Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Food Wars

WARNING: There are no pictures in this post to protect the innocent…and the guilty…well, to protect me.  It’s mostly to protect me…


When I woke this morning, I was feeling good: Fall is on its way, it was looking like we’d be having some beautiful weather and I was feeling all nest-y (what?!  Is too a word).  I got up and decided I was going to GET STUFF DONE today!  As my youngest was making her lunch for school, I decided today was a day for making applesauce!  Sure, I’d never done it before, but there just so happened to be a ton of apples sitting on our counter and the crock pot was singing to me from the pantry.  Clearly, today is Applesauce Day.(I’m going to contact Congress later about making that official.)

We pulled out our handy-dandy apple-corer-peeler-thingy given to us by a friend and went to work.  Threw the apples in the crockpot with some water and cinnamon, et voila!: yummy apple sauce to be ready right around the time the girls come home from school.

I must say, I was quite proud of myself and feeling that my nesting was off to a good start.  I decided I was going to clean out the closets and drawers and get this household all organized and ready for anything.  But first! I must do the meal planning and grocery shopping.  I’ve really been fairly haphazard about the whole meal-planning-feeding-my-family thing this summer and it is really starting to get old, so I decided today’s the day I turn this around!  (There’s that nest-y thing again – and no, before you ask, I’m not pregnant!).

I sat down at my computer, took way too long searching for meals to have this week, found them and filled out my grocery list.  The next step is always checking to see what we already have and don’t need to buy.  And that’s where everything fell apart…

***dun dun DUN!***

I opened our refrigerator to see if we had any sour cream and was faced with piles and piles of Tupperware containers.  Every shelf was filled to the brim with them.  After a minute of trying to move them around and see around them, I just decided it was high time to clean out the fridge.

Hole-y Cow!  I don’t think I’ve ever thrown away so much food: old leftovers that I don’t even remember cooking, produce that was used once and forgotten, cheese that was clearly past its prime.  I pulled everything out of the fridge and threw a good bit of it right down the garbage disposal.  I absolutely hate throwing away food (though I’ve gotten way too good at it) and this time the volume of wasted food was absolutely ridiculous and truly embarrassing.

“This has GOT to stop!”, I thought.  We can’t keep putting food in the fridge just to keep it cold until we’re ready to throw it away!  We definitely need to figure out how to manage our food.  I hate the waste: both the edible and spendable kind.  I figured I’d heat up my lunch (which happened to be the one and only remaining left-over that was even potentially edible) and browse Pinterest to find ideas for better food organization.

But wait!  I need to get something out of the freezer!  But wait!  Why is this bag of frozen corn not frozen anymore?  Or this bag of strawberries? Or these rolls?  WTH?!  The freaking freezer was almost fully thawed! 


This now marks the THIRD time this summer we have had freezer issues.  The first time was the morning we were leaving for a week long vacation when our outdoor freezer that houses our quarter cow and all the chicken I buy in bulk was thawing.  (Apparently I had blown the fuse a few days before while using my chop saw and hadn’t noticed.)  Thankfully, most of the meat was on the bottom two shelves and was still frozen solid.  There was a roast on the top shelf that was now thawed, so we changed our meal plans for our vacation and took that with us to have the next night.  We did end up throwing away some chicken broth and such, but all in all, we felt lucky.

The next time was a few weeks later when someone accidentally left the outside freezer door not quite closed.  Luckily again, the meat on the bottom two shelves was still frozen and we had already thrown away anything from the shelves above that would’ve been a problem.  I don’t think we lost anything that time, but the raspberries I had been flash freezing did drop their juice all down the freezer, which is now sitting in a nice little, frozen puddle at the bottom of the freezer.  *sigh*

So, today, when I found our inside freezer was practically completely thawed, I wasn’t sure whether to sit down in the middle of the puddle of water on the floor and cry or to run around the house laughing hysterically about our clear inability to be adults and manage a household.  (I actually ended up doing neither and just texted something about the situation to my husband that probably involved some profanity and started cleaning out the freezer.  See? I can be an adult when the need arises!)

So now, after an hour and a half delay, the fridge is cleaned out, I’ve rearranged the meal plan that I took way too long to make in the first place to accommodate the now thawed meat I found in the freezer, which is mostly empty. I’m waiting to see if it will cool back down again or if there’s actually something wrong with it (please no, please no, please no) and I am finally sitting at my desk, eating my leftover lunch and getting ready to let Pinterest save the day. (It’s amazing like that.)

I know things have to change and here’s my plan so far:

  • The fridge needs to be reviewed EVERY day.  Are there leftovers that are no longer good?  Are there leftovers that are almost bad and should be taken for lunch tomorrow?  Are the kids eating the fruits and vegetables I so lovingly cut up for them at the beginning of the week or are they rotting at the bottom of the crisper?  You know, that kind of thing.
  • From now on, absolutely NO leftover containers can go into the fridge without first being labeled with the date (and the contents if it might not be obvious).
  • We’re going to start planning (if not making) the girls lunches at night so that we can make sure they are using those previously mentioned fruits and veggies, that the macaroni and cheese I made for lunches is getting used, and that the lunch meat I bought is not getting soggy in the back of the drawer!

That last one may be the hardest.  We all have an illogical aversion to making lunches.  It must be genetic.  Hopefully Pinterest and the Internet will have more fun ideas for how we can keep the beast tamed.

What about you?  Any tried-and-true food organization tips?  Any refrigerator nightmares?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets Month

It’s true: May really was paint your kitchen cabinets month.  I hope you all got on that and are enjoying your “brand new” kitchens.

After several weeks of my girls asking when I was going to paint the cabinets, I finally got on that – with a little help from my new (and totally awesome!) paint sprayer!  I must admit, I was a little trepidatious about using, but my friend brought over a bunch of shelves and chairs that we could practice on and it was pretty darned amazing.  If you’re careful and put on fairly light coats, you get a fantastic finish – in way less time!

You may remember that the kitchen used to look like this:


It actually looks pretty good in this picture, but the cabinets were showing a bit of wear and I’m just a whiter cabinet kind-of girl, so I knew from before we moved in that painting them was going to be a high-priority project.

I nearly killed myself, pulling a couple of all-day paint sessions and got it done in just over a week and here’s what it looks like now:


I went back and forth on whether to use brushed nickel or oil-rubbed bronze pulls and knobs, but I’m SO glad I went with the ORB.  They’re dark to tie in with the counters and little bit of bronze you see on them works well with the gold flecks in the granite.

I’m also really pleased with the decision to leave the doors of those upper cabinets.  If you look carefully, you can see that those upper cabinets don’t actually line up with the cabinets below them.  We discussed not putting knobs on the upper doors to make it a little less obvious, but leaving them open for display is even better.  They were already pretty much unusable, so why not put something pretty up there?!

This is the view I used to see from my front door:


And here it is now, so much brighter (if a little blown out…):


Here, this is a bit better:


People have commented that it seems bigger now and I have to agree.  It also feels much more like home to me.


I happened to be looking back at my ToDo list for the kitchen and was pleased with how much I’ve actually accomplished:

  • Paint the cabinets white!
  • Change out knobs and pulls
  • Paint the walls
  • Cut missing shelf for one lower cabinet, so we can actually use it!
  • Build pull out drawers for cabinets
  • Get rid of the angled corners in the doorway
  • Beef up trim around doorways
  • Refinish wood floors in a darker color (actually, we’ve decided it’s easier and less expensive to just replace it all with new pre-finished flooring)

Not too shabby!  The floors are quickly moving up the list, since all of the flooring downstairs is in really sorry shape.  Just need to win the lottery and get myself psyched up to actually do the install myself.  Until then, I’ll just enjoy my new brighter kitchen.



Friday, May 9, 2014

Let There Be White!

It’s been almost three months since my last post, seems like I’m right on track for another update!

Sometime in March, I decided that, since the bathroom was starting to look better, I really needed to get the ugly window and door trim taken care of.  Whenever I sat on my bed (which looks directly into my bathroom), I’d feel so frustrated that just around the corner were some vast improvements in the look of the bathroom, but from my vantage point, I couldn’t see any of it.  All I could see was the ugly old brown trim that I hate so much.  This was, essentially, what I could see:


So, I decided to get on that.  Went to Lowe’s, bought a bunch of wood and got to work.  By this time, I’ve really figured out my process, so I was able to cut all of the wood in short order and get it hung in no time.  The part that takes the longest is the four coats of paint.  bleh.

I don’t have any in-process pictures, but I’m sure you’ve seen many pictures before of un-finished molding being hung and painted.  The important part is the after pictures:


Oh, and notice our new blinds!  Aren’t they fancy?  We can now stand in the shower without worrying about the display we’re providing to our neighbors.  They’re probably very disappointed.

Of course, once the bathroom windows and doors were finished, the bedroom trim was really a problem.  I could now look from the bedroom into the bathroom and see beautiful trim work, but right in the way was the ugly brown trim on the doorway into the bathroom.

I took a week or so off, but then headed back over to Lowe’s for some more wood.  Did a bunch of cutting, a bunch of painting, and hey!  now that looks much better.  Here’s my new view from the bed.  I love it so much:


I also did the back of the door in the bathroom, which really just make the new doors so beautiful.  This bathroom is really starting to look a lot different.  (Now if we could just figure out what to do about the floors!)



In early April, I sat on the bed yet again (seriously, I sit and stare at the trim a lot), now complaining about how much I hated the trim that I could see in the hallway (the area I lovingly call the “Hall of Doors”) and wondering when we’d have the time and budget to replace it.  My husband (who was probably just sick-to-death of hearing it) said, “Just do it! Today!”

He may have gotten whiplash from how quickly I ran out the door to Lowe’s, but I think he’s recovered now.

This was the only before picture I could find.  This is looking up into the hall from our foyer and really doesn’t give you a full sense of how dark it was.  Just imagine 6 doors in a 30 square foot area…all brown.


By this point, I’ve got this down to a science. I was able to cut all the wood for 7 door frames in about an hour and a half. We got it all hung in another hour and a half. (Not bad, considering the first room I did had two windows and a door and it took me four hours!)

Here’s what the “Hall of Doors” looks like now.  It’s SO much brighter and happier looking.


And don’t you just love my doors?  We were planning on doing something else with the two closet doors, so didn’t buy the 5-panels for them.  I think we may end up keeping them as doors, though, so we’ll eventually replace them too.  For now, just painting them is a huge improvement.


Here’s the view from the hall into my bedroom, with it’s new window trim:


Just looking at these pictures makes me feel so much calmer and happier.  With the exception of the baseboard, which is a project for July, I’ve officially replaced all the old brown trim in the house.  The upstairs is much lighter and brighter than it was 6 months ago.  Still so much to do to make this MY house, but we’re getting there.

May is “paint your kitchen cabinets” month.  Wish me luck!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Bathroom Update–Part 2

When last we met, I showed you the new paint and stained cabinets in my master bathroom.  Today, I wanted to show you the rest of the work I’ve done to get me to a point where I’m mostly happy and can wait it out until we make some more awesome improvements.  (How’s that for a ringing endorsement?) 

In my “ToDo” post, I listed several items for short-term improvements and here’s where I am currently:

  • Paint walls
  • Paint cabinets
  • Add knobs and drawer pulls
  • Fix faucets
  • Beef up trim around windows and doors
  • Trim out mirror (? – depending on how far out the long-term is)
  • Replace door with solid, 5-panel door

Plus, I’ve changed out the light fixture over the mirror, which didn’t make the list for some reason.  I still haven’t done the drawer pulls, mostly because I need 11 knobs and everything seems to come in packages of 10.  Still waiting on the window and door trim, but I think March will be the month!  I’ll tell you more about my doors in another post, that was quite the experience!  For now, I’ll tell you about my mirror, faucets, and my new light fixture…

Once the cabinets were stained, the next project was making the mirror look a little less dated, so I did what everyone else on Pinterest has done and framed it out with molding to match my new window and door trim.  The first pieces went up really quickly!  I used some mirror adhesive and my caulk gun to just stick the wood directly to the mirror.  I didn’t even worry about those little clips that hold the mirror up.  Just stuck the wood right over them.

The header piece does extend above the mirror, so I had to cut a bunch of little shims to give me something to nail the header into.  I totally fudged those and just covered both sides in my adhesive and shoved them behind the header.  Then I used my nail gun to shoot some nails in.  Here it is before I attached the fiddly bits on the header (like how I used programming books to hold up the base?).


Around this time, I left for a visit with my Dad.  He’s also working on re-doing his bathroom and had recently purchased a beautiful vanity light.  I liked his so much that he helped me procure one for myself!

As soon as I got back, I got right to work pulling down the old fixture and putting up the new one.

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Unfortunately, as you can see, the junction box for the old light wasn’t actually centered on the mirror, so it looked a bit off.  I figured this was only going to be a semi-short-term situation, so decided I’d just live with it.  Once I attached the crystals to the light, though, it was a little less acceptable: the crystals hung down so low that they practically touched the wood trim (and of course I don’t have a picture).  Once I added the decorative trim to the top, the crystals would’ve definitely look weird.

SO, I decided I’d move that junction box over two inches and up about three.  Of course, things never go smoothly when you’re DIYing.  As I cut my new hole, I realized that there was a pipe running vertically behind the wall that would get in the way of my new, deeper junction box.  Oh well, I thought, I’ll just have it be a little bit off-centered – but at least it will be high enough and mostly-centered:

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Well, not so fast!  The wires weren’t quite long enough to reach through the new junction box and get everything hooked up.  Aaggghhh!  Now I have two holes and no light!

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I consulted with an electrician friend who suggested that we just mount our shallow junction box on the wall and mount the light right over that.  Capital idea!  Except that the light base wasn’t deep enough to house all of the wires and sit flush against the wall.  After several trips to Lowe’s and much Internet perusing.  I decided to order a specialty junction box that would be shallow enough to fit right in front of that pipe AND could be used on existing construction.  I paid far more in shipping than I did for the part and had to wait a week for it to arrive, but when it did, I got right to work installing it!

Aaaannnnd, determined that I hadn’t actually needed it anyway.  When I had patched the wall from the two holes that I showed you above, I had screwed in a piece of wood to support the new drywall.  That piece of wood was exactly where I needed my junction box to be, so I just attached my old, shallow box to the new support piece, et voila!  I had a place to hang a light (and a more-expensive-than-it-needed-to-be specialty junction box)!

And now it’s up and it’s beautiful (and centered)!  Behold its glory:


It’s very pretty when it’s lit up and, when it’s sunny (which is pretty much never right now), the light comes in from the skylight and bounces off the crystals.  (You can also see that I was able to finish the decorative trim on the mirror once that light was up.)

At some point this month, I also ordered new faucets and replaced those.  They’re very pretty and I really like them, but I have a feeling they’re a bit much for this bathroom.  They really make the counter tops and sinks look their age.  I wanted to get something I liked well enough to keep for the long-term, though, so I wouldn’t have to just replace them in a few years.



So, the master bathroom is nearly “done” (for now).  I’m still going to find some drawer pulls and I’m thinking about painting the floor grout, so it’s white and not ugly tan, but those are low down on the list.  The door and window trim and baseboard will be replaced when I do that for the entire upstairs (next month!?!).  I’m quite pleased with how it looks now.  It’s much more serene and not so 23 years old.

I’ll leave you with a final before and after:


Bathroom 1 (2)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Bathroom Update – Part 1

I haven’t posted in a while.  Seems like I say that a lot on this blog, but that’s the way I roll.  I have such a love hate relationship with this blog…

I’ve been jumping all over the place painting pretty much everything and updating window and door trim when I can.  I’m dying to buy the rest of the molding to finish the doors and windows upstairs, but I’m trying to keep to a monthly house-update budget, which I’ve been blowing on other things (like, say, major car repairs) lately, so the old brown trim keeps laughing at me behind my back.
Since I’ve been doing so many different things and not finishing any one thing, I never felt like there was anything to put up on the blog, but today I figured I’d at least tell you about my master bathroom. 

As I detailed in my “ToDo” post, I wanted to do some small updates to our master bathroom to make it prettier while we planned and saved for a more major redo.  Here’s how it looked before:


What you can’t see is that there was a giant semi-patched hold on the wall between the shower and toilet that never got completely sanded or painted over. That was my first project.  At first, I was just going to leave it until we did something interesting to the bathroom, but one day, I’d just had enough, so I grabbed some mud and went to town.  (I thought I had snapped a picture of my patch job, but looks like I didn’t, so you can just imagine the beautiful job I did on that.) 

Of course, once it was patched and textured, there was a big giant white spot and no paint for covering it up.  Which meant, of course, that I had to paint the entire room.  I knew I wanted a serene bathroom with blue-green walls, so I took a look at my (not insubstantial) stash of blue-green paint.  I tried out every paint we already had from the girls’ bedrooms, our kitchen, etc., but didn’t really like any of them.  I kept seeing Sherwin Williams Sea Salt online and really liked it, so I got a tester pot.  I still wasn’t sure about it, but was tired of looking, so I just went with it and got a full gallon (and that, my friends, *IS* how I roll)

With some fresh paint, the room looked a little better…



…and then the old early-90s cabinets really started to bother me.  Just a year ago, I probably would’ve just painted them white, but I was concerned about being blinded by all white when you walked in half-asleep in the morning, so I decided to try staining them.  I used PolyShades “one-step” stain and polyurethane product in “Tudor”.  I had used something similar on my dining room table, which was a disaster, but I had read some positive reviews of the Polyshades, so figured I’d be super careful and give it a go.

I was a little concerned when I put the first coat on and could barely see it!  It just looked like it was wet…

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…but I persevered with thin coats and FOUR COATS later, I was done.  Nice and dark:


It actually looks pretty nice!  For the most part, I liked working with the PolyShades.  It did get a little harder to apply as I got into the third and fourth coat, but that may have been my own fault for not letting it dry longer (I let it dry a day in between, but perhaps it needed longer as it got thicker).

It needs some knobs and drawer pulls (and new faucets, better mirror and lighting, blahblahblah), but it’s looking better all ready!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Making Progress: New Window Trim

My last update on the girls’ rooms showed them  freshly painted and no longer sporting primary colors.  The new paint was a BIG improvement, but the skinny, 80s wood trim just wasn’t doing it for me.  I knew I wanted something more interesting and way beefier (just like I like my men – oh come on! you know you were thinking it to!).

Although I knew exactly what I wanted to do, it took me a while to actually get started.  I went to a couple of different hardware stores several times with the intention of bringing home a bunch of moulding so I could get started, but every time I went, I’d leave empty-handed and with a fresh case of sticker shock.  Is it just me, or has the price of wood really jumped up in the last few years?!

After the third or fourth trip, I finally bit the bullet and came home with everything I’d need to do the windows and doors in the girls’ rooms and got right to work.  It took me about three hours to do the first room and four to do the second because I spent, at least, an hour repeatedly unjamming my nail gun (thanks to Mr. Neighbor for helping me with one of the more heinous jams).

Several more hours of painting later and here we are, all put back together!


This is Thing 2’s room.  Both the girls chose the d├ęcor for their rooms (with some input from me – no bright pink carpet, for instance) and I think they did a pretty fabulous job!

Here’s a pretty decent shot of the detail on the window and door trim. (please ignore the missing baseboard trim – it’s coming soon!) 



The header piece is made up of 7 (!) pieces of trim. I tried assembling the whole header on the ground before putting it up but I could never wait long enough for the glue to dry, so it all fell apart when I put it up anyway. I finally decided it was just best for me to cut all the pieces and dry fit them downstairs, then take them upstairs and install them with my trusty nail gun.



(Take note of that beautiful door there!  More on that to come!)

I had to get a picture of the lazy kitty, sunning himself in what could be our last bit of sun until Spring!



Thing 1’s room also got the treatment…


I like how, even though their rooms are nearly identical and they have many of the same items in them, they arranged and decorated them differently, so they each have their own unique feel.  Thing 1 decided to make herself a reading nook:


(I like to decorate with cats whenever possible.  It makes your rooms seem so cozy, don't you think?)


I can’t even tell you how much I love these two rooms now.  There’s not much that makes me happier than seeing white trim popping against a pretty, painted wall.  I tell the girls that these rooms are now the nicest in the house.  Better get to work on my bedroom soon!


Monday, November 18, 2013

Whole Wheat Pizza and Calzones

This evening,  Thing 1 made us calzones for dinner.  As she read the recipes that I use for dough and pizza sauce, we both noticed how often I said something like, “yeah, but I don’t do it that way”.  After the third or fourth time, we decided that I needed to type up my modified versions of these recipes and put them somewhere accessible.  I told my daughter I’d put them on the blog and dedicate them to her.  So, my girl, here you go.  I look forward to many more evenings of homemade calzones and pizzas!


calzone 2

(Please don’t laugh at my pictures.  This is not a food blog for a reason.  I’ll never be able to hold dinner to set up a beautiful shot that makes your mouth water.  It’s good to know your limitations!)

Honey Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

The pizza dough recipe is from here. I didn’t actually change the ingredients, but I changed the steps, since I proof the yeast first.

1 cup warm water (~110 degrees)
1 tablespoon honey
2 1/4 teaspoon yeast
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/4 wheat germ
1 teaspoon salt

  1. Combine the honey and yeast in the warm water to proof the yeast.  Let sit for about five minutes until yeast is foamy.
  2. Combine flour, wheat germ, and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer.
  3. When the yeast is ready, pour it in with the dry ingredients and mix in your stand mixer with the bread hook. 
  4. Mix until all ingredients are combined and the bowl is clean, then let it knead for a little bit longer.
  5. Let dough sit for about 10 minutes.


Papa John’s Pizza Sauce Recipe

Our pizza sauce recipe can be found all over the Internet and is a Papa John’s knock-off. The recipes I found, though, call for 1 can of tomato puree. Since I never, ever have tomato puree in the house, I always fake it with tomato sauce and tomato paste. Except that makes twice as much puree as I need, so I always double the recipe. Here it is, doubled for your cooking ease.

1 can (15 0z) tomato sauce
1 can (6 0z) tomato paste
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Combine all ingredients in sauce pan, bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.



It’s pizza!  Pretty straight forward…

  1. Prepare pizza dough.
  2. Prepare pizza sauce.
  3. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  4. Chop up pizza toppings and grate mozzarella.
  5. Roll out dough into a pizza-ish shape on a pizza pan or cookie sheet.
  6. Pre-bake crust for 5 minutes in hot oven.
  7. Spread pizza sauce on cooked crust, then add mozzarella and your toppings.
  8. Bake pizza for another 5 minutes.
  9. Enjoy!



A friend served calzones at book group one night.  I loved them so much that I had to have the recipe!  Luckily, they’re almost as easy as pizza.

  1. Prepare pizza dough.
  2. Prepare pizza sauce.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Chop up calzone fillings and grate mozzarella.
  5. Roll out dough into a large rectangle on a pizza pan or cookie sheet (I actually use half of the dough recipe and freeze the other half for next time).
  6. Spread pizza sauce, mozzarella, and your toppings down the center (length-wise) of the rectangle.
  7. Using kitchen scissors, cut slits about 1.5 inches wide down the length of both sides of the rectangle making “tabs” on each side of your fillings (I usually get about 7 on each side).
  8. Pull the tabs across the fillings to the other side at an angle, alternating tabs from each side so you’re creating a lattice-like pattern across the top of your filling.  Fold over the ends so nothing falls out the end.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes.
  10. Enjoy!

calzone 1

(Seriously, don’t make fun!  We were all starving and this was the best I could do!)

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