Archive for April, 2011
What are we having for dinner this week?
Sunday- chicken, spinach and potato bake
Monday- pulled pork popovers (I have some leftover pulled pork in the freezer- I just wrap a spoon full of pork in a crescent roll and bake)
Tuesday- shepherd’s pie
Wednesday- chicken and rice soup
Thursday- 7 layer dip and burritos (it’s cinco de Mayo!)
Friday- popcorn shrimp
Saturday- cheesy beef stroganoff
As usual, things got moved around last week- we had an abundance of leftovers, so Tuesday was leftover night. Chris had an overnighter with his 6th graders which he “forgot” to put on the calendar, so the kids and I had pizza at a friend’s house on Wed. The burgers were bumped to Thursday and cheesy beef stroganoff got bumped to this week. This is the beauty of putting meals on google calendar- when I decide to make a change I just drag the meal to a new day- so easy!
The more I think about it, the more I realize my mom really played up all of the holidays (thanks mom!) for us when we were kids. When I think of celebrating Easter I remember a wearing a new dress and maybe a hat and gloves to church. The handpainted chicks lined up on the mantel- one for each of us. Dying eggs and the smell of vinegar. A basket brimming with candy and trinkets. Singing Christ the Lord is Risen Today and Up from the Grave He Arose. And bunny cake.
Every year my mom made a bunny cake. Covered in frosting and candy it was a kids dream. (Now that I’ve made one I realize it’s really a parent’s dream- there is so much leftover candy!) This year we decided that the kids are old enough to appreciate their first bunny cake. I was nominated to produce said bunny cake. This is a big step up from my usual 9×13 cake frosted in the pan. I did manage to produce 6 undercooked blueberry zucchini breads this fall and to explode an egg nog cake in the oven on Christmas Eve, so I was a little worried, but decided to give it a try.
During nap time I made a cake mix (using the high altitude directions!) in two 8″ round cake pans. When the cakes were cool I turned the first one onto a foil covered jelly roll and cut it into three pieces for the ears and tie. Then I placed the other cake in the center for the face and voila! A bunny cake!
When JT got up I let him help me decorate the bunny- twizzler pull aparts for the outline of the ears and tie and for the whiskers and mouth and eye brows. Flower sprinkles filled in the tie while red sugar sprinkles filled in the ears. I used peanut butter egg shaped m&ms for the eyes and nose. Then I decided we didn’t have enough candy on the cake and outlined the face in m&ms and added one inside of the mouth.
While I wouldn’t enter this cake in any cake decorating contests, for our family it turned out just fine!
A few things to keep in mind if you decide to try it… one can of frosting really isn’t enough. The cut edges are really crumbly and the coverage all over was pretty sparse with just one can. Also, I made our cake the day before, but the candy was pretty sad looking by the next day. Since you really want fresh frosting to help glue the candy on I think next time I’ll make the cake the day before but decorate it the same day we’ll be eating it.
I hope you enjoyed a wonderful Easter filled with chocolate and eggs and the hope of our resurrected Lord!
What are we having for dinner this week?
Sunday- Easter dinner at my brother’s- we’re bringing bunny cake!
Monday- broccoli rice casserole
Wednesday- chicken and rice soup
Thursday- cheesy beef stroganoff
Friday- girls night- dad and the kids are on their own!
Saturday- birthday party for a friend
I also need to tell ya, I finally gave up on the ham and been crockpot. I don’t know why, but it just wasn’t happening. I ended up making a super yummy ham and potato chowder last Wednesday. Even Kate ate two servings of it! And I pushed the hamburgers to this week because I ended up making lasagna on Saturday. Cause I’m flexible like that!
I found this recipe in the Feb/March issue of Taste of Home. I actually cooked it according to the directions with no changes if you can believe that!
8 oz angel hair pasta
1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 can chicken broth (divided)
2 TBS lemon juice
1 tsp basil (I used basil from one of those tubes from the produce section)
2 tsp cornstarch
4 cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup feta cheese
Cook pasta according to package directions.
While pasta is cooking saute shrimp in oil until pink. Add garlic, salt and pepper and cook 1 minute longer. Set aside.
In same skillet heat 1 cup broth, lemon juice and basil. In a small bowl combine cornstarch and remaining broth- stir until smooth then add to the pan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Add spinach and shrimp; cook until spinach is wilted. Drain pasta and mix with shrimp mixture. Serve with feta cheese and more basil.
Tuesday night I went grocery shopping. While I was checking out I noticed the lady next to me had a cute purse. I kept eyeballing it. Surreptitiously, since she didn’t look all that friendly and the man with her looked even less friendly. But glimpses out of the corner of my eye just weren’t gonna do it. I needed details. So I turned and asked her, “Did you make your purse?” And she lit up- “Yes I did!” ”Do you mind if I get a closer look?” I asked. ”I love it and would like to see how you did it.” She was happy to show off her creation- showing me how she lined it in such a way as to make it reversible and pointing out a few of it’s details.
I got home, unloaded the perishables and made a beeline up to my sewing room. So what if it was 9:30 on a work night… I had a purse to make!
I had a pair of jeans with a small rip (you can actually see it in the pictures up near one of the belt loops) that I sacrificed for the cause. I cut off the legs right at the inseam and sewed a line straight across the bottom (I did a straight stitch and then I did a zig zag that went over the edge to help prevent fraying). Then I rummaged through my fabric stash and came across a two pack of handkerchiefs I had purchased about 6 months ago at the dollar store. I held one up to check the size and realized I wouldn’t even have to trim it- I was able to just sew up the two sides and had the perfect fit for the lining. I folded the top of the lining in and sewed it on- I just decided to go with a top stitch to make it easy on myself (and it’s not like I’m selling it- my sewing is terrible, but it’s good enough for me!).
I had originally planned to use a belt for my strap, but since I had a second handkerchief in a coordinating color I decided to try that first. I cut it in half, rolled each piece up and tied them together. Then I just tied each of the ends onto a belt loop! (I also tried threading the strap through the belt loops thinking it would cinch the bag closed and I could grab the opposite sides for two shorter handles but I wasn’t as happy with that look.)
As I started playing with it I realized that I actually preferred the purse with the floral side out and the denim side in. It’s a little dressier that way and it puts the pockets on the inside. I’m still not thrilled with the way the bag gapes open. Right now I’m using a hair band around the button and the opposing belt loop, but I’m still rolling ideas around my brain to see if I can come up with something better.
For some finishing touches I sewed a piece of grosgrain ribbon over the label (St. John’s Bay doesn’t have the same appeal as a GAP logo might have had) and pinned on a denim flower I made several months ago.
An hour and $1 later I’m pretty pleased with my new purse… hooray!
I mentioned a few weeks ago that my hubs and I enjoy fixing up and personalizing our home. I thought it would be fun to show you some of the projects we’ve done over the years, and I thought I should start with our California house on Lily Ave. We were fortunate to find a small fixer upper in the Bay Area that we could (sort of) afford as it’s one of the most expensive places in the country to live. Though it was only 1150 square feet, it felt roomy and had a good interior layout. One of it’s biggest selling features was it’s location across the street from a 20 acre cornfield! Yes, right in the middle of the Silicon Valley there was still a hold out agricultural property! It was unfortunate that our house had zero curb appeal and was in desperate need of some TLC (and had iffy schools, exorbitant property taxes, sketchy neighbors, a view of a major expressway, etc).
Lovely Irish green trim, overgrown bushes that aren’t centered, cement pavers bordering the grass- that’s nothing! What we have here, people, is a faux front wall in front of a carport- constructed of painted yellow plywood (but only facing the street- just plywood color as you’re leaving!). With two doors installed in it. Even though it’s open on the side. Classy. And that huge antenna? They just strapped it to the chimney (so unsafe!), dropped the cable down the front of the house and drilled a hole into the living room. To weather proof the hole they stuck an old used plastic pot on the front of the house with an entire tube of silicone caulk. Right there by our fake front door. I kid you not.
As you walk in along the carport you come to this space by the real front door- a covered deck area. Complete with plastic corrugated roofing and a handmade plant shelf (with uneven scallops) brimming with fake flowers. And a spigot. And termites in the deck coated in nasty gummy stain. And storage for every scrap of wood leftover from every project ever attempted hanging from the roof of the carport and along the side of the house (Perfect for all the birds and other critters who need a home.). Plus a mail slot in the door so the mail ends up in a pile on the floor of the garage. And the real garage door that actually opens into the garage. And a downspout that’s angled across it to the side of the house. And see how everything is open along the side even though there is a front “wall”? Just so strange. And tacky. And horrible, really.
Just in case you weren’t counting, that’s 3 potential front doors for guests to choose from. They had to be brave enough to open the door into the carport- not knowing if they should knock or just barge on in, continue along the driveway, ignore the door for the garage (even though it was straight ahead, stuck out like a sore thumb, and had a mail slot) and go up onto the porch area to find the front door.
In the backyard we had two (different) corrugated overhangs built with random pieces of wood, plastic and tin- and rickety as all get out! The fences were literally falling down along both sides of the property. And painted several different shades of white. All knot holes were covered with cut up tin cans with rusty streaks from the nails.
The view from our master bedroom into the back yard. We’re not sure what they designed this area for. It was an area of red lava rock with a landing pad of unmatched cement pavers and bricks that took up about 1/3 of our potential lawn area. With built in wooden benches that had rotted away to almost nothing but splinters and rusty nails (you can see the bench on the left is missing it’s seat altogether!). Was it an area for a hot tub? There was no electricity and who would want to walk across lava rock to hop in? It’s another mystery.
Now I want you to see what we had to work with inside the house. In the living room we were treated to a dirty builders grade brick fireplace with ancient brass doors to match the ceiling fan. The tile on the hearth was ugly brown and cracked and uneven. (Though they did leave us that mirror- to cover an unpainted spot on the wall. I love it and it now hangs in our current bedroom!) A dog had chewed up the window sill.
Ahhhh, the kitchen. With a wood framed flourecent light fixture and hand painted Irish tiles on the back splash. Our best guess is a previous owner’s children painted them to demonstrate their Irish pride. We had a castle, a flag and a shamrock to contend with. Not to mention the grout which is actually white on the countertops though at first we thought it was dark brown. The second picture is the view from the kitchen into the dining room. We had several of these solar tubes throughout the house- they added so much light and really brightened the house up. It’s too bad some of them were placed in odd spots- like this one.
I would like to interject here that this kitchen was one of my favorite parts of this house. It had a huge range with 5 burners and an oversized oven, tons and tons of storage and great views of the field. But it did lack one important feature found in most kitchens. A silverware drawer! Yes, that’s right people. There was no drawer for our silverware! I have always been curious about what the previous occupants did with their utensils. We created a sliding holder inside one of the deep drawers so we could easily slide the silverware holder out of the way and access the cooking utensils underneath. We went ahead and left it for the next owners so they wouldn’t have to come up with their own solution!
The Irish pride extended to both bathrooms. Yes, those are bright green tiles randomly scattered across the walls. And yes, that grout on the floor is also supposed to be white. And it’s hard to tell, but both the medicine cabinet and the light fixture project 6 inches or so off the wall- they had to build out the light fixture because of the medicine cabinet. Rink. Y. Dink. Oh, and the vanity is made of paperboard or something and is totally disintegrating over on the tub side from the moisture. They also did a terrible job cutting out for the outlet- I wish you could see it better in the photo.
And finally, the master bath. So spacious! So luxurious! It’s like a spa! Or not. More Irish tile. Frilly curtains. Plastic towel bar and cup holder. Hollywood light bar. It’s so tiny your knees could hit the wall while you sat on the toilet and it required a pocket door. And see the nice job they did cutting the tile for the outlet again? Geez. One fun thing we discovered during the home inspection- the shower drain wasn’t connected. You would never know it from inside, but the water was draining straight into the dirt under the house. Yup. Really. We went ahead and had that fixed.
Every door in the house had been scratched excessively by a very large dog. Probably the same dog who ate the window sill in the living room. The doors also had old brass hardware in terrible shape- you know how it gets dull and greenish and dented? All of the door and window trim in the house was painted the color of the walls and ceiling rather than a contrasting color. It was so weird and murky inside with no contrast anywhere.
So, we wasted no time and went right to work!
Before we moved in we rallied the troops and painted the entire interior. We got my dad, Bill and Daniel to help paint during the day, while Chris and I painted long into the night after work each evening. That red wall took 7 coats of paint and primer! (The street in front of my parents house also got a nice red coat when we dropped one of the paint cans from the trunk- oops!) Good bye dirty (really really dirty) off white paint on every surface! Hello bright new colors in every room and white ceilings and trim throughout!
The master bedroom, the yellow room (notice the new white paneled doors and glass knobs- since there were only 5 interior doors in the entire house we just went ahead and replaced them) and the blue room. The blue room is the only room in the house we didn’t paint- we just ran out of steam at the end. We had Bill paint some clouds on the ceiling and called it good.
We installed a new light fixture and used small appliances to carefully hide all of the “fancy” tiles in the kitchen after bleaching the grout. I couldn’t find a good after picture with the walls painted, but it was a great color called peanut butter which you can see in the second picture where I’m painting the ceiling. In the dining room, all of those coats of paint turned out great and were well worth it! The mirror is the one left on the mantel by the previous owners- doesn’t it look good? We brought my chandelier from my old condo and rehung it here (drat!, the shades are crooked in this pic). Also, notice the great views of the field across the street.
Ugly stained brick fireplace- be gone! We bought granite (online) and installed a new hearth and resurfaced the face of the brick, then we installed a custom fireplace surround (also purchased online) and painted it bright white. A new set of doors and we were so pleased with the result! This is also a great shot of the main interior color. A nice warm tan- almost a little fleshy in hue. Such a great contrast with the white trim.
In the main bathroom I scrubbed, scrubbed and scrubbed some more! Then we replaced the vanity, medicine cabinet and light fixture. A shower curtain and the towels hid most of the green tile and the shower doors. I am so bummed we don’t have a picture after painting, but I choose the same peanut butter color that I used in the kitchen. I also think it’s amazing how updating the towel bars can make such a difference and it’s so easy to do. When we replaced this door we had to change out the whole door frame. It looked like at one point the door had swung the other way- which means it used to swing out into the hall. Have you ever seen a bathroom where the door swings out? Me neither. Someone had done a crummy job filling the old holes and everything was out of square and it was just easier to start over with this one.
In the master bath I also scrubbed grout for ages and we replaced the light (raising it 5″ or so and shifting it to the right- making an effort to center it over the sink- unlike the previous installation) and towel bars and painted the room this great green color. Just before we moved we had the vanity and mirror replaced by the stagers to make the room look bigger even though it reduced the room’s storage significantly. It turned out almost spa-like, if I do say so myself.
In the backyard we hauled a zillion loads of red rock and pavers out and extended the sprinkler system to cover the back corner. These pictures also show off the new fence we had installed and the Japanese Maple we planted. Some of the plants along the fence were transplanted from the front yard when we re-landscaped up there and some were new. We also had friends help us remove the overhangs from the back of the house. More sun, but less ugly!
In the 1st picture you can see how we ripped off the plywood faux front, removed the antenna and it’s plastic flower pot, added bold street numbers, changed the fence line and added a small patio off the dining room when the new fences were installed. I spent 2 summer vacations ripping out bushes, laying a brick path up to the gate from the curb and changing the shape of the flower beds along the front of the house to curve along the new patio. I loved the profusion of color with the hydrangeas (so hard to see, but they’re against the house) and impatiens. I also removed all of the pavers along the sidewalk, extended the sprinklers and planted more flowers there.
In the second picture you can see the difference painting the gutters and shutters made! I loved the look of the yellow and black- no more kelly green! You can see the hydrangeas and the small tree we planted in this shot, but nothing is really in bloom and this is after the stagers planted oversize pokey plants right along the sidewalk where I had flowers. I don’t understand that at all! You can also see that I painted the door into the garage yellow to help it blend into the house and remove confusion about where to go and I added a cute black mailbox so we didn’t have to go into the garage to get it every day.
This picture shows off our brick path- our next door neighbor had completely bricked his driveway, porch area and a good portion of his side yard with free recycled bricks. We had piles of his extra bricks sitting around randomly on our property and when I mentioned the project I had in mind he offered more off the pile he still had in his yard if I didn’t have enough. It’s not in any of the pictures, but we had a palm tree removed from this front corner of the yard- it had pokey palm fronds right at eye level- threatening any who dared to walk past on the sidewalk!
The patio deck was power washed to remove the gummy stain and refinished, a lemon tree and a fountain hide the spigot, the flower ledge has been removed, the green trim is painted white, and the jankety screen door was replaced with a roll up disappearing screen (love these!). This photo is after the stagers added flowers and a rug when the house was on the market. Barely visible in the upper left corner of the picture is one of the new porch lights. They’re black and have built in motion sensors- LOVE!
We owned the house on Lily for almost exactly 3 years. I think we accomplished a lot during that time, especially considering that the 1st six months we owned the place Chris lived half an hour away and we were planning our wedding! Since many of these projects were simple painting or manual labor I haven’t gone into much detail, but if there’s anything you’re curious about please ask. I may eventually write a post about the fireplace redo since that was more involved and I am so pleased with the difference it made in the room.
I had so much fun looking through all of the old pictures and reminiscing about the first years of our marriage. I’m not sure how we got so much done during those years. It was obviously before kids!
What are we having for dinner this week?
Monday- chicken teriyaki stir fry
Tuesday- Mediterranean shrimp skillet
Wednesday- ham and beans crockpot (I know! This one’s been on here for weeks and keeps getting pushed back!)
Thursday- sausage hashbrown frittata
Friday- game night with friends- dinner TBA
Recently I challenged my husband that instead of saying “I love you” we should try to find another way to show our love instead. It just seems too easy to throw out the words without following them up with actions sometimes. Anway, I was walking through Big Lots today and they had Peppermint Oreos for 75 cents (those things have a shelf life of about forever- they weren’t even near the expiration date!). Chris LOVES those Oreo truffles that have been making the rounds lately so I decided to make him a batch as a surprise.
At this point I should make the disclaimer that I hate making truffles. Despite the protests of the masses that “They are so simple!” and “You can whip up several batches in no time!” I have never found that to be the case. Years ago my sister and I experimented with chocolate truffles and we were miserable trying to get them to stick into a ball shape and cover them with chocolate. ”Never again!” we declared. Then for some odd reason we decided to make Bourbon balls one Christmas. Ha! Each one tasted like a shot of Bourbon. Nasty. Then I decided to make my mom’s famous Peanut Butter Bon Bons one year for a cookie exchange. I don’t know what I did wrong, but trying to shape these balls with crunchy peanut butter and rice krispies was torture! My hands hurt so badly from being poked and scraped by the krispies. No kidding. I let my mom and sister in law make these now.
Last Christmas one of Chris’ students gave him some Oreo Truffles as a gift. YUM! She gave us her recipe- and I quote- 1 package of oreos, 1 package of cream cheese. Blend in food processor. Form into balls. Dip into chocolate. Easy Peasy! I figured that if a 7th grader could do it then so could I! This Christmas I bought all of the ingredients and started making a batch, but somehow during the actual making of the truffles I got pulled away from the kitchen (hmmmm… perhaps it was my toddler or my baby?) and my sister and sister in law took over. I don’t think I made it past the crushing of the Oreos. I have no idea what transpired in that kitchen, but I do know that not too long later we had a beautiful tray of perfectly shaped truffles to enjoy and neither of them complained to me about making them.
So here I am in April and I decided to whip up a batch at 8 o’clock at night. No problem, I thought.
I mixed up the oreos and cream cheese and got a filling mixture the texture of frosting. Have you ever tried to shape frosting into a ball and then dip it into chocolate? Ya, it doesn’t work. I looked online and found suggestions- refrigerate the mixture before shaping it. Use a spoon and dip the ball into the chocolate.
Whatever people. This is what I got…
Have you ever seen anything so lovely? Hmmmm…
I’m just eating mine with that spoon.
Edited to say- Chris just came in from the other room and said “I know what the problem was! The package of peppermint Oreos was smaller than a package of regular Oreos so the ratio was wrong!” I think he’s right. But he’s still going to have to hope a 7th grader to make them for him again some day. Or maybe one of his sisters in law?
We had a yummy orange beef for dinner the other night. Seriously yummy. I adapted this from a recipe on cooks.com. When I make this again I think I’m going to substitute Splenda for the sugar, but otherwise- super yum. Can you tell we enjoyed this? I just said yum or yummy 3 times!
1.5 pounds cubed beef
Flour for dredging
2 TBS oil
Salt and pepper
1 TBS oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup Teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup Soy sauce
1 TBS flour or cornstarch
Juice of one orange
Zest of 1/2 orange
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 can bamboo shoots
2 cups veggies- I used green beans and carrots, but you can use what you like and have on hand!
Pepper to taste
Dredge the beef in flour, season to taste and cook in oil. Remove beef from pan.
Add more oil to pan and saute garlic. Add flour and continue stirring until cooked. Stir in sauces, juice, zest and sugar. Continue stirring until sauce comes to a boil. Add veggies and continue cooking until sauce thickens and veggies are starting to soften. Return meat to the pan and heat through before serving over rice.
Hooray! Kristin, you won a $15 gift card to Solid Grounds! I’m looking forward to hanging out with you at Bunco Night! Thanks for buying your ticket ahead of time. If anyone else is still interested tickets are available up to the time of the event. Just let me know! There will be some awesome prizes that you don’t want to miss.
I thought I was overdue to tell you about some of the funny things JT has said lately. I love that kid.
Singing “It’s a big big house, with muffin muffin room”
To mama “You’re not in charge of me! I’m in charge of me!”
Out of the blue one day… “Some days we go Home Depot.” in a longing voice
Pretzels = Prencils
JT asked me the same question dozens of times. After the first time or two I answered with the same answer “What did I already say?” Finally JT got exasperated and said “Stop repeating yourself mommy!”
Dessert = Messert
Today we went to see the animals at the Littleton Historical Museum. On the drive there JT was confused. ”Is it the zoo?” ”No, but we’ll see animals like at the zoo.” ”Are we going inside a store?” ”No, but we have to go inside before we can go back outside.” Later he told daddy “We went to the animal store!”
JT wanted to know who was going to be there and asked “Whobody be there?”
We recently had dinner with our church’s worship pastor and his wife. JT saw Greg and said “It’s the guitar man!” Then he noticed Greg’s wife and said “It’s the flute man!” It was like we were dining with celebrities!
OH! and I don’t think he has any idea what it spells, but he can now sing “M O M M Y needs C O F F E E!” So funny. (PS- I love this song, if you haven’t heard it look it up on you tube- it’s called the Coffee Song by Ralph’s World.)
This is just such a fun age- I sure do enjoy him!
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