Monday, January 30, 2012

Pinterest recipes, tried and true

One of my favorite things to pin, aside from inspiring interiors, are recipes.  I have a "savory" board, a "sweet goodness" board, and an "on the lighter side" board.  I had been in a cooking slump for a few weeks, but I finally came around and am back in the kitchen cooking and baking, being resourceful with leftovers, pinching pennies where I can, and trying to keep things on the lighter side.

Here are a few of the recipes I've been trying over the past few days.  All of them are going into rotation on our meal menus.  Except the beer bread.  That's only a once in a while thing.  Although I will be making a loaf with each new beer my hubby brews for him to take to work to share with the guys.

Zucchini boats with a side of rice was a healthy, light dinner.

Baked oatmeal was a perfectly filling way to start the day.

Black bean and guac burrito was quite the filling, and messy lunch.  Heavy on the guacamole.  YUM.

Beer bread  made with Dutch apple ale [beer], brewed by the hubs.

Homemade English muffins.  We enjoyed some breakfast sandwiches on a few this morning.  They may lack the 'nooks and crannies' that Thomas' boasts, but they taste just the same.

Sweet potato chili.  The sweet potatoes add a really nice bit of sweetness to the dish.  

Have you tried any new recipes lately?  Anything find it's way into your meal rotation?

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Remember I showed you an ampersand project I had planned in this post?
Well, that project is now done, too.  

This was my inspiration.  It comes from "Edie's Lab" on

I fell in love with this charming, little ampersand the moment I saw it.  I knew I wanted one for our living room.  The problem was that it was only 12" tall.  That size wasn't going to cut it.  I needed it bigger.  Like double the size bigger.  So I decided to replicate, enlarge, and hope I could actually pull it off.

Here's what I started with.

A 2'x4' sheet of 3/4" birch plywood.  We picked it up at Lowe's for just over $18.

I enlarged and printed out a template for the giant ampersand.
It measures 23.5" h x 29" w.

 I traced it onto my plywood, had the hubby trim off the excess with a circular saw, and then it was ready to be cut out.

I used a jigsaw (thanks, mom & dad!) to cut out my ampersand.  You should have seen me - I'm sure it was quite the sight.  I had one foot, up on the table holding the plywood in place, while hunched over, carefully jigging along my traced outline.  I almost asked Travis to take a picture so you could see how ridiculous I looked, but decided against it.  ;)  Oh, but I do think the jigsaw is my new favorite tool.  I'm already trying to figure out what else I can make (using the left over plywood).

After finishing with the jigsaw, I gave every surface a light sanding.
Then it was ready for primer and paint.

Two coats of primer, 2 coats of white paint ("du jour" - same as on the bookshelf) - ready for the details and a little color.

I used an X-acto knife to cut my template, and then traced out the interior details of the ampersand.

After some very patient painting, I was finally able to step back and admire my newest favorite piece of art.

I really, really love it.

I toyed with the idea of using a darker color, like a teal or gray, but I'm pleased that I decided to keep it light and neutral.  It stands out just enough over the fireplace.

And the cost?  Just the price of that sheet of plywood (which I have left overs of).  So maybe about $14 for the ampersand itself.  I used leftover house paint; overall project cost was minimal.  

I feel so accomplished in completing this project, and the bookshelf.
Small successes, before tackling the ever-looming kitchen cabinets, were just what I needed.

project list progress

I crossed a couple of projects off of my to-do list yesterday.

Let me just start off by saying:
I'm happy to have them off the list - completely finished.
Now I can move onto this month's (and next month's) main attraction, the kitchen cabinets.
I'm IN LOVE with the results.

Let's start with the bookshelf.
Here's what it looked like before it graciously accepted 2 coats of primer and 3 coats of Valspar's "du jour" paint.

It was dark, ugly, and just stood there looking heavy.

After a couple coats of primer, it was already looking a heck of a lot better, and much slimmer.

And after 3 coats of paint, it was looking pretty darn good.  Such a difference, right?

Ok, side note.  Genius me thought masking tape would do just fine as a substitute for blue painter's tape.  I was completely wrong.  I would have bought painter's tape if Hobby Lobby had any.  We had taken a walk over there last week solely for the purpose of buying some.  Lowe's isn't within walking distance, well, not within a safe walking distance, otherwise we would have just gone there instead.  (This town has no crosswalks or sidewalks.)  Anyways, long story short, my point is: don't use masking tape in place of painter's tape.  Spend the extra $5, or whatever it is, and get the good stuff, otherwise you'll end up with the same headache that I had as I pulled/scraped/cursed the tape away from the wall.  What should have taken me 30 seconds took me 20 minutes.

Not only did I have to go back and touch up where the masking tape failed, but I had to do some caulking around the molding of the bookshelf.
Call me strange, but I like to caulk.

With the painting and caulking done, and out of the way, all I had to do was wait on the decorative (wrapping) paper that I had ordered for the back of the bookshelf.  It arrived yesterday - I might have done a little happy dance when it got here (days earlier than expected).  I (patiently) waited until Callan was playing nicely by himself in his toy corner to cut the paper to size and to apply it with some spray adhesive.

I really love the way it looks.
It's subtle, but dramatic.

I had to snap these pictures last night, hence the poor lighting, because I just couldn't wait until morning to accessorize.
Looks pretty spiffy, right?  I'm uber pleased.

So here is what it looks like this morning, all dressed up with a few of my favorite things.

I just love the dimension that the paper adds to the bookshelf.
I don't think I could be happier with the results.

I'll be back in a bit to share my other finished project!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

primer, paint, and paper

My parents hooked us up with some pretty generous Lowe's gift cards for Christmas, so as soon as we were unpacked from our trip, we headed over to pick up some project supplies.  

I tend to get so excited about my projects that I want to start all of them at the same time, so here's what's on my plate right now.  

The main attraction is finally getting around to refinishing the kitchen cabinets, but, I guess you can say, this bookshelf in the living room is my warm-up project.

The body of it is primed, I'm just finishing up the doors, then I can slap on a few coats of Valspar's "du jour" and add a little graphic interest with this fabulous paper by Elum Designs.


While the doors are waiting, patiently, on the counter for some more nap-time painting, Callan enjoys climbing in and out of the open, empty cabinet.  Such a boy.

 LOVE him.

And since the primer is out, this patch that has been sitting paint-less for months, will now get primed and painted.  I will be so happy when that blaring white spackle patch disappears into the wall.

I also found this ampersand on and fell in love.  It's on the smaller side, though, and I want a giant one, so I'm going to try my hand at making my own.  I have a {nearly} 24"x29" pattern, a 2'x4' sheet of 3/4" birch plywood, and a jigsaw that are ready for action.  Wish me luck.  ;)


So, I guess 2012 has me gung-ho on house upgrades and improvements.
My list is pretty long - I'm hoping for a productive year.
Any big {or small} projects on your list that you're hoping to cross off soon?
I think crossing projects off the to-do list is the best part of the process.  ;)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Years in Jersey

On New Year's Eve, we headed east to visit my family in New Jersey for a week.  This was the first time we flew together, as a little family of 3.  Flying is a headache and a blessing.  Depending on the moment, it can be more one than the other.  Thankfully, all went smoothly and Callan was a great, little traveler.

We rang in the new year with my parents, sister, brother-in-law, and niece.  I'm surprised we actually made it to midnight.  We were exhausted from little sleep and a full morning of travel.

Since we weren't together for Christmas, on New Year's day, we all gathered around the table for our family's traditional Christmas Eve dinner.  I love Christmas with my family.

After dinner, we moved into the family room for pictures and presents with the kids.  I can't even tell you how much fun it is to watch our kids play and interact with each other - my heart could have exploded it was so full.

My mom picked up matching Christmas pj's for Callan and Erin.  

Kind of reminiscent of these days...{that's me and my sister way back when.}

On Monday, Travis and my bro-in-law headed to a local brewery to enjoy some guy time while my sister and I hung back at their house with the kiddos.  We really wish we could spend more days like that together.  It's the 1500 miles between us that pose a problem.

Oh, ya know...just having a little tea party.  

Callan made himself at home by climbing into Erin's toy basket and finding a book to read.

They are quite the armful!

Brother-in-law with the kids.  

On Tuesday, we took a road trip out to Pennsylvania to visit my grandparents.  Of course I forgot to get a picture of Callan with them, but they got such a kick out of watching Callan walk around and be the active, button pushing, curious, little boy that he is.

Every time we are in NJ, we have to pay a visit to the Christmas Tree Shop and Ikea.  It's a MUST.

We would have bought this too adorable rocking moose for Callan if we knew we could get it home safely.  Sadly, it stayed at Ikea for another little girl or boy to take home.  But how cute does he look taking it out for a test ride?

We drank {more than} our fair share of Dunkin' Donuts coffee.

Callan colored, for the first time.

He tickled a few ivories.

We cherished moments.

We had such a full visit, but we managed to squeeze in a little tiling project.  My dad and I spent the majority of Friday tiling their kitchen backsplash.

This was my first time tiling.  I've always been intimidated by the process, but now I'm an old pro.  ;)
It's not difficult, just time consuming.  My dad and I make a great tiling team.  We finished the grouting process late Friday night, but it was so nice to wake up to a finished product.  So nice.

It's always hard leaving my parents, but we enjoyed some beautiful weather outside before we had to load up the car and head to the airport.  

We always love our time spent in Jersey with my family.
We love the memories we make together.
I love them to pieces and miss them every day!
Hopefully, one day, we'll live closer.