Monday, September 30, 2013

Birthday Wish List

My birthday is next month, and I'm not concerned about being a year older because I still look 12-15ish, and I've experienced lots of wonderful things for someone my age.

I've been to Europe thrice (and would go back tomorrow if someone sprung for tickets for Husband and me), married my first true love who just so happened to be my prom date, earned a Master's degree, bought a house that I am turning into a home, and fallen into a career in which I am successful and appreciated by my boss. Phew, I'm tired just reading about all that stuff.

Anyway, now that we've established that I am not having an existential crisis about getting older, we can move on to the beauty of birthdays: the people I love the most focus on making my day, and I can look forward to receiving best wishes, gifts, and cards.

In case you are looking for a gift to give someone a whole lot like me (young, married, bookworm who likes to cook and look put together while being comfortable), I am here to help you.

{one} Husband got me some three-wick candles and soap covers from Bath & Body Works for Christmas, and I would love to replace/add to my current collection.
I got this one for Christmas, and I used it up in our new house. It made home improvement projects less stressful, or at least less smelly.

They have pumpkin and leaf soap cover patterns and delicious-smelling candles for fall, and they usually have great sales when you can stock up on the scents you like.

I recently discovered PicMonkey. Where have I been for the past three years? This is awesome!

{two} TOMS shoes were all the rage at my small Christian college, but I never jumped on the bandwagon, even though I like the idea behind them: buy a pair and they'll give a pair to a kid in need. Now that I don't have to wear work shoes every day, I'm thinking I might like to have a new pair of casual shoes, and I'm interested in helping kids not go barefooted.

{three} I've had my eye on a Rachael Ray pasta pot for quite a while, and this blue one is beautiful and functional. I'm envious of how she just drops whole pieces of spaghetti into the pot whole.

{four} As I've mentioned before, I love LOFT, and I would love to freshen up my wardrobe with a few new pieces to wear around Thanksgiving and Christmas. I'm also a fan of GAP and J. Crew.

I also appreciate gift cards to Amazon (to restock my Kindle) and restaurants because when we eat out, there are no dishes to wash. :)

Happy early birthday to me, and happy shopping to all!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Five on Friday (Rugs for the Breakfast Nook)

For Five on Friday with Darci, April, Christina, and Natasha today, I have five related things (rugs, to be exact) that are inspiring me in my search for an area rug.

I mentioned in the post about our breakfast area that I'm looking for a rug to put under the table to replace the big-box-store area rug I bought for $25 in college. It got paint and other nastiness on it during the renovation or it would still be in use in our home.

But, I am too classy to keep a paint-stained rug forever, so I am rug shopping and hoping for some birthday money to pick up something a bit more pricy than my college self would have chosen. I will probably end up at HomeGoods or Tuesday Morning, but here are a few "inspiration" pieces that will inform what I look for at the discount stores.

{one} Moroccan Trellis Rug
{two} Honeycomb Rug
{three}Turquoise Rug
{four}Kilim Rug
{five} Target Rug

Obviously, I'm looking for a simple geometric pattern and color galore. I'll be sure to let you know what I wind up deciding on and how it fits into the breakfast area. Don't you love option four? If money grew on trees, hopefully I would choose to feed widows and orphans, but if I had any left over, I would buy that rug in a heartbeat. Happy (rug) hunting, and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Home Tour: Breakfast Nook

Welcome to our breakfast nook. It was horrendous in all its mid-90s floral wallpapered and lineoleum-ed glory, but I think we cleaned it up nice. With lots of help, I stripped the wallpaper (which took down part of the sheetrock), patched, sanded, textured, and then painted this little area. During the reno, it didn't seem like such a little area. We then paid a crew to install our new marble-looking tile in this room and the kitchen.
The light fixture was a gift from a dear friend/co-worker who bought it on clearance, decided not to use it, and then gave it to me for free. The huge windows provide tons of light, and so far I have managed to not kill our plants in spite of my sporadic watering schedule.

The drawer/hook cabinet was purchased in Round Top on the first annual (I sincerely hope) sister-in-law antique shopping trip. The table was purchased off Craigslist, and we're mixing and matching our dining chairs, so the Ikea and folding chairs ended up in here for now. The place mats were a wedding gift from my aunt from Crate and Barrel. (Love their stuff.) And, the doors in the background open up to the laundry room, which will more than likely not be part of the home tour. :)

close up of the awesome shelving unit

This area also usually contains our clothes drying rack and a pile of Bibles, church bulletins, receipts, and random junk on the table, but I cleaned it up just for you. The back door is our main entrance/exit in the house, so a lot of stuff collects in this area, but I'm trying to keep it clean until our friends come over for dinner on Saturday.
I'd like to add a colorful rug under the table. I'll gather a sampling to show you what I'm looking for later this week. Maybe with a little birthday money and a lot of bargain shopping, I'll be posting an update of the new rug in there soon.

Happy hump day!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Meal Planning for Two

This is what my refrigerator door looks like these days. I crave simplicity and organization, so all the pictures got moved to our magnetic chalkboard wall and the other extraneous stuff got moved to the side of the fridge. Any other Type As out there who know what I mean?

In the interest of simplification, I have been trying to come up with a meal planning system that works for us. Planning out the upcoming week on Friday and then shopping over the weekend or on Monday has been good so far. Talk to me in a month, and we'll see what the system looks like then.

We've also adopted theme nights to make my brainstorming sessions less painful. We eat a lot of Italian and Mexican food (well, Tex Mex, really, but you get the idea), so Tuesday and Thursday are international nights.

We will eat Italian food (typically some type of pasta) on Tuesday. And then some type of Tex Mex (tacos, fajitas, enchiladas) on Thursday. Or vice versa. That way the days when I work require the least thought and prep time.

Mondays and Fridays are free days when I try out new recipes that have caught my eye or classics like poppy seed chicken, pizza, soup, or anything that's reasonably healthy and sounds good to me on Friday.

Wednesday nights are Chick-fil-A or cereal because we go to church, so we eat fast food before or cereal at home right before bed. Just keeping it real, y'all.

At our previous church, one of the little girls I taught on Wednesday night asked her mom if we ever ate anything but Chick-fil-A. That was a proud moment for me as a young wife/homemaker. Not.

Weekends are also up for grabs. We usually eat out at least one meal, and I try to plan at least one new meal. Otherwise, there are leftovers to be consumed before we start all over. :)

BBQ turkey sausage and broccoli rice cups
Flexibility is key to this working while maintaining my sanity. For example, last week I had planned to make broccoli rice cups and sautéed BBQ turkey sausage on Monday, but I didn't realize we didn't have any rice. Fail. So we totally rearranged the week's meals and that one didn't happen until Thursday when I had time/motivation to run to the grocery store.

Don't worry. We still ate well all week, just not each meal on the night I had originally planned. (Links are provided for recipes scavenged from the inter-webs.)

{Monday} ravioli with zucchini
{Tuesday} fajitas
{Wednesday} off
{Thursday} BBQ sausage with broccoli rice cups (I used brown rice and fresh broccoli, and they were delicious.)
{Friday} baked pasta and squash casserole with friends

 Yum...leftovers mean I can put a hodge podge assortment of deliciousness from all the meals on one plate.

This whole process is still a work in progress, but I have our meals for this week planned, and the groceries have been purchased, so we shall see what gets eaten when.

Happy planning, cooking, and eating this week!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Happy Friday!

Happy Friday! Let's dive right in to my assorted list of randomness, shall we?

{one} Thanks for the great response on facebook to our guest room. If you didn't get a chance to see it yesterday, please stop by for your personal tour today, and then come back and bring your friends.

{two} It's raining (such a blessing for the parched-ness around here), and I can hear it on our skylight in the kitchen. It makes me want to curl up and finish reading the seventh Harry Potter book. Right after I do the dishes and start a load of laundry. And make a grocery list. Oh, well. To keep it in perspective I'm at home and don't have to get out in the rain, and I have time to do all that stuff since I don't have to show my face at the office today. Have I mentioned that I'm loving this part-time employment thing?
{three} I started using Origins skin care stuff in January, and I love the smells of the natural ingredients and how soft my skin feels. My face wash smells like licorice, and this lotion is the only kind I've tried that doesn't make my face feel greasy and heavy within an hour (which is quite the feat considering the humidity around here has a pea-soup consistency some days). I ran out of the organic toner I was using, and they discontinued it, so I'm testing two new toners right now, and I think this one will be added to my bathroom counter soon.
{four} My birthday (and Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas) is/are fast approaching, and I have my eye on a few things. My mom is always great at gift-giving, and she takes requests (read: demands a detailed list so that the receiver is assured to LOVE their present), so I have the blessing of gathering up some wants that I would never buy for myself and some that I would if I weren't so stingy/they fit into our budget. :) Anything from LOFT, where I shop the sale rack, and some birthday money for a few ideas I have brewing to update our master bedroom are at the top of my current wish list.
Doesn't she just look so happy with her perfectly tousled wavy hair blowing in the wind? It must be that adorable lace top. That would make me happy, too.

{five} We're having dinner with dear friends tonight, and after some playtime with their two-year-old (who used to call me Nor-neen, which has morphed into Dor-dan...melt my heart), the Husbands will arrange music for a church program, and the Wives are planning to veg on the couch and watch a movie. Sounds like a deal to me!

Have a wonderful weekend, y'all!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Home Tour: Guest Room

Well, I asked if you'd like to see what I've done with the rooms in our house, and my grandmother answered with a resounding yes. I'm not sure if the rest of you (assuming sometimes people other than my grandmother read this blog) want to see our home, but when you don't speak up, you have to suffer the consequences. Prepare yourself for photo overload, and remember that I have never claimed to be a photographer. Although, I did use a real-life camera for these pictures rather than my iPhone, so you're welcome.

This is the view from the door. The bed is an antique from Husband's family, and the room has a huge bay window. There's tons of light in the room, and even though there are blackout curtains on the bottom half of the window, I haven't figured out an economical way to cover the top half-moon shape.

I scavenged the bedspread from my mom and the pillows from Husband's mom.

The artwork above the bed includes my map-canvas art and two pieces of original art-a watercolor I bought in Rome with the expert help of a dear friend who is a graphic designer and a limited edition print of Italian vistas created by the same wonderful friend.

The huge closet with double doors is to the left of the bed, and I framed some artsy postcards from my study abroad and from when Husband and I went to Europe last summer.
  We didn't paint the walls in here. We lucked out that they were in good shape and a neutral color.

On the wall opposite the bed is a dresser given to us by Husband's parents.

Are you sensing a theme? We're accepting donations (especially of furniture), and we've been incredibly blessed to receive so much furniture from friends and family. We moved from a one-bedroom apartment into a four-bedroom house, so we are thrilled to have hand-me-downs to make our house not feel empty, so that we don't feel any need to spend money we don't have to fill it up.

This lamp was also a gift from my in-laws. I replaced the shade with a lace-pattern shade from Tuesday Morning, and I love how vintage it feels.

We have tons of pictures of friends and family displayed on the dresser. If you don't see your face, come visit us, and we'll take pictures of the beautiful memories we make in the swampy humidity as we get eaten with mosquitoes and then add your face to one of the frames in here. No, really, come visit us. We have A/C and bug spray. It'll be great. :)

I put my steamer trunk next to the bed as a nightstand, and I switch out the pictures and books there depending on who is coming to visit us. Husband's old iPod and alarm clock live here along with a lamp we got as a wedding gift.
The hopefully subtle theme of the guest room is travel, with emphasis on European and vintage accent pieces.

We'd love for you to come see it in person (if we know you in real life) and stay with us for a few days. We're not currently accepting long-term guests, but as long as you can give us an ETD (estimated time of departure), we'll welcome you with open arms. :)

For any readers who I haven't met face-to-face, hopefully seeing our home is interesting enough on its own merit. I know I love seeing how other bloggers make their homes their own and all the great decorating ideas people come up with.

Most of my decor is determined by how thrifty I can be, but I'm enjoying making our new-to-us house into a home.

Drop by again tomorrow for Five on Friday, won't you?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Good Food Weekend

We ate well this weekend. We did other things well, too, but describing all of them would make for an extremely disjointed post, and I save those for Five on Friday. :)

First up, on Friday night I made homemade pizza. Crust and all from scratch. This is a time-intensive, labor of love, but it is so good. And eating leftover homemade pizza throughout the weekend is so much better than leftover delivery/takeout pizza. I've written about my favorite type of homemade pizza before, but Husband likes sauce on his pizza, and we added some more stuff this time to make it semi-healthier.

Enter fire-roasted tomato pizza sauce. This stuff was delicious, and it made it almost worth it to have sauce on my masterpiece. :) Disclaimer: I am not being compensated for anything I write on this blog at this time and so any recommendations are truly because I like that product or brand or whatever. I would like to be compensated for my opinion, so if you would like to send me stuff or money, please comment below. :)

In addition to my classic combination of sausage and sauteed zucchini, we added tomatoes and mushrooms. And then topped with lots of mozzarella cheese. And baked until it was all bubbly and gooey and delicious. Then we proceeded to eat lots of caesar salad and an entire pizza on Friday night. But, don't worry friends, my crust recipe makes enough for two pizzas, so we had leftovers.

On Saturday morning I tried a new recipe to make lemon poppyseed muffins (with very few poppy seeds because I ran out while making the muffins so that none of our friends would be accused of having an opiate addiction on the off chance that they had to take a drug test). They were delicious, and now that I have restocked my supply of poppy seeds, I just might make them again soon.

Then, on Saturday night Husband's parents took us out to dinner at Mimi's Cafe. We love that place, and it's one of the few restaurants where I always order something different, and it's always good. If you haven't been to Mimi's, drop what you're doing and make plans to go there ASAP (or when your budget and schedule allow).

Sunday was a hodge podge of leftovers, green smoothies, and appetizers turned into dinner from Farm Rich. We tried the mozzarella bites and fried pickles, and they were delicious. 

We're jumping back on the "we eat at home because it's good for our waistlines and wallets" bandwagon this week, and I have some exciting new recipes I'll be trying (thanks to fellow bloggers and Pinterest). I'll be sure to let you know if any of them are a success/worth sharing.

Happy eating, friends!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Five on Friday from Home

Well, hello out there. I'm joining in with Darci and her friends for Five on Friday again. It was so much fun last time that I'm back for more.

{one} Today completes my first week of working part-time, and it is wonderful. I'm typing this on Friday morning from my couch after sleeping in a bit. What an incredible blessing, and it made my time at work this week so much more productive and enjoyable! In related news, I'm getting a massage today! And I'm going to the dentist and doctor soon! And all these things are exciting because I have time to do them because I'm not stuck at a desk 40 hours a week.

{two} I've been trying to eat healthier, and this week was a total failure. Fast food, not once, but twice, and junky fast food at that. I'm not talking about a grilled chicken salad from Chick-Fil-A; I'm talking burger, fried chicken, and way too many fries. Anyway, this wouldn't be a problem if I had junky food intentionally, but it was not at all intentional; I just didn't plan ahead. So I'm trying to jump back on the health wagon with a green smoothie this afternoon. I've been using fresh spinach and frozen fruit instead of ice, and I haven't tried a bad recipe yet. I just use whatever fruit I have on hand and google a recipe because I'm one of those people who needs a recipe to get the proportions right.

{three} My sister-in-law, who I think is wonderful, made beer batter bread after reading my blog. My blog actually influenced someone to do something. I feel like I have arrived.

{four} I finished reading Anna Karenina, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. It was a massive investment of time, and I'm glad that I finished it, but the end kind of let me down. Now I'm re-reading the seventh Harry Potter book, party inspired by the big news that J.K. Rowling is reentering the world of wizards to write her first screenplay!

{five} I'm thinking about doing a home tour with pictures of where we are in changing the walls and flooring and decorating our house and some before-and-afters (when they exist). For friends and family who haven't graced our guest room yet, you can see what we've been up to since January. It would also be good motivation to clean and organize at least one room a week. :) What do you think?

Happy weekend, y'all!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Rustic Food

I made beer batter bread on Monday, and we're slowly but surely eating our way through it. I used this recipe, but instead of butter, I greased the loaf pan with macadamia oil and then poured it over the top of the dough before baking. It was so simple, something that I'm always looking for in the things I cook and just life in general.

The pot holder was a gift from Husband after one of his many music conferences. Musical jokes are the best.

So, last night for dinner, I poured a bit of macadamia oil in a skillet, sliced a hunk of beer bread with a hole in the middle, and then fried an egg in the center of the toast. It was so simple and so good. So good that I made another one just the same way. Bread, egg, salt, and pepper combined with the oil to make a deceptively delicious dinner. The bread got crispy and the fried egg stayed soft.

I've been making my morning tea with an honest-to-goodness tea kettle that whistles, and there's something life affirming in taking the extra step of boiling water on the stove. It helps me feel centered before I rush out the door to confront the traffic that inevitably piles up between me and my office. 

Don't get me wrong. I appreciate technology. Our Roomba (the best type of robot ever invented) vacuumed the living room while I went to work this morning, and I watch more than my share of TV.

But, when it comes to food, it's nice to get back to the basics every once in a while. Beer bread and eggs aren't visually pretty, but they taste so good. Food is meant to nourish, and keeping it simple right now nourishes my spirit.

On a slightly unrelated note, if you haven't ever crumbled a day-old piece of cornbread into a mug of cold milk, try it sometime. And then leave me a comment telling me how I changed your life. 

Keep it simple this week, y'all.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Monday Musings

Happy Monday! I am feeling blessed to be at home today, and I'm finding little bits of joy in doing stuff that has to be done. You know what I mean: the laundry, the dishes, vacuuming, and cleaning out the fridge.
It never looks this pretty. Maybe I need more aprons.

I know that so much of what makes those chores onerous is my attitude, but there's something so wonderful about not having to do all of this stuff over the weekend. Catching up on all the "have-tos" on a Saturday or Sunday after church felt like a burden. Partly because I love my Husband and when he's home, I want to be with him, not trudging through a mountain of dishes. Also, partly because I'm a selfish person who is jealously protective of my time (more so than I should be since the whole concept of owning time is questionable at best).

Anyway, waking up this morning to a list of stuff to do around the house and uninterrupted time to get it all done felt like a gift. I'm feeling exceptionally blessed to have an uninterrupted day to work at home before I head back to the office to work there tomorrow. I'm in a season of seeking that unattainable balance in my life between my job, my family, and my home, and I think God is telling me that if I just commit to having a better perspective, He can figure out how to make the hours in the week enough for me to do everything that really needs to be done.

I am by no means trying to preach to anyone about having a better attitude. Rather, I'm rejoicing that I've been undeservedly given this time to sit on my couch, reflect on how good God has been to me, and drink a mug of Earl Grey tea (with local honey and milk) as I listen to the rain.

Even though I know perfect balance is a myth, this morning has been a refreshing time to refocus and try to think about the blessings behind all the chores. If we didn't have a house, which is absolutely a gift from God and an answer to prayer, I wouldn't need to spend so much time cleaning.

If my Husband didn't have a job he loves where he minsters to teenagers for 12+ hours a day and sometimes works weekends, finding time together wouldn't be a challenge. But, he has a job he loves where he serves kids and does the work of God, and I now have more time during the week to do stuff at home so that our time together doesn't have to be filled with laundry.

If we hadn't been given a full set of dishes (and then some) for our wedding, there wouldn't be anything to fill up the sink. Or, if we would just get in the habit of rinsing and placing our dishes in the dishwasher as we made them dirty, they wouldn't pile up. But that's another challenge for another day.

I'm not sure how interested anyone might be in any of my ramblings today, but I needed to write out how good God is and what that goodness looks like in my life during this season. I'm sure there are days in my not-too-distant future when the laundry and dishes look like they have multiplied overnight and my heart will be grumpy about all our material blessings, but for today, I'm seeing God's mercy in the small things, and I figured that was worth writing about.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Autumn Mantle

I live in the hot, humid part of Texas. Yes, I know, what part of Texas isn't hot right now? I tell you this so that you will know that I have no practical need for a fireplace, but we have one, and it makes my heart happy. Why? Because it is attached to a mantle, and my decoration-organization crazed brain is chock full of mantle displays.

One of the first things I did when we took possession of our house was prop some pictures up on the mantle above our new fireplace. Mind you, this was while our living room was covered in drop cloths and every imaginable tool for removing wallpaper, tiling, and general home improvement was strewn across the floor. We didn't even live in the house yet because it was a construction zone, but there were pictures displayed on the mantle.

So, this mantle reveal is more than just another fall arrangement-it is my first, long dreamed about and finally realized seasonal mantle display. Enough drama. Here's how our mantle looks right now:

Sorry about the poor quality picture. Someday I'll get better at using a camera.
I spent a grand total of $3 at the dollar store for the pumpkin doilies, leaves on wire and burnt orange ribbon. I printed the subway art for free from this blog. Everything else was scavenged from my craft room and the assortment of stuff that hasn't yet found a permanent place in our home. Who am I kidding? None of our decor is safe from rearrangement. I don't like cleaning, but rearranging is my forte.
I made this book paper wreath mostly following Martha Stewart's directions here. However, I used a bent coat hanger instead of floral wire and made a complete circle instead of a horseshoe shape. I also hot glued the leaves directly to the coat hanger in layers. I traced and cut out leaves from an old children's encyclopedia I thrifted through several episodes of Criminal Minds, but I like the way it turned out.

I pinned several other fall and winter craft ideas, so I'm sure the mantel will have other projects to display soon. I'm loving the anticipation of cooler weather and all the fun acoutrements of fall. Happy autumn, y'all!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Pioneer Woman Food Weekend

Well, y'all, this weekend was all about eating around here, and pretty much everything on the menu was courtesy of the Pioneer Woman. I am a card-carrying fanatic, and thankfully so is my sister-in-law because she got me an autographed cookbook for Christmas (and sometimes when she cooks for us we get to eat PW food.)

Case in point, for Labor Day, I attempted her twice baked new potatoes (more on that in a minute) and my sister-in-law made this delectable brisket. She definitely did everything right, and Husband and I enjoyed the fruit (or meat, or whatever) of her hours preparing the meal. It was falling apart and fork-tender. My mouth is watering thinking about it.

PW has a fantastically funny way of describing her food, so I'll leave the recipe descriptions to her website. I use recipes from the cookbooks, which I highly recommend because they're beautifully designed, fun to read, and inspire me to make delicious food. Basically, all the things a brilliant cookbook should be.

Anyway, the potatoes are supposed to look like this:

Photo via Pioneer Woman

It's been a while since I tried to scoop out the insides of potatoes while keeping the skins intact and I failed, especially since that task with small red potatoes is infinitely harder for people like me who struggle with stuff like that. So, plan B was to chop up the half-baked potatoes and mix them with all the yumminess and bake them like that. They were still delicious (sour cream and cream cheese never fail), but my dish was more potato casserole than twice-baked potato-ish.

Anyway, while I failed at the potatoes, I definitely succeeded with her French onion soup last night. I have a serious affection for French onion soup (which is weird because I always ask for my burgers or enchiladas sans onions, but I also love onion rings and blooming onions). Anyway, I'm picky about food, especially onions, but I love French onion soup.

This soup is not photo-worthy, but it is delicious, so the next time you have three hours (it's worth it), spend some time creating this simple, satisfying soup, top it with French bread and Swiss cheese, and then thank me later.

Tonight is YOYO (you're on your own) night for dinner aka leftover night, so I'm going to go heat up another bowl of French onion soup. Jealous?

Happy eating this week!