Sunday, December 20, 2009

Why Hello Again

I'm embarrassed that the last time I posted was Halloween and now Christmas is less than a week away. I guess you must know by now that I go in spurts. Sometimes I get a wild hair in my butt and blog frequently for weeks at a time and sometimes you'll see me blog about Halloween and then Valentine's Day. If you stick around you must be used to this so that at least comforts me.

I'm doing a ton of baking and more activities that I could blog about, so I really have no excuse. This past week we had dinner for Casey's Birthday on Wednesday with his parents and we had sleepover guests (my family) on his actual birthday on Thursday. I'm doing a lot of baking/cooking for Holiday parties and pot lucks and I'm about to gear up for my annual Holiday baking. I don't know if I'll actually get around to blogging these recipes but I'll link the recipes which is kind of close.

Sea Salt Truffles
Gingerbread Cookies
Peanut butter Blossoms
and Fudge (I use the recipe on the back of the marshmallow fluff I think)

I actually made Heather's Santa Surprise cookies last night b/c I was snowed in and I have a ton of baking supplies right now. I don't know if there's much I need to catch you up on. We've been preparing for the holidays, going to plays, parades, looking at Christmas lights, watching Christmas movies, shopping, wrapping, decorating... and we're having such a good time doing it in our first home.

In case you're not from this area, we do have a ton of snow outside right now! We've been home-bound since noon on Friday so I guess I have no excuse to not put up a catch-up blog post. Casey and I are surely spending a lot of quality time together right now if anything else haha! I made crack dip that I was going to make for a party on Friday night and we munched off of that and leftover food from his birthday party and played the new Mario game for Wii which is so much fun if you don't have it! If you're like me and have an Xbox or PS3 husband you'll appreciate a game that you can both play together. Yesterday I became acquainted with my new BFF the huge shopvac we got on Black Friday and literally went around and sucked up everything I could find in the house. We did laundry, cleaned a little bit, put a ham in the crockpot, watched Christmas movies and rented Four Christmases.

Here's some snow pictures. This was Friday night right when it started. I loved the way our LED lights looked underneath the snow.

This was our neighborhood last night. There was a lot of snow, but even more fell over night.

I don't think we'l be able to see our lights now. This was Saturday morning.

I opened the sliding door and Sookie and Tuck both took a big leap into a snow drift and disappeared. I dug him out and her (she's not even supposed to go outside and has never tried before then). She figured out she could walk on top of it if she ran really fast. You can see that when she's walking on top of it she's almost in line with the seat of our patio chairs.

Casey digging Tuck a potty circle. That's our gigantic holly tree in the background.

Here's our deck again. Check out the mountains in the background.

Yes, Sookie is still here. She even made it into our Christmas card picture this year. This might be her last appearance seeing as how she wanted to pretend to be a dead corpse in the pictures. Nothing says Merry Christmas like a dead cat!

Tuck does love here though, so we keep her around :) I seriously don't remember kittens being this hard to control. Maybe Tuck was easier b/c he was short and was never a chewer. I didn't have trouble keeping him out of things (and I still don't). I do have to watch out for her jumping on things as she currently swings from my roman blinds. I swear her water bottle gets refilled twice a day.

She makes me do crazy things like sling all of my sheers over the top of the curtain rods (in the background). Mom asked me if that was a style I was going for. Yes, if the style involves keeping her from swinging like Tarzan from sheer to sheer.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween!

In case you don't remember, we take pumpkin carving pretty serious around here. This year we actually had a stoop to put pumpkins on so we decided to fill it out. The other side didn't turn out as well in pictures but Casey carved another pumpkin on the other side and I painted a white pumpkin with our house # (not very well, but it got painted). I might try to take a picture tomorrow during the day if I remember. I'm sure you can probably tell who did the face and who did the transformers pumpkin, but just in case you can't, I did the face. We're pretty excited about our first year in our house at Halloween and getting to hand out candy. We would get a handful of trick or treaters at the apartment but nothing overly exciting. Our neighbors have already warned us to come prepared with lots of candy. We live in a pretty family friendly cul de sac and there are a ton of kids in the surrounding neighborhoods, so I'm pretty excited.

I wanted to add these two pictures that I took with my phone. They're shots I snapped on my lunch break behind our house (that's our driveway in the picture). We have a gorgeous shelf of mountains behind our home that provide a great view from our deck. I was so excited to see the colors change and you can kind of see it in these pictures.

I can't wait until they're covered in snow, but I won't get ahead of myself. Everyone have a safe and Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Dining Room

I've hesitated posting my dining room as finished b/c I have two sets of blinds on backorder for one set of the windows. I know, I know.. I have issues.

Anyway, we didn't have to do much to this room at all. It got the outlet overhaul and we didn't mind the light fixture so it was just a matter of paint, window treatments, and furniture.

Here's a picture from the listing

Here's afterwards

Bamboo Blinds - JCP
Sheers - Bed Bath and Beyond
Black wooden curtain rod - Lowes
Dining room furniture - Havertys
Runner - Etsy
Paint - SW Humble Gold

It was really important when we were looking at houses to have a dining room. We've lived in apartments for a long time that have always had an open concept and not really a designated place for a table. Having a space like this is one thing that actually makes me feel like I have a home, if that makes sense. It's good for entertaining or when we have family over and we actually have a space to lay stuff out now if it's needed.

I'm getting close to calling my closet finished as well but we still have to patch and paint the ceiling so that will be coming up soon!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hello Kitty.

Hello Kitty.

We had no intentions of keeping you.

But then you found a friend.

And now you're almost inseparable.

Even though you fight sometimes.

You're a part of our family.

Meet Pineapple/Sookie. My sister found her outside of her hom and she was *tiny* (She was 1 lb and 5 ounces at the vet last Wednesday). She was going to take her to the SPCA, but I told her to give me a week and I would keep her and try to find her a home and then she could take her to the SPCA. That week has passed and she's still here and we think she's here to stay. Tuck is entertained by her and she's already figured out how to outsmart him at the ripe age of 7 weeks. We weren't really looking for a cat and still had our hands full with Tuck but I think you can kind of tell when something has found you.

My niece named her Pineapple (although I think she calls everything a 'pooabble') but we never call her that. It's almost always Kitty, but we're trying Sookie on for size and that seems to fit her more. Tuck scratches the door to her bathroom (where she stays at night and during the day) every day when we get home to see her and he plays well with her but his 'playing' sometimes can be a little rough, but she seems to hold her own. She can certainly serve it as well and it's funny to see her hop sideways down the stairs and do crazy martial arts moves in front of him and then take off with a ball in her mouth. There will be a day where she's his size and he will get what's coming to him. Hah. I forgot how funny cats were...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Simple Sesame Noodles

P-dub came through with another win. We really like any kind of pasta with sauce and we love anything asian so I knew we would like these. You could easily add shrimp or chicken in for some protein!

I also apologize for the horrible lighting. Casey and I eat pretty late and my lighting is starting to suffer with the change of season. I'm really starting to long for a DSLR and a lightbox but we've got other financial focuses right now, sooo maybe one day.

Simple Sesame Noodles
(Source: Pioneer Woman)

12 ounces thin noodles, cooked and drained (angel hair, thin spaghetti, or Asian style)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 to 3 tablespoons pure sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon hot chile oil (more to taste)
4 to 5 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons hot water
3 to 4 green onions, sliced thin

Whisk all ingredients (except noodles and green onions) together in a bowl. Taste and adjust ingredients as needed. Pour sauce over warm noodles and toss to coat. Sprinkle with green onions and toss. Serve in a bowl with chopsticks. Yummy!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Chicken Gyros

This recipes has been floating around in my Googlereader on a ton of blogs so I figured it was worth checking out and we both really enjoyed it. I really debate on whether to post recipes that I kind of like so I always stick to recipes that I intend to make again so I'm not a liar when I tell you guys I enjoy everything that I post :) This recipe is actually healthy too so it's a win/win and I ended up using the leftover chicken the next day on pitas with salsa and sour cream and it worked pretty good with both but the tzatziki sauce definitely gives it a little something different!

Chicken Gyros
(Source: Ella Says Opa!)
Servings: 4

1.25 lbs. chicken pieces (I used breasts)
4 cloves garlic, smashed
juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping Tbsp. plain yogurt
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
salt and pepper
1/2 batch of tzatziki
sliced tomatoes
sliced onions
4 (pocketless) pitas

Whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, oil, yogurt, and oregano in a bowl. Add the chicken and rub the marinade in. Cover and refrigerate for about an hour.

Preheat the broiler (we used the grill). Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides, and then broil until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side, depending what size/type chicken you are using. Allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes before slicing into strips.

Meanwhile, heat your pitas. We just heated up a skillet on medium-high and heated the pitas on both sides to soften them up a little bit. Top the pita with the chicken, tzatziki, tomatoes, onions. Roll up and enjoy.

Tzatziki - I copied these instructions straight from Ella Says Opa since she seems to know the ways of tzatziki :) 1/2 of this recipe is pretty sufficient and I think we only did 1/4 and it was good for us.

1 32oz. container of plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt which you don't have to strain)
1 hothouse cucumber or 2 regular cucumbers, seeded
3-5 cloves garlic–depending how garlicky you like it, crushed
1-2 tsp white wine vinegar
salt and a little pepper
squeeze of fresh lemon juice (optional)
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Strain yogurt using a cheesecloth over a bowl (if you don’t have that, a strainer lined with a coffee filter will work) for several hours or overnight to get out as much moisture as possible.

Peel and seed the cucumber. Shred the cucumbers and then squeeze the life out of them to get rid of as much excess moisture as possible. I use a towel to do this, and you will get a lot of liquid so don’t skip this step! Yes, there is a lot of straining and squeezing–and it’s all important! You don’t want a runny tzatziki

Mix together the strained yogurt, shredded cucumbers, garlic, vinegar and lemon juice (if desired). Salt to taste. It’s best to refrigerate for 30 minutes or more before serving, so flavors can meld.

Drizzle a little olive oil over the top.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Meet My Nemesis

The stinkbug. Hideous little wench isn't it? They're hard and crunchy and huge and apparently they don't know how to fly b/c they always erratically dive into me causing me to freak out.

Stinkbug, I've tried to kill you many ways but you pushed me over the edge when I saw you on my curtain which caused me to chuck my dog's treats (my dog's expensive, organic, delicate, blueberry treats) at you and the entire bag crumbled, yet you stayed alive you little tank.

These little suckers have been invading the outside of our house and now they've taken to coming inside for a little bit. I swear I just thought I got rid of spiders and then I discover these.

New nemesis... old nemesis

This bothered me enough to call the Orkin man last month. Our house is not conducive to being bug free. We have an attic, we have a basement that's attached to a garage, we don't have a storm door to seal the front door and our house set vacant for many moons before we moved in. I used to *never* see bugs in my apartment with only one entrance and few windows. Now I feel like I've stepped into a safari (I'm probably being dramatic, but it happens).

Anyway, so I called Orkin and I really just couldn't justify the price seeing as how we aren't facing scary things like roaches or termites. Someone suggested Terminix had better prices so I had a nice conversation with the Terminix Man (TM) on my lunch break today:

Terminix man gives me the rundown on the way the business run, yeah yeah, heard this all with Orkin.

Then he breaks down the service prices, which still seem expensive but are certainly better.

TM: this is the way our service operates on a quarterly basis, unless you have termites. Do you have termites?

Me: I don't think so, should I see wood falling down or something like that?

TM: ... you would probably know if you had termites. What kind of bugs are you dealing with?

Me: Well first off, spiders, but they kind of tapered off and now I'm seeing stinkbugs.

TM: Your spiders didn't taper off, they're hiding in your home probably preparing to hibernate. I'm sure the stinkbugs are also not fun, and that's certainly not a pleasant smell.

Me: For some reason mine don't smell. I think they're defective.

TM: Right, so do you think, this is a service you'll be interested in?

Me: I really don't know.. the price is still high and we don't really have detrimental bugs, just annoying ones...

TM: Do you want to know what the stinkbugs are doing in your home?

Me: No, but I have a feeling you're going to tell me.

TM: They're laying eggs, and for every one you see in your home there will a hundred more to that one bug. Thanks for calling and let me know if you change your mind, have a nice day!

Now that sir, is effective salesmanship.

That is also why I'll probably get an annual membership set up. I'm a pansy and I really don't like bugs and I don't want them in my house. I know they were here first and that's awesome for them and everything but they have trees, land, jungles, mountains, and woods to live in, do they really need to live in my home to? Don't you think that's just a little selfish and a little creepy that they're trying to invade my home?

I sat down the other night and talked to Casey about this and I told him that I feel like it was something that we should set up until we can get a storm door and possibly an energy audit to see where the cracks are in our home. He seemed to agree and said the spiders didn't really bother him. I told him it was enough to make me not want to go in the basement more or less the garage. He agreed and said he didn't like going in the garage either because he had a fear of opening the door and seeing a 10 foot spider just staring at him.





I don't really know what to say about that, but hopefully Terminix covers those too.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Baking Gals

I saw that two of the lady bloggers that I follow (Beantown Baker and Heather Drive) were heading up a team for this round so I read up to see what was involved and signed up.

Baking gals was started as a way to help give soldiers overseas a little taste of home that they can share with their buddies and hopefully it lets them know that there are people over here thinking about them. I'll be baking as much as I can to fill up a large flat rate box and I'll be shipping it over to Afghanistan between Oct 1st and Oct 12th. If you're interested in joining a team or you just want information, take a look at the Baking Gals website and check it out.

I actually did a little baking today and tried out Bakerella's recipe for pumpkin pecan chocolate chunk cookies. The batter tasted amazing! I'm a firm believer in firm dough and this was definitely a softer dough so I'm going to let the batter rest overnight and try the cookies again tomorrow. My first batch was definitely cakey (which is normal when you use pumpkin in a cookie recipe) but they were still too crumbly for my liking so I'm hoping if I firm them up and let them bake a little longer that it'll iron my problems out. I also made a batch of crockpot chili today too. I just threw Fall into our faces today in the form of chili and pumpkin. The weather was perfect and we were able to get some yardwork done that we've been putting off because of rain.

We didn't do a whole lot on Friday or Saturday. The weather was kind of blah so we used Saturday to do some shopping and I *finally* found a pair of red flats. You would think that it would be a simple request but I could never find exactly what I was looking for. They have a cute point to the toe and I know you can't tell from the picture but the red is kind of splotchy which gives them a different look. I'm totally a ballet flats person. I can swoon over heels all day long but if we're honest I don't really wear them that often. I only wear them when I go out which is a small portion of mylife. The time I spend going out to dinner, working, or running errands on the weekend far outweighs the time that I would actually wear pumps, so flats it is! Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cajun Chicken Pasta

This was a recipe that I had saved in my recipe box for awhile and I just got around to making it. It's a heavier dish but I used half and half to cut down a little on the fat and it was great. This recipe only serves 2 so keep that in mind if you're making this for a larger crowd. Although, there was plenty for me to have a serving, Casey to have a serving, and leftovers for him to take to work the next day. I took this picture on my new dining room table! I'm close to having that room finished so I can do before and afters, but that's another post :)

Servings: 2

4 ounces linguine pasta (I used wheat)
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
2 tablespoons butter
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
4 fresh mushrooms, sliced (I omitted since we don't like mushrooms)
1 green onion, sliced
1 cup heavy cream (I used half and half)
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 cup grated parmesan

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

Place the chicken and the Cajun seasoning in a plastic bag. Shake to coat. In a large skillet over medium heat, saute the chicken in butter or margarine until almost tender (5 to 7 minutes).

Add the red bell pepper, green bell pepper, mushrooms and green onion. Saute and stir for 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat.

Add the cream, basil, lemon pepper, salt, garlic powder and ground black pepper. I added a little bit of a water/cornstarch mixture to thicken the half and half and simmered for about 5 minutes until thick. Heat through.

Add the cooked linguine, toss and heat through. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Light Progress

We decided to change out our two hallway lights this afternoon.

Pretty huh?

One down...

Fluffy puppy gets bored with home improvements. He protests by sitting in the middle of everything.

I do just as much as Casey. Don't be fooled. After he installed the first light and had to redo it I told him that behind every man with a tool is a woman with instructions.

Both of them up and going. Much better!

I also came home to my candle exchange gift! I joined an online Fall exchange and we decided to do candles this year. I just mailed mine off today so I hope my receiver likes the ones I picked out. I got a great deal on soy candles that were being discontinued. My sender gave me a spiced cider candle and a harvest spice cake candle. They smell great and make me excited for the coming of Fall which is tomorrow ahhhhh....

Just one last picture from the Tech game on Saturday as we were leaving. We tailgated early and had a great time and we're heading back for the Boston College game in a couple of weeks. Most people know I'm not a big football fan, but I do like the socializing aspect of games ;)

After the game we came home and crashed. We were dogsitting this past weekend so we just let the dogs play while we napped on and off. I managed to get motivated to put a roast on Sunday and I'm sure we'll have that again sometime this week. We just finished up an easy dinner (taco night) and I'm blogging inbetween the premiere of House tonight. Oh how I've missed you Fall tv.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New Layout and Playing Catchup!

In case you have noticed I've had Mrs. LauraJean over at LJKC Design take a shot at helping my sad little blog become a little more personalized and I love it! She even worked around some quirky issues with my blog so I really appreciate all of the work that she put into it. If your blog needs a face lift, follow the link above to get more info about her pricing and to check out some more layouts she's done!

I decided to do a running list of some of the things that we've done since we moved in since it's been such a long time since I last blogged. Some of these things are very small or seemed very small but certainly took a good amount of our time. We're really having a good time making this house our home and we look forward to future projects and DIY work b/c I think we're both really enjoying learning how to do some of these things together. It definitely doesn't hurt your marriage to take on a new task together or to learn to do something. The sense of accomplishment you feel together is pretty awesome! Anyway, back to my list:

First thing before we even moved in was changing out the hideous appliances. We got a new Samsung refrigerator and a Whirpool Gold oven and dishwasher.

Before (listing pic):


If you look at the before we had a white hood over the range and we wanted to try to maximize our counterspace until we can add cabinets so we had a custom cabinet company contract on the side to pop our cabinet out of the wall and cut about 6 inches off of it. The guy did really great work and you can't even tell the doors or the cabinet had been cut. He also stayed around and installed the microwave in about 30 minutes. You can tell he does a lot of those.

We've definitely been enjoying our deck that extends along the entire backside of the house. The previous owners left a white patio set that had a round table with 8 chairs and a side table. We wanted to take advantage of all of the pieces so we decided to give it a good cleaning and replace the cushions. I found a great deal at Plow & Hearth for replacement Sunbrella cushions. We intended to paint it black to update the set a bit but the white started to grow on us after we replaced the cushions so we'll see how we feel next year.

Before (another listing pic):


Here's a shot from the other side of the deck and Tuck all up in the middle of the shot.

One of the first things we did was replace the locks on our doors so we just decided to replace the doorknobs and update the wonderful brass with nickel.


Here's the after that I just took so you can see my Fall wreath too :)

This next project was one that took the most 'learning'. We are not electricians and we haven't even replaced a light. When we moved in, our 3 bedrooms and living room had no light fixtures. We got a family friend to help us wire ceiling fans in our bedroom and the guest bedroom and a light fixture in the 3rd bedroom. It inspired me to learn more about it and tackle our lovely beige faceplates on our outlets and switches.

At first I honestly thought it was just all a faceplate and we could replace them for $.50 a piece. No problem. I realized that the actual switch and actual outlet would remain almond so we would have to figure out how to do some of the wiring. I did some reading online and it seemed easy. Black to Brass, White to Silver, Ground wire to the green screw. I figured we could handle three wires until we took out an outlet armed with our new supplies, Lowes knowledge, and wiring book and saw seven wires. We have so many due to our outlets being attached to light switches (and we actually know how to undo this in the bedrooms now that we don't need to have lamps anymore!).

It only took one call to the electrician at first and then we got into a rhythm, working a room at at a time. We've finished the entire downstairs (we even did a dimmer and a GFI) and now we have the upstairs to tackle.

Here's the old face plate compared to the new white ones. I know it's not a big thing but I've read that it's the little things like outlets and brass to nickel that can make your home seem newer and actual help your return out when you're trying to sell. These are the things that aren't that expensive to do so if it will help us out one day when it's time to sell then it's definitely worth looking into.

This is the new dimmer switch (beside an old switchplate just to show the difference) that Casey installed. The dimmer slides along the side and then you can just flip the switch on and off and adjust the side to your preference.

Tuck loves his new home. Loves it. Our landing that leads to the upstairs has a window right at the landing level so he can just sit there all day and watch the activity in the cul de sac :) I usually attach him to a bush when I'm outside weeding and he's content to just lay outside. He also loves sitting on the back deck and watching the horses. There's much more activity here than watching the cars go by on our deck at the apartment haha

This first picture actually shows our new mulch. My wondeful mother in law actually helped me harness back some of the weeds and flowers that had overgrown while the house was vacant and I've tried to do pretty good with the upkeep. It looked like it had been awhile since all of the different beds had been mulched so 18 (eighteen!) bags of mulch later we (meaning casey) finished the front, the side, and even had extra to do a little landscaping around our mailbox. I'll take a picture of that in a separate blog post.

I've only had one casualty due to putting his tie out around the bushes in the front yard. I guess we didn't need that plant anyway

I feel accomplished now that I've shown you guys some of the things that we've been working on. We have a couple of small projects we want to tackle before the end of this year which are:

Finishing switching the outlets out

Installing a wall organization system in our garage

Replacing hopefully at least 2 of the toliets

Switching all of the brass knobs and hinges to new nickel levers like the ones below

I'll keep you guys updated on our progress and you'll hopefully see me blogging more actively now that I have a spring in my step from my new layout and now that we're feeling much more 'settled' than we were in July. I've got some rooms to reveal as they get closer to being finished and more home projects and recipes coming up so hopefully I won't be at a loss of things to write about.

Have a great weekend!