Thursday, April 30, 2009

Project Procrastination:

I'm joining in my first ever blog party.

Melissa over at The Inspired Room is hosting a Project Procrastinators Party today and I've decided to join in. I have a thousand and one projects I want done and/or currently in progress. I'm having a difficult time choosing which one to go with.

There's the master bedroom that got painted a couple of months ago but never got finished:

Then there's the bathroom remodel we're working on (though our Handy Man was sick last week and we still haven't rescheduled for him to come put in the tile):

Then there's the crib for New Bean (which is the only piece of furniture we even have for him/her!):

(I don't have a picture and can't get to it right now, so I guess I'll leave you hanging on this one!)

There's also the stairway remodel that is still a work in progress:

I could go on and on, but I won't bore you.

I've decided to start with the stairway. I've been wanting this done for quite some time (it was one of my Cold Weather Goals, after all - and the cold weather is long gone!). I know I'll still have some accessorizing to do at the end of the two weeks, but if I can get those stairs painted, I'll be happy. Besides, my accessorizing hinges on a junking trip I'm taking with my Mom the day after this party has ended!

This might be very difficult with Monkey. I can't exactly have her hanging out in the stairway with me - and I don't think she'll be happy sitting at the top of the stairs (behind a locked gate, no less), watching me work. And that's my excuse for not having done it by now. HA!

Here is the very first BEFORE pictures:

And here is what the top of the stairway currently looks like:

The bottom half has yet to be touched and still looks like the BEFORE seen above.

And tell me not to sit here thinking "No Problem! I'll finish the stairs and be over ambitious and even get another project done, too!" I am 30 weeks pregnant, after all. Shouldn't I be relaxing with my feet up a little? (NEVER!)

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pizza on the grill

Last fall, I shared our love of pizza. I told of how I grill it and how we've made it on a fire a few times. Today, I want to tell you about grilling pizza again - for those of you that love your grills as much as we love ours.

In the past, I've always used a Boboli crust when making pizza on the grill. I've finally gotten over my fear of dough stuck to my grill grates and took the plunge. On Friday, I tried using a fresh dough crust.

Some months ago, I shared with you a pizza dough recipe we received from T's cousin. Here it is again so you don't need to go searching (I cut it in half for one pizza):

Pizza Dough (NC)

3 cups flour
1 tbs sugar
1 tbs salt (I use less)
1 tbs yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tsp olive oil (I use a little more)

Knead until smooth.

Place in oiled bowl and flip so oiled side of dough is up.

Let rise 30-60 minutes.

Split in half. Either use both or freeze one.

While the dough was rising, I chopped my green peppers and mushrooms (I kept it simple - and sliced them thin). Fire up the grill at some point, too - you'll want it on high. Note - You do need a grill with multiple heat zones for this. Otherwise, you're going to burn your crust.

Once the dough was ready, I tossed it to make my "round" (I know - it's not very round. I usually do get it round, I swear!). I then gathered all my supplies and headed outside. I sprayed my grates with Pam for Grilling and then tossed my crust on. Stay close. Once it starts to bubble and you have nice grill marks on the bottom, flip it over (Our large grill spatula was helpful in the flipping).

Layer on your toppings. Don't put it too thick. You'll either end up with undercooked toppings or a burnt crust to get your toppings cooked just right.

At this point, I followed the same steps as when using the Boboli:

"Be sure the flame directly underneath your pizza is turned off. The other burner[s] should be on low/med-low. I usually rotate the pizza quarter turns every 15 minutes (yes, that means it's on the grill for an hour)."

Just remember to stay close and check it often. I checked it every 5-10 minutes and rotated about that often. I didn't keep track of how long it was on - when it looks right, just take it off!

Boboli has lost my business because of just how easy this was.

I'd love to hear how it turns out for anyone else!


Monday, April 27, 2009

New recipes for the week:

I've only got a few minutes to post this morning, so here's a quick run down for the week.

We start with another Every Day with Rachael Ray. I'll be on the road most of the day, Monkey permitting. I'll be in need of something quick tonight and I've been enjoying all of our stir fries very much, so we're trying out Napa Noodles.

Wednesday is a recipe I got from GFT. It's for Zesty Chicken-Noodle Casserole. I do have a note on it to double the recipe. If memory serves (it's been a while it's been sitting in my stash), she told me it was perfect for the two of them but I may want to double for us - and to have leftovers.

Thursday I'm trying a non-recipe from Every Day with Rachael Ray. What exactly is a non-recipe? It's where they tell you everything you need but don't give you measurements. In this case, it's a Spicy Meatball. And while looking for the link, I discovered they DO give you measurements online (they don't in the magazine)!!

The last recipe I have is for Ginger-Sesame Stir-Fry. It is from Country Home magazine - the March/April 2009 and final issue. Unfortunately, their website was not updated for this issue so the recipe never made it online and I'm having quite a time finding something similar to share. If I can't find anything by the time I review, I'll share the full recipe in the reviews.

Enjoy your kitchens!

All images are from Every Day with Rachael Ray.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A review of this week's new recipes:

Since my original posting last week, the recipes have become available online at Every Day with Rachael Ray! Now I can share them properly.

First up was the Asian Noodles with Vegetables and Pork. After rummaging through my freezer, I realized we are all out of pork chops! I had already been to the grocery store so made a small change in my plans so I could work with what I still did have. The steak I was craving? Well, it got sliced up for stir fry. It was very much worth it. Even Monkey, who was getting over a terrible stomach bug, enjoyed it (when I gave it to her leftover after she was allowed solids a day later).

The Oven Baked Chicken Parmesan recipe from my mother in law was also much enjoyed. We were wondering why we hadn't ever made it before because it was also ridiculously easy.

My menu got changed around again later in the week for two reasons. One, I had pork chops on the menu twice (once for the noodles and once for grilling) yet had no pork chops for cooking! Two, T came home late one night, so I got lazy and made sandwiches for just Monkey and me. Don't judge. I deserve a lazy night.

We ended up having ham steak (turns out we still have quite a few of those in the freezer!) with the Garlic and Oil Spaghetti with Greens on the side for Wednesday. The spaghetti was nothing special. I found it bland. T said it tasted like oily spaghetti. And Monkey spit hers out (we have a hard time with the green leafy vegetables for her - but she's not a picky eater, so I won't complain if that's the only type of veggie we can't get her to eat, right?).

Thursday was sandwich night. Tuna salad. Nothing fancy. Just quick and easy.

I experimented with pizza on Friday. I'll post about it later this week and share pictures and details. I'll just tell you it was fresh dough and it was done on the grill.

We finally got around to our last new recipe tonight. Bay-Rosemary Potato Gratin takes some time to prepare. It smells unbelievable, courtesy of the rosemary. We all enjoyed it, but I question if an hour and a half, start to finish, is worth it on a regular weeknight side dish. I'll be keeping the recipe, but it's not something I'll make often because of how long it took.
I hope you enjoyed your kitchens as much as I enjoyed mine!
All images are from Every Day with Rachael Ray.

A second sweet treat for you:

I made breakfast this morning, as opposed to just pouring a bowl of cereal or making a toast. I wanted to make this yesterday, but we went to the 10 AM showing of the Shrine Circus and had to leave too early for cooking from scratch.

Blueberry Cream Cheese Rolls were on the menu for the morning. No, I don't normally feed my family pure sugar for breakfast. But treats like this every now and again are good! These were fantastic. Do realize you need to prepare the dough the night before to let it rise overnight (I caught that tidbit when I was looking to see how early I'd have to start working on them to have breakfast on time!).

Another keeper. Rachael Ray has far too many good recipes in her magazine. My recipe box is starting to overflow!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Happy Acre Farm?

(image from Mother Earth News)

Our pipe dream is becoming a reality.

While we were visiting family in Fort Kent over Easter weekend, T and his Dad began construction of our chicken coop, inspired by the photo you see above as seen in Mother Earth News.

We had used the car that weekend, so our coop stayed behind when we came home, waiting to find a ride south.

T did not have to work this morning so he hitched the trailer to the jeep and headed off to meet his Dad half way.

T will finish work on it this weekend in hopes of getting chickens next weekend.

So now we'll need a name for our little one acre "farm", right?

Feel free to leave ideas in the comments!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wall paper removal 101.2:

Remember the bathroom project? (click the link for my progress posts)

How about this lovely wall paper?

And my helpful wall paper removal tip?

Well, life got in my way and I still hadn't gotten around to the wall paper GLUE removal. (I know, I know - this happens to me with far too many projects).

After an hour of google research last night, I finally tackled it this morning.

Guess what? It was pretty easy! I am glad it was such a small area because it did require a bit of elbow grease.

The cleaning solution? A bucket of very hot water - as hot as your hands can handle - mixed with liquid dish washing soap. I had a rag to wipe it on, a scrub brush to attack it and a dry rag to wipe it down after. If you are uncertain if it is working, just dry the spot in question and then rub it with a dry finger. If it feels slimy, scrub some more. If it doesn't, you're good to go!

I now need to wash down all of the walls to remove all of the dry wall dust from all of the repair work T had to do. I'll be priming the repaired spots (and probably where the border was too, just to be safe) during Monkey's nap in hopes we're able to get the walls painted before our Handy Man comes to install the tile floor. He's tentatively got us scheduled for Sunday.

The end is in sight! Well, the end of the yucky stuff. Then I get to do the fun stuff!

What's the fun stuff? The accessorizing, of course! I've got big plans in this pretty little head of mine. HA

PS - T did lower the new vanity light for me. It did cause a small ruckus (he wasn't very happy about it when I finally confessed I hated how high it was), but he grudgingly lowered it and patched the old hole. That poor man loves me. Yes, he does. :-)

A sweet treat:

T didn't realize I already had a sweet treat planned for this week. I was surprised by the sweet aroma of Honey Pound Cake when I got home from work yesterday. Not only did T make dinner, but he baked dessert and cleaned the kitchen! (My housekeeping kind of got pushed off the priority list while Monkey was sick last week and through the weekend. When your little one is pooping water and vomiting, snuggles are necessary to help make her feel a bit better, right? God, that was gross visual in a sweet treat post. Sorry.)

We sliced into the pound cake for dessert. It was yummy, as is most everything we've been trying lately.

I want to whip up some cream to use on it tonight with strawberries.

My original sweet treat was planned for Saturday morning breakfast, so I'll still be making it. The pound cake will probably be gone by then, anyways. Remember that sweet tooth of mine, right?

I'll just leave you in suspense until then.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

PSA for Coffee Lovers

(image from A Nice Cuppa)

For those of you who have been with me since I started blogging, you may remember me professing my love for the magical coffee bean and the juice it gives.

While I'm not here to endorse Dunkin Donuts, I can say I love their coffee - and let you in on a deal. (So, DD - you are very welcome for the free advertising).

Today, Dunkin Donuts is having Iced Coffee Day.

What is Iced Coffee Day, you ask?

It is a day where you can buy a small iced coffee for just 50 cents (you know I love a deal just as much as I love coffee). They are giving 10% of the proceeds to Homes For Our Troops. So not only are you getting a great deal on a great cup of coffee, but you're giving a helping hand as well.

I may just have to go get myself one - though it will have to be decaf because I'm currently drinking my quota of caffeine for the day.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

This week's new recipes:

I'm starting off the week with Rachael Ray.

In the most recent issue (May 2009?) of Every Day, there are quite a few noodle recipes. I've been on a noodle kick, so the Asian Noodles with Vegetables and Pork (page 50) caught my eye. Instead of buying a boneless pork loin, I'll just pull a pack of chops out of the freezer from pig we bought last fall and call it good.

Tuesday is a recipe my Mother-In-Law gave us. I'm not sure where it originated or if it's something she made up. I think T has had it before, but I've never. It's Oven Baked Chicken Parmesan.

Oven Baked Chicken Parmesan

6 chicken breast
1 pack original Shake N Bake
2 cups spaghetti sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 tsp dried oregano

Coat chicken. Place in 13 x 9 pan.
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Top with sauce and cheeses and sprinkle with oregano.
Bake an additional 5 minutes to melt cheese.

On Wednesday, I start pulling out the side dishes to test because I really want to use our grill some more. And I'm in the mood for a steak. So I'm grilling a steak and trying out something else from this month's Every Day (Rachael Ray). We're County folk. We grew up on potatoes. So forgive me for trying a potato recipe with Yukon gold potatoes. Bay-Rosemary Potato Gratin (there's no page # on the page I ripped out!) just sounds too good to overlook.

Thursday, I'm pulling more pork chops out of the freezer and grilling again. Yet another pasta dish from this month's Every Day (Rachael Ray) will be on the side. Garlic and Oil Spaghetti with Greens (page 81). T has never, to his knowledge, eaten Swiss chard. And the only way I've ever eaten it is boiled, so we're going to give this a try.

I'm having issues getting onto the Every Day website, so page numbers and lack of pictures will have to do for today. My little one has been sick so I'm done trying to get it to work and I want to get this posted while I have a free minute.

I also want to break into my Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes cookbook this week. I just received it from T for my birthday last week. I want to try making our own garlic bread to freeze (we have a bad habit of buying frozen garlic bread - I want cheaper and more control over what goes in and on it!) and I'm sure there must be something along those lines in there!

Enjoy your kitchens!!

Friday, April 17, 2009

I learned a valuable lesson this week.

There is a good reason to follow a bread recipe to the letter.

Every time we've made bread, neither T nor myself have put the butter on it when you pull it out of the oven. What could possibly be the purpose? It's just added fat, right?

Last weekend, while in Fort Kent visiting family for Easter, I paid a visit to my grandparents on my Dad's side. I was telling Memere how I started baking my own bread this winter and have no plans on stopping. She told me how she used to make bread all the time. And then mentioned rubbing butter all over it when it was fresh from the oven.

Turns out, those recipes have it listed for a reason.

It keeps your bread soft!

I tried it Monday when I made this week's bread. Sure enough. We started in on the 2nd loaf this morning and the bread (specifically the crust) is still just as soft as it was on Monday!

So thank you, Memere, for informing me of this little tidbit. Otherwise, I don't know if I would have ever put it together on my own.

I'm also curious as to how others store their homemade bread. I've been storing mine in Ziploc bags. I reuse them a few times to help reduce waste, but I'm sure there has got to be a better (and GREENER) solution.

Any tips or ideas would be appreciated!

A review of this week's new recipes:

My seafood pizza experiment was so very good. I pan fried my bay scallops and baby shrimp in olive oil with a little roasted garlic (I have some in a jar from a previous new recipe). I used jarred Alfredo sauce, an Italian blend of shredded cheese, scallions and mushrooms topped with my cooked seafood mixture. After 13-15 minutes in the oven, it was ready to eat.

The Sweet N Sour Chicken Balls were as good as I remembered from my childhood. Monkey didn't like the Sweet N Sour sauce, but she's been working on a tooth (which makes her a little feverish and therefore, not feeling all that great), so it's hard to judge if she really didn't like it or if it just didn't agree with how she's feeling. She ate a ton of rice, which makes me happy (her appetite is non-existent when she's working on a tooth, so she hasn't had much to eat in the past 2 days).

I told T I was planning on a plain old pizza for tonight. He looked at me with puppy dog eyes and asked me to grill some burgers. With the forecast saying we'll be in the 60's today, how could I refuse?

Beware. This is the first time I fire up the grill this year, but it marks the nearing of the end of all of the new recipes I've been trying until we put the grill away next fall. I've been keeping my eyes open for grilling recipes, but we tend to be boring in our grill use (as in we slap a piece of meat down on there and call it good - HA). Hopefully we'll find lots of sides to experiment with in the mean time.

Enjoy your kitchens and enjoy this beautiful sunshiny day!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Free shipping once again

Once again, I have received a postcard in the mail from JCPenney for free shipping. This time it is for orders of $75 or more - online or over the phone (obviously, as there is no shipping when you buy in store).

Offer ends on May 1.

Promo code: FREESHIP


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Addition to the recipes of the week:

I tell you, I have pregnant addled brain. I'm lucky if I remember my head these days.

My Mom (aka Gram) pointed out I forgot to include the Sweet N Sour Sauce for the Sweet N Sour Chicken Balls. Oops.

Here it is.

Sweet N Sour Sauce

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 tsp sweet pepper or paprika
1 tbs corn starch

Cook in saucepan until thickened. Add red food coloring for added color.

Mom's notes (which I added to MY card) say to cut down on the vinegar.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Last cold weather goals update:

My original goals are posted here: (Part 1 and Part Deux).

Now that we are officially in spring, I think it's time for a final update.

1) I did learn to knit. I made two scarves and have two in process. Next winter, maybe I'll have time to learn something or follow a pattern of some sort for something other than a scarf.

2) Big fat fail. I never made cheese. It is still on my list, I just haven't had the time. Rest assured, you will still be seeing it at some point in the future.

3) I rarely buy bread. Every now and again I have no choice but to pick up a loaf, depending on what is going on when we need more (I hate to make it too far in advance). T gave me Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day for my birthday yesterday. I can't wait to start using it! I'm even looking at recipes for bagels and english muffins so I can stop buying all bread products (above and beyond my original goal!).

4) I obviously did not lose weight. As of this morning, I've actually gained 20 pounds. But, when I posted this goal, I already knew I may be getting pregnant over winter and it may be a pipe dream. I did manage to continue a healthy lifestyle with healthy eating habits, for the most part.

5) Most of my small projects did get finished. I have Monkey's wall shelf still left to finish painting, but it just needs one more coat of paint and I'll be doing that this week to have T put it up this weekend.

6) The stairway to the basement is a half finished project at the moment. I need to paint the stairs and put a few final details up. I'm still very pleased.

The kitchen cabinets were put on hold because we are now discussing possibly replacing them next year.

7) The office is still a work in progress, also. It did come a long way over the winter, but it's not as far as I would have liked. I need T to move his wine out of there because now that the weather has warmed, I can let Monkey run around in there while I work/organize. But, with the wine and wine making supplies in her reach, it's not a kid friendly space, so I haven't been bringing her down there.

8) Recipes have been tamed. I've even started going through the ones I hadn't tried yet that were in there. And I no longer allow an untried or unliked recipe to make its way into the box.

9) I'm much much MUCH better about my appearance. The only time I stay in my jammies until lunch time are days we've been doing housework all morning. I'm always washed and presentable before T gets home from work (with dinner on the table and a smile on my face - I'm such a domestic goddess like that. HAHA).

10) Always a win - I've very much managed to take the time to enjoy my family. We do need a Mommy & Daddy night out alone soon, though!

I do have to say, it was a very successful winter. The only goal I'm setting for the summer is to adjust to having not one but TWO children. :-)

Monday, April 13, 2009

This week's new recipes:

Tonight, I'm experimenting with pizza. I wanted California Roll Salad, but it's my birthday and I'm making T make it for me tomorrow instead of the spaghetti he suggested. HA

Bay scallops are on sale at Hannaford this week ($4.99/lb) and I have frozen baby shrimp from when they were on sale. I'll be using jarred Alfredo sauce (for ease - like I said - it's my birthday, I can do what I want to!) and adding scallions and mushrooms. Seafood pizza! I hope it turns out as good as I'm imagining.

Later this week, I'll be making Sweet N Sour Chicken Balls. I have no idea where this recipe originated, but it's one my Mom made a few times when I was a kid. I've never made it and it's been years since I've had it, but it's in my "new" recipe pile and I've got chicken in the freezer, so I'm making it.

Sweet N Sour Chicken Balls

3 lbs chicken breast
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp MSG (I'm not using this)
1 tsp oil

Cook chicken until half cooked. Cut into small pieces.

Mix rest of ingredients until smooth to make batter; dip chicken in batter. Fry until golden brown.

I'm making Oven Fried Rice on the side. This is another recipe I'm not sure where it originated, but it's one from my Mom. This is one I've made numerous times, though I thought it might be one some of you might enjoy. You can add any veggies you want (I often use green peppers, carrots and/or corn kernels). I also go meatless or use other meat I may have leftover and don't want to lose (pork chops or steak). Also, this recipe halved from my mother's original. It's perfect for us, but for a bigger family (or for more leftovers) - double it.

Oven Fried Rice

1 1/2 cups uncooked Uncle Ben's rice
1/2 can mushrooms (I use fresh)
1/2 chopped onion
3 stalks chopped celery
3/4 cup cooked chicken (I'll be going meatless this week)
1/6 cup soy sauce
1/6 cup vegetable oil
1 package Lipton Onion Soup
3 cups water

Mix all together in oven safe container (I love my cast iron dutch oven for this) and put in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes. Reduce heat to 300 degrees. Stir and leave in oven for an additional 20 minutes.

Thursday night, I'll be taking some frozen summer squash out of the freezer for my Squash and Sausage Pasta experiment from last fall.

Friday night will probably be pizza again, though I'm thinking just a regular mushroom and green pepper pizza since it has been some time since we've had it.

I'll be enjoying my kitchen this week. Will you be enjoying yours?


Find the Sweet N Sour Sauce here for the chicken.

A review of last week's new recipes:

I had an extremely busy week last week so I've fallen behind on posting.

A quick review of last week's new recipes:

Monkey and T both loved the Mac 'N' Cheese Muffins. I'm not a huge fan of homemade mac 'n' cheese, but I didn't mind this. I'm going to try tweaking it next time to help myself enjoy it a little more.

T didn't get to have the Springtime Chicken and Orzo at home with us thanks to a late night of work. Monkey and I both loved it. T had it leftover the following day and liked it, but I'll say it was not NEARLY as good leftover as it was the first night.

The Taco Soup was a huge hit. We all loved it. Alas, no matter the love, I have refused to make it again until next fall. It gave me unbelievable heartburn. And ninny that I am, I ate it leftover for lunch the next day and had heartburn even worse the second time around! I made T finish off the leftovers to save myself the misery. HAHA (I'd like to note it's not all that spicy - just too spicy for my pregnant self).

I'm working on this week's menu and will share this week's new recipes later today.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A sweet treat review:

Monkey and I made our cashew butter. Seeing as I don't have a food processor, I used my immersion blender with the covered chopper attachment. My poor old blender was not up for the task and died half way through (smoke and all). May it rest in peace.

I then decided to pull out my old Black & Decker Handy Chopper Plus to finish the job.

Well, let's just say my butter isn't very smooth because the chopper started to smell like it was about to blow up, too.

Other than the technical difficulties, it was extremely easy to make. It filled about 1/2 of a mason jar pint and is sitting in the refrigerator waiting to be put on toast tomorrow morning. Monkey and I did taste test and it is yummmmy.

Now a trip to Bed Bath and Beyond is in order to replace/upgrade my immersion blender. And T & I are discussing if we need a food processor or not (I've never needed one before!)

This was a pretty expensive recipe! HA.

A sweet treat:

It's been a few weeks since I've done any baking of treats. And I'm still just not in the mood to do any. (No, my sweet tooth has not disappeared, unfortunately. I'm just trying to tame it so I don't have 100 lbs of baby weight to lose for GFT's wedding now that my dress has been ordered. The dress we're wearing can't be let out, only taken in! HA).

A few weeks ago, I went to The Natural Living Center to pick up some granola supplies. While there, I picked up a pound of cashews and a pound of almonds.

A couple years ago (I believe while pregnant for Monkey), we saw Alton Brown making his own nut butter. I told T "We should try that!" At the time, T wasn't as "of the earth" as he is now (what a difference a few years makes) so he looked at me like I had 3 heads and said "If you want, go for it." I was still working very full time so I never got around to it.

Enter the peanut butter recalls of this winter. Guess what T suggested? That's right. "Let's try making some cashew butter!" So I rolled my eyes at him, reminded him he thought I had 3 heads and said "Let's do it."

Unfortunately, we can no longer find Alton Brown's recipes online. We did find a recipe for cashew butter from Emeril Lagasse.

So Monkey and I are going to give it a whirl this morning while our batch of granola is in the oven.

Harvest Keeper and a pipe dream?

Source and link below

I've been wanting to keep track of what we harvest and put up. I was going to just make myself a spreadsheet (what? I'm an anal retentive bookkeeper. I love spreadsheets.), but that would require remembering to dig out said spreadsheet every time it needs an update. I have a toddler and am expecting in July. I foresee a spreadsheet being forgotten.

One of the blogs I follow is Achorn Farm. I've noticed her Harvest Keeper on more than one visit and I've decided I'm borrowing her idea for my own use as well.

Being that we don't exactly live on a farm, we don't have much going on for harvest right now. We did, however, get some syrup made. So I'm starting my Harvest Keeper today since we're done boiling sap.

T was only able to boil twice this year, so we didn't get a ton of syrup compared to previous years. After his first boil, we did use half of a pint of syrup for our annual maple syrup milkshake treat. Otherwise, the homemade stuff will only be used with guests and on special occasions to make it last longer.

Speaking of not living on a farm... we've discussed in the past the possibility of getting chickens. Aside from using them for baking and in recipes, we aren't really big egg eaters (T hates them and I have to be in the mood for them, though Monkey loves them) so we've been hesitant. However, we figured we could always sell and give away the surplus of eggs (which will be most).

Our recent issue of Mother Earth News came in last week. And T found a chicken coop he'd love to make and thinks the time might be right.

So we're now discussing it a little more seriously.

Stay tuned to see what we decide.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

This week's new recipes:

I'm early this week. I managed to get my menu and shopping list finished before I went to town to order my bridesmaid dress for GFT's wedding. I figured I'd hit the grocery store on my way home to do groceries by myself for the first time in a VERY VERY VERY long time!

First up is from Hannaford's Fresh Magazine. Their current issue has a "Cooking with Kids" section - and it's all meals made into muffins! We wanted to try the Mac 'N' Cheese Muffins. Asparagus is on sale this week, so we'll have some on the side to add some veggies to our meal.

Speaking of asparagus being on sale - also from the current Fresh magazine is Springtime Chicken and Orzo. I have a love of asparagus, so any time I have an excuse to buy all sorts for cheap, I do.

This last one I got from GFT. It's for Taco Soup. I figured since it's supposed to be a wet week, soup would help warm us up (even if the temps are supposed to be nice. HA). Like last week's recipe, I'll be substituting ground beef for turkey because I have some on hand. I'm planning on making some corn bread to go with it. I think I saw a recipe for corn bread biscuits in my stash of recipes to try. If so and I decide to use it, I'll share it later this week.

That's all for this week! Go forth and enjoy your kitchens!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Bathroom update:

I have been sitting on the floor outside of my bathroom all morning entertaining Monkey, keeping her out of the way, and watching the work progress with a big goofy grin on my face.

Excited doesn't even scratch the surface.

Bye bye, big, ugly, clunky vanity!

Hello, sleek, new beauty (Home Depot vanity - $99).

The new medicine cabinet (Home Depot - $80ish? I've had it for years - I don't remember exactly) and freshly installed light (TJ Maxx/Home Goods - $20!!!).

I wasn't around when they put the light in and am a teeny disappointed in how high up it is (though I still haven't told T). If it annoys me enough, I might have T lower it (now that the wiring is done, it's a matter of moving/patching holes which he can do just fine on his own).

Now I get to shop for the fun stuff! The accessories!! I'm heading to TJ Maxx quickly tomorrow to pick something up I've been eyeing for a couple of weeks. I'll need a towel rack, a new bath mat, a new faucet fixture (eBay, here I come) and new curtains (I found fabric I like I'm considering buying to make my own).

Work left to do? Paint, tile floor and I want a shelf put up spanning the entire vanity/toilet wall (right below the electrical outlet).

We are now on hold until after Easter. Yuck. The waiting is the hardest part!

Free shipping

I received a postcard in the mail from JCPenney for free shipping on orders of $49 or more - online or over the phone. Offer ends on April 10.

Promo code: REFRESH


Thursday, April 2, 2009

My stairway remodel:

I tell you, I've been a busy busy bee this week (as were my helpers!!).

This is the entryway to my house. We come in through the kitchen and you are immediately faced with the doorway to our basement. So very inviting, right? (Please read that dripping with sarcasm) . I'd also like to just point out the awesome built in gate my Dad made for us. Leaving the door to the basement closed made the basement (and the house) smell musty. But, we don't trust portable baby gates enough to just use one of those. Enter Carpenter Dad. (He's done a lot of building of things for me since I moved into this house).

There's not much I can do right now about the wall at the foot of the stairs. BUT, you don't see that unless you're actually standing at the top of the stairs looking down. So I'll live with it for the time being.

The curtain is hiding 2 shelves. I've been using them for extra kitchen storage. Really, it's just a big mess behind the curtain.

My brother did all of the wall prep (I had the brilliant idea of using a Swiffer with a wet pad to clean the walls - it worked well!) and painted the shelves for me. And T did the painting of the walls.

And this is what you will now see walking into my home:

The baskets were a TJMaxx/Homegoods find ($9.99 a piece), as was the wine themed clock ($15). The painting I got on clearance at Linens N Things when they were going out of business for $25. And the wine crate is 1 of 6 unfinished crates I bought on Ebay (I don't remember the cost).

I do still have some work to do. I want tags for the baskets, a plant (probably fake because it's not really a plant growing environment) for the top shelf and I need something for shoe storage. We also still need to paint the stairs themselves.

It already feels so much cozier!

Wall paper removal 101:

I feel quite ridiculous for the procrastinating I did on the wall paper border removal. After the huge undertaking in removing wall paper from the entire room of our current spare bedroom/soon to be nursery 2 years ago, I've been terrified of wall paper.

So, obviously, I've been putting off removing the wall paper border in my bathroom.

I had already ripped off the paper, so all that was remaining was the backing/glue (the worst part for peeling, right?). This morning, it was time to finish. I wanted to finish prepping the walls for paint (though we have no set time frame on when we'll actually do the painting).

I had to do some research first. The water and fabric softener solution we used last time was a pain. And really messy. I needed something I wouldn't mind Monkey getting into knowing she would be at my feet most of the time I was working.
Enter Google.

I used a handheld scrapbooking tool I have for scoring the paper. Then I sprayed it with my 1/3 vinegar:2/3 water mixture. Be sure to have a rag handy for catching the running liquid if you don't want a puddle on the floor.

I saw a few different sets of instructions online. They all said it was really easy, but I didn't believe them. One said to soak 5-10 minutes, another to soak for 15 and yet another to let it soak for 30 minutes. Unnecessary. I could actually SEE when it had soaked through (within a minute).

I then used my big putty knife to scrape it up. It was like putting butter on warm bread.


It took me more time to prep my spray bottle of water and vinegar than it did to scrape the paper off the wall. I'd say it took about 20 minutes total (including working around Monkey and clean up).

Now I just need to research how I want to clean off the glue before we paint.

Have some wall paper you want gone? Give this a try!

A peek in my bathroom:

First, let me show you the bathroom I've been living with for 5 years. Please keep in mind that I did nothing cosmetic to this room except bring in a plant, throw a rug on the floor and put up some curtains. (Those are binoculars on the windowsill for us to watch the deer in woods - yes, we're weird).

And now - some progress! The only new item currently installed is the new medicine cabinet (which I forgot to take a picture of). Our Hire a Hubby had to reschedule on us so the new vanity should be put in this Saturday. I'm not sure the new schedule for the tile on the floor, but I'm hopeful it will be soon. Believe it or not, I did most of the spackle work, even though it looks like T is doing all the work here.

There is still a lot of work left to do but it feels so very VERY good to finally have the job started and progress being made.
Up next: Wallpaper removal 101.

Free labor wanted

Will provide fresh homemade granola and fresh homemade bread.

Oh hell, will provide a warm homemade lunch, too.

Wondering why I'm looking for a laborer?

Wall paper.

It's just a border, but it's still wall paper.

Last week, I ripped down what I could with minimal effort.

And now? I'm putting off scraping off what remains.

Motivation is needed for a daunting task.

I am counting my lucky stars it's not the entire room.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It was bound to happen sooner or later

T & I went to bed at 9 last night, as we do most nights. Around 11:15, we were awakened by a loud *BANGTHUMP* and then some major wailing.

Monkey fell out of bed from all of her tossing and turning.

Other than giving all of us a little scare (and causing me to leap from bed in a manner a pregnant lady should NOT be doing), she was fine. But it did require some major Mommy snuggles to calm her down.

I guess falling out of bed is better than pulling a hammer off a counter onto your face, right? Because she did THAT last week.

My poor girl is having it rough.

This week's new recipe AND review:

I'm actually trying 3 new recipes this week, but I don't have permission to share the other 2, so here is the 1 I can.

We've actually already had them (since I'm late this week).

Monterey Jack Turkey Burgers was given to me by GFT. I used ground beef because that's what I have on hand. We all enjoyed them very much.

Otherwise, we're still plugging away at our (MY) home improvement projects. I should have my first project finished in another couple of days.

A big thank you to K for coming to give us a hand!!
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