September 19, 2011

How I Love Weekends.

These days I live for the weekend.  Monday through Friday is great and all, but the weekends are when I get to spend more time with my hubby and I get to spend some quality time at the house.  Cleaning is high on the list, but it doesn’t always happen.  Sporatic cleaning is my new tactic, that way cleaning doesn’t end up taking over a whole day where my hair gets pulled on the top of my head and I’m covered in dirt from head to toe at the end of five hours.  (Although, sometimes it’s necessary).  This weekend did not involve much cleaning, but it was a busy one!

The back door has needed some love for awhile.  It was off-white when we moved in, peeling paint on the outside, and it didn’t seal at all.  Levi put some weather stripping on it a few months ago, which helped in a huge way during our heat wave.  The dirty look of the door has been driving me crazy.  So this weekend, it got a face-lift!

It’s so happy now.  I just love it. 

The trim still needs some work, but that’s for another weekend.

Another new addition to the backyard is the shed that my husband, so graciously, put together.  We debated for awhile on building our own or buying a pre-fabricated shed.  After pricing everything, we decided to buy one and put it together.  One million pieces later . . . the shed is finally finished and organized!  Levi put everything in the shed yesterday.  The yard looks so much better (minus the dirt that is now our grass).  That man is a blessing.

Hagen is still growing, of course.  We think she’s around 90 lbs now.  It hurts when she steps on your feet.  But she’s a huge ball of love.

Weekends also bring time for gardening.  I’m starting out small this fall … and in containers. 

Weekend before last I planted herbs :: basil, cilantro, sage, parsley, and lavender.  Currently this pot is no longer stacked on blocks on the deck, because Hager beans still found a way to get to the plants.  We are down one parsley now.  I got two chains and hung the container from two existing hooks outside our office window.  The herbs like it there so far.  And it’s out of Hagen’s reach .. for now.

The front beds have two tomato plants, four red cabbage plants, and four cauliflower plants. I also planted lettuce, because I love it.  Bibb, Romaine, Arugula & Swiss Chard.  It sits on our stop sign table on the front porch.  The swiss chard has it’s own pot, because it’s large and in charge. The lettuce really took off this week with our spurts of rain. 

Last night we had our first salad.  It was delicious.

Some sort of baking or cooking frenzy normally happens during the weekend as well.  This weekend, the baking was for a coworker-turned-friend ..  Happy Birthday Matt!  He likes cookies.  He likes icing.  Hopefully the cookie cake will suffice! 

With that, I will leave you with my new favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe … for one of your upcoming weekends.
 

September 14, 2011

Soaking Nuts

Yes, this title made me laugh too . . . but there’s really no better description for what I have to share with you.  My mother-in-law had a mason jar full of walnuts sitting on her breakfast table.  I have a great affinity for walnuts, so I took a few.  After eating the first nut, I was confused.  This walnut was different.  It didn’t leave a gritty feeling on my teeth and tongue.  Just the slightest taste of being roasted.  A hint of salt.  Then she revealed her secret … she had soaked the nuts!  Now I love them even more.

For those of you who have never heard of this or don’t understand why one would do this, let me enlighten you. Nuts have a little thing called phytic acid on their outer layer. Phytic acid can combine with minerals in the intestinal tract and prevent the body from absorbing them. Soaking helps reduce or eliminate the phytic acid on the outer layer. Nuts can also be an enzyme inhibitor … meaning your digestive and metabolic enzymes may be prevented from working properly. Soaking also reduces these enzyme enemies in nuts. Overall, soaking aids your body in digesting nuts and getting the full benefit that nuts offer. More vitamins and minerals, less acids and inhibitors. Plus, it’s really simple and they taste amazing!

Gather your nuts … I chose walnuts, pecans, and almonds. Mmmmm. It doesn’t really matter how much you do at once, but take into consideration that you will need oven and pan space to spread these puppies out when they go in for their drying session. I probably did a few too many, but I dried them in cycles.

The first step is to soak them overnight in water, at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Make sure they are completely covered in water the entire time.  Add 1 tsp. of salt for every 1/2 gallon of water.

After soaking, you will see how murky the water gets.  Drain off the water and rinse the nuts.

Then lay out the nuts on paper towels to pat dry.

Some of the almonds lost their coating altogether after soaking. 

After hand drying some, spread the nuts onto a cookie sheet and place in the oven at the lowest temperature that your oven will go.  For me, that was 175.  Take time to stir them every 4 hours or so.  The nuts will take varying amounts of time to dry out.  It also depends on how crowded your pan is … for me, the walnuts were done first, which I soaked the least of.  Then the pecans, and lastly the almonds. 

The only way easiest way to know if they’re done is to try one.  When they’re crunchy again, they’re done.  Be careful to keep from overbaking them.  Then place them in a container for easy munching access!

September 8, 2011

Anthro :: Sit.Stay.Love.

Anthro, I just love it more and more. Now the stores are going to have pet adoption and supply drive events for homeless animals in the area. This is SO awesome to me!  The Fort Worth store is having a supply drive on September 18th!

Below is the schedule for Anthro’s in TX. Visit the website for info on other areas (and an easier. to. read. schedule.) by clicking on the image below.

September 6, 2011

Ryan :: Autumn Wreath

It’s COOL outside! This weather, although probably short-lived, is amazing. I’ve been waiting to make our autumn wreath until we had a cool streak. Yes, cool … meaning two consecutive days under 90 degrees. So that day is today!

I realize that I still haven’t posted before/after pictures of the house. It’s only been what, 5 months?! I’ll get to it. For now, the front door. It was originally a dark olive green – yuck. I appreciate that this color holds a special place in the heart of many people, but I just can’t handle it. We took the door a dark charcoal color with the tiniest hint of violet. We also added the giraffe doorknocker from Anthro. I couldn’t resist this little guy. He welcomes guests and makes quite a racket to let us know when someone knocks at the door.

I have been gathering pieces of autumn goodness to make a wreath for this fall. All of the pieces for this wreath were found on sale at Joann’s, Michael’s, and Anna’s Linens. The wooden wreath form itself was picked up on the side of the road by yours truly. I’m not ashamed. It originally had some ghastly pink ribbons and hot glue ridden flowers. After removing all of the unwanted pieces, the wreath form was ready for a new life. Here is the result.

The straw-like pieces are from Michael’s. Levi actually spotted the 60% bins on the sidewalk while we were leaving BB&B. He regretted mentioning it after I started digging through the florals. We also scored some nice tiki torches for a few bucks. The little berries and feathers were a JoAnn’s find, with a 50% coupon, of course. Never buy anything from JoAnn’s without a coupon. Seriously. The burgundy hair-like pieces surrounding the center of the wreath were on clearance at Anna’s. I found out why too. They dye your hands hot pink. I mean solid pink. After working with those pieces, I had to scrub my hands so much to get the dye off. It was worth it though – I like the richness that the burgundy adds.

Yay for fall days!

September 5, 2011

Paint Chip Wall Calendar :: DIY

So the original plan was to have this ready to post for the beginning of September … but now it can be a September project for you to have ready come October!  For those of you on Pinterest (and for those of you who aren’t, but should be), you have probably come across the myriad of crafts and designs using paint chips. Garland, bunting, framed, decoupaged, you name it.. I don’t completely condone all of the projects, because some take a ridiculous amount of paint chips and some of them don’t really have a purpose other than to use a ridiculous amount of paint chips. I felt a like a little kid grabbing 7 of each color I used, trying to make sure the paint man wasn’t going to “catch me.” Almost like I was stealing, even though they are free. The fact that we bought a lot of paint for the new house made me feel better – like I was bartering with Valspar. I think they probably came out on top.

Now that I have that confession out there, on to the actual project. Stevo had an old frame. in a horse trailer. parked beside a pile of trash. ready to go to the dump. When I saw it, I snatched it up he gave it to me for “this calendar I’ve been wanting to make.” So here goes.

:: What you will need ::

A frame – any size will do, but the bigger the better {this is Texas}

Cardboard for backing

Poster board {white or color of your choice}

28 Paint Chips {colors of your choice}

Double-sided Tape

:: Let’s get going ::

The frame had a trash bag duct taped around it and onto the glass when we found it. I’m not sure exactly how much good the trash bag would have done in protecting it, but the duct tape did it’s job – it was very nicely caked onto the frame and glass. After some windex and elbow grease, the frame was ready.

Here it is without the glass.

Since there was no backing to the frame, I got a box out of our recycling bin that just happened to be large enough for this sucker. I had to cut the piece to fit and duct tape an edge on; but it’s ok because this part won’t show at the end.

I should also mention that it helps to have an audience. (Even if they are sleeping).

Now that we have the frame and backing ready, it’s time to make the calendar itself.

I used 28 paint chips from Lowe’s in 4 different shades of orange.  You could do all different colors, but I like the monochromatic look.  Remember you will be writing on top of these, so lighter colors will work the best.

Cut the paint chips down to the size that will work for your frame.  I got the largest paint chips and just cut the name of the color off, because I wanted them as large as possible.  It may take a little rearranging to see what size you need.  I placed my chips 7 across and 4 down, realizing that I would have some days at the bottom of each month that would share a block.  If this bothers you, make a 5th row! 

After arranging the chips, secure them with 3 or four small pieces of double-sided tape.. or do it the old-school circle of tape way (which I had to do on about a fourth of the chips).

As you’re arranging, you will want to leave a space on one side of the frame for you to write the month.  I decided to make it on the side.

As you can see, the poster board wasn’t large enough to cover the whole frame.  So I used it to place the paint chips on, and made a space on the side with a piece of toulle wrapped around the edge to add a little texture.  The toulle is taped to the back of the frame.  You could use hot glue if you’d like, but I wanted the option to change it out later.

After securing the poster board to the cardboard backing, assemble behind the glass in the frame!

Then find a place for your new calendar!  Our’s is in the office, and adds a nice detail of brightness against the gray walls.  I need to get some stronger expo markers, but they do the trick for now! 

Happy Labor Day!

September 2, 2011

This Week :: A Whirlwind

This beautiful lady, my mother, is FINALLY home in her own bed. No more hospital food. No more waking every two hours for nurses. No more IVs. No more tests. Only rest and recovery from the comfort of her own home.

For those of you who don’t know my mom, she is a bundle of energy. She’s a hairdresser, on her feet all day and often has a hard time fitting in time to eat lunch. Even when she’s tired, she doesn’t look tired. About 2 weeks ago, her right arm went numb when she got to work. After an ER trip, 3 EKGs, and a heart cath later we learned that she had some minor blockage in her arteries. Totally treatable with medicine, so we were all relieved.

Then comes Monday. Dreaded Monday. My mom woke up unable to move her arms or legs. Just typing that gives me chills. She could feel everything, but it was like she had no muscles. An ambulance rushed her to the ER and the testing began. She looked so tired to me. More tired than I had ever seen her. MRIs, CTs, blood tests … The only thing that turned up was a thyroid issue. Hypothyroidism can apparently cause nerve damage, causing numbness and loss of muscular control.

Needless to say, we were all so worried while Mom was in the hospital and many prayers were sent heaven’s way for her.

Thank you to everyone who supported and continue to support her and our family during this time. It was scary. I can’t tell you how comforting it was to know she was being lifted up in prayer from family and friends across the U.S. I am so thankful that she is recovering and that she will be able to treat the problem.

I don’t know what I would do without her. Seriously.

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To end on a lighter note. Look at this girl. She thinks this is comfortable.

We find her like this all the time .. Her head completely off of the bed. A nap does sound nice though, doesn’t it? Happy Labor Day weekend! Lots to celebrate in this family!

August 25, 2011

Brownies & Chocolate Chip Cookies :: Oreo Stuffed

I have this running joke with one of my friends as to how one would make an oreo healthy.  Put some flaxseed on it?  Use them as croutons on a salad?  None of the ideas have sounded successful enough to try yet, but we’re still working on it.  So instead, let’s take a step in the other direction … because these two recipes are awesome.

Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oreo Stuffed Brownies

I made both of these last week for a birthday at the office.  Overall, I think the cookies trumped the brownies – but all of them were eaten .. so that’s something!  The brownies were a little overbaked in my opinion, so I would cut down 2 or 3 minutes from the suggested baking time on the box.  Both of the recipes can be found at the links above, but here are some step-by-step pictures for your viewing pleasure.

This was the fun part.  Make two normal sized cookie dough balls, then flatten them a little before surrounding the oreo with dough.  It’s a little weird at first, but you’ll get the hang of it quickly.  Make sure to press the sides of the dough together to form a complete ball.  They will be large and in charge.

Levi ate one at this stage.  He’s not much of a cookie fan, but cookie dough … yes. 

Monster cookies!

Sugar rush to. the. max. after eating one of these.  I could only eat one half at a time.  They are so good, though!  …and I’m not even a huge fan of oreos.

This is what you need for the brownies – any mix will do.  Yes, the ice cream and fudge topping replaces the oil and water in the normal mix.  These are thickkkkk.

I used cookies and cream because it sounded most appropriate to me, but you can try any flavor you’d like!

Like I said, it’s thick.  Get your muscles out.

Then layer.  Batter.  Cookies.  Batter.  An 8×8 pan works best.

Enjoy!  Let me know if you try these out!

August 16, 2011

Lately

Most of my life lately has been consumed here :

This is my cube.  My tax accounting cube.  I have recently converted from sitting on that bright red ball to standing.  I know, I know … why would one do this?  Because this one’s back/neck/general posture has gone to pot since taking on the profession that is accounting.  Although my back hurts some days, I can deal with it.  The soreness will go away.  I feel like a curving spine may take a little more work to undo.

My mom works all day on her feet as a hairdresser.  So surely I can do the same.  I’ll just pretend like I’m giving my laptop a new do.  If worse comes to worst, my handy red ball is within close reach.

I need some serious decorating to happen in my workspace in the upcoming holiday months.  Too. much. gray.

On the subject of work, the peeps up in the FW EY office are pretty awesome.  Awesome enough to the point of making me want to organize a Thanksgiving dinner so we can all come as indians and pilgrims.  Also awesome enough to make me want to bake for every birthday in the office.  Check out these Oreo Stuffed Brownies.  Wicked.  These are next on the lineup and I’m super-excited about it. 

In other news, Phoebe loves the sink.

So much that I have to fight for room to brush my teeth in the morning.  She loves to drink out of the faucet.  Hagen loves to drink out of the toilet.  This may be proof that cats are smarter than dogs.  Or that Phoebe is smarter than Hagen.  Although Phoebe has been known to smack Hagen on the nose for no apparent reason, other than Hagen’s up in her space.  All Hagen wants is to play!

Once the weather gets cooler, we have some outdoor projects on the horizon.  One of these is to add a retaining wall of sorts to the front yard.  Levi’s not crazy about the slanted mowing situation that would have to occur if the yard stays as is.  Plus, it will dress up the front.  We keep debating on the style, but we drove by this house the other day and both loved the look of this.  Definitely planting more yuccas.

Lastly, I’m loving my new wallet.  The trifold that I’ve carried since graduation is not cutting it lately.  Apparently I’m a receipt hoarder and I find the need to keep bits of paper in my wallet until the writing is completely worn off.  I’m convinced I inherited this from my mother.  Regardless, I’m excited about this new addition to my purse.

I hope to share a recipe and another crafty project this week!  For now, Happy Tuesday to all.

August 9, 2011

Chairs :: An Obsession

I’ve always loved chairs. This love has grown recently first with the wedding and now with my home-focused-brain.. Chairs can make a huge statement, whether at a wedding or in the living room .. which is part of why I love them so much. I wanted to share some recent inspiration for things that yo’ bum sits on, both for parties/weddings and in your home.

First, I have to show you this picture.  How gorgeous are those ribbons?!  This was for a wedding ceremony for the guests’ chairs.  Time consuming, but sooooo worth it!  I am in love with this.

Another great idea for a ceremony or party is to add some color with pillows.  Not only do they increase the comfort level, but they are also appealing to the eye.

This is another wedding idea, which I love for hanging on the new couple’s chairs at the reception.

Now to the home..  I am currently on the prowl at garage sales, Craigslist, and side of the road locations with my eyes peeled for some kind of frame similar to these which I could recover.  At the moment, I’ve given up hope of buying something like these in a newer fashion.  But hey, I love a challenge.

How amazing are these?

Anthro, you would.

I love love love these bright chairs for a child’s play area or even for a big person’s desk chair.  Maybe I’ll repaint the office chair (currently red) with a fresh coat of highlighter lemon. 

Lastly, I am in love with the idea of tree trunks as chairs – side tables – footstools .. what have you.  Fortunately, I picked up some stumps off the side of our old street in the fall when some neighbors were cutting down a tree.  Yes, my husband still loves me. 

I have yet to tackle this project, but it’s coming sometime soon.  Maybe when we’re in double-digits again.

August 3, 2011

Chevron Canvas :: DIY

This is a project I did for the dining room over a month ago. I have been loving the chevron pattern everywhere lately, and I thought this would be an easy and cheap addition to bring some shine into the middle of the house.

All you need is a blank canvas (or three), acrylic paint or spray paint of your choice, a tape measure, and some painter’s tape — which I would highly suggest the frog tape. Blue painter’s tape is for those of you looking to make some sort of abstract blurred line. I was not going for that .. I want my tape to actually create a straight line. I’m a big fan of the green stuff.

To begin I took a pencil and made tiny markings where I wanted the points of the chevron to be for one line. I ended up making the points 6 inches apart vertically and horizontally. Next, cut pieces of tape the length you need between each marking. If you pre-cut them and have the pieces lined up, the process is much faster. I found it worked best to change the pieces of tape for the first line around until I liked the way it looked. Then, I used that line as a model to measure the rest. This is the hardest part.

Also, I taped off the edges of the canvases because I thought the white would leave a cleaner look. I like how they turned out, but you could easily paint the sides if you wanted.

Then tape off however many other canvases you are game for. I wanted a grouping of three, so this is what they looked like after taping them off.

I had the bright idea to use gold acrylic paint and brush it on like a real artist. For my patience level at the time, this was overrated. I completed one canvas with the gold acrylic and it wasn’t bold enough for what I was wanting.

I decided to do a second coat, which created the bright gold I was looking for.

At this point, I was tired of hand painting …. so I looked for another option. We had leftover metallic spray paint from some other projects around the house, so I decided to see how they looked on the canvas. Silver and bronze.

When I laid these two next to the gold, it just seemed like they were too bright in comparison. So I decided to paint over every other stripe of the silver and bronze metallic canvases to tie them together. Add a picture hanger on the back of the canvas and pick your spot to hang it up!

This is our dining room, complete with the chevron canvases. I think they add a nice contrast to the bread and wine picture that Levi’s father took in the 70′s. You basically have to walk through this room to get to any other room in the house, so I love that it has a warm, cheery feel now. It took me awhile to decide which way to hang them … “W” or “M” … I decided on “W” because Levi’s middle name is William.

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