free! If you are reading this post on a laptop, the FOLLOW  button can be found in the sidebar on the right side of the page. If you are following on a mobile device, you’ll need to scroll down a few posts to get to the button. If you do sign up, please be sure to complete the next step of checking your email for a confirmation letter that requires you to push one more button.

Follow me on Pinterest and Instagram: @JudysChickens

© 2016 Judy Wright. All rights reserved.