Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fireplace Redo

Well, I've been kind of busy lately and haven't really tackled any noteworthy changes to the house. Just keeping it clean enough to not be condemned is kind of a victory right now.

Soooooo....I decided to do a blast from the past. Part of what Mr. 31 does is remodel rundown homes. Our first house that we bought together was a flat (one apartment upstairs, one down). It was a mess. It looked and smelled BAD. We bought it at an auction and, when we went back inside to sign the papers after the bidding, we were like "What did we do?!?"

But, after four months of hard work (we were doing it after working 8 hour days at our other jobs), it looked pretty good if I must say so myself.

The project from the flat that I'm going to highlight today is the fireplace from the upstairs apartment. It was U-G-L-Y. The bottom part had been plastered with a texture and the upper part was turquoise painted plaster (and not a good turquoise) and the plaster was crumbling terribly.

You can also note the lovely gas fireplace insert, the nasty carpet, and the 80s-riffic ceiling fan.

So, after scraping and pulling out the worst of the plaster (and some serious disinfecting), I got my behind up on a step ladder with some joint compound and a large putty knife. I used the putty knife to layer a texture onto the top of the fireplace, trying to copy the texture on the bottom as closely as possible.

Then I painted the mantel with the white we were using for the trim, except for a small inset that ran the length of the front of the mantel, which I painted the same color as the walls (the color is called Sabrina, but I don't remember what brand of paint, so that information probably isn't helpful).

It was really simple and it made a big difference! Here's the fireplace afterwards:

Also gone is the retro (in a bad way) ceiling fan, nasty carpet, and ugly insert. You also might notice the woodwork between rooms was stripped and stained. My mother-in-law did that. It became a personal battle between her and that woodwork and the rest of us stayed out of the way. It turned out gorgeous though!

So, that's my blast from the past. I'll probably share more of these from time to time. We've had to tackle some pretty crazy projects along the way!

Check out the link parties that I'm joining up with!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cuban Mojo Sauce

Mr. 31 and I were introduced to mojo on our honeymoon in Key West. There was a great Cuban restaurant on Mallory Square. We went there a few times in the span of less than a week. This sauce is great on all kinds of grilled meat and seafood.

In the interest of being honest, on one particularly busy and hot day, I ordered plain chicken wings from the local pizza joint and tossed them in the mojo when they were delivered. You know, whatever works.

Mojo Sauce
1/3 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until lightly toasted, but not brown (about 30 seconds).

Add lime juice, cumin, salt, and pepper (be careful - the sauce might pop a little bit!). Bring the sauce to a boil. Correct the seasonings if need be.

Cool before serving (though I have tossed meat in it when it was fairly hot!).

Mojo sauce will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for a few days, but it's best fresh.

Please check out my link page for all the great blog parties I'll be linking to!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rearranging My House

I had a very busy but productive weekend.

Saturday, I decided to go yard saling (that can be a verb, right?). I have a wish list a mile long and a decorating/furnishing budget an inch short, so I decided that yard sales, thrift stores, and Walmart will have to be my shopping destinations for the time being. I didn't find too much on Saturday, though, so it was kind of disappointing. Maybe it was the neighborhood that the block sale was in, or maybe I'm out of the loop with yard sale pricing, but I don't remember ever paying $3 for a paperback book at a yard sale. Sorry. Not gonna do it. However, I did find 3 really good quality frames for $2 total and a stack of really good cloth napkins and a couple of tablecloths for $1, so I guess that made the trip worth it!

Then, on Sunday, my husband decided that we were going to move his office downstairs. His office has been upstairs in a spare bedroom since we moved into our home. But the temperatures got unbearable in that room this summer, so we moved him downstairs temporarily (so I thought). However, once we got the computer down there, he liked the temperature and was actually more productive downstairs than upstairs (he works from home, so productivity is important!). And I figured out that I liked him downstairs too; when he's working in the evenings I can see him from the living room and kitchen, so it feels like we're spending time together more so than when he's sequestered upstairs.

What made the decision easier was the fact that my sitting room had no furniture in it, which sounds strange, but let me explain. A couple of months ago, I came home to discover my sitting room carpet in my driveway. That particular carpet had been a source of nasty smells since we moved in (having to do with the previous owner's incontinent dog and then our cats' assumptions that, since the dog went there, so could they. Argh!!). We laid down a laminate floor during our pre-fourth of July home-fixing-up extravaganza. But, for some reason, the furniture never made it back to the sitting room. I'm not sure why, it just didn't.

So, I spent my Sunday carting furniture and electronic equipment and office supplies from my second floor to my first floor. It actually doesn't look too bad, though like the rest of my house, I hope in the future to replace our during and post-college laminate/particle board furniture with what I am calling "grown up" furniture. Once we get everything set up, I'll post some pics.

After all that hard work, we ended our weekend with some Olive Garden (L-O-V-E me some Zuppa Tuscana!). And what could be better than that?

Friday, July 23, 2010

There's Serious Funniness Involved Here

Earlier this week Thrifty Decor Chick posted about a blog called Catalog Living. The blogger describes the life of fictitious couple Gary and Elaine using pictures from Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, etc. Seriously funny!! Go get your Friday Funnies on at Catalog Living!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

And the Harvest is Here!

For the past couple of summers Mr. 31 has planted a small vegetable and herb garden in our backyard. I say Mr. 31 because, as you may recall, I = plant death.

This week, we have our first harvest of vegetables - a ton of yellow squash! And I mean a ton - we gave some away, we ate some, we're saving a couple for seeds...and as of yesterday afternoon I still had a stack of it on my counter.

Soooo...I'm now freezing yellow squash.

See that stack to the left? That's after giving away four, eating two, chopping three, and I still have 3 left on another counter to eat later this week.

I'm also making a contribution to our compost bin - the ends of the squash are all in the white bowl awaiting transfer to the great outdoors.

I ended up with seven bags of yellow squash - which I'm sure we'll be happy for this fall and winter.

I had to move it all to our freezer downstairs, so I had made a handy dandy (not fancy, mind you) list to hang on my refrigerator upstairs so I don't forget what I have down there.

(And, no I'm not advertising for National City Bank - National City doesn't exist anymore, so my dad's wife who worked there gave me some of these handy clip magnets. Hi Pam!!).

From the looks of things, it's good my husband bought the Sam's Club pack of freezer bags. We could be eating yellow squash for a long time!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Husband Organizing

Maybe I'm the only one who has this problem.

But I think not.

The problem I speak of occurs when Mr. 31 gets ready to leave the house: "Where are my keys?"

Two minutes later: "Have you seen my glasses?"

30 seconds later: Mr. 31 still wandering around the house opening drawers and sticking his hand between couch cushions. Me: "What are you looking for?" Mr. 31: "My wallet."

For example, earlier in the week I walked around the house and looked for the things he would need to leave the house, snapping pictures with my iPhone as I went (so sorry for the quality of the pictures):

That would be (clockwise from top left): his glasses, wedding ring, and earbuds for his phone in the office; his watch in the living room; his wallet in the dining room; and his keys in the kitchen. At least they're all on the first floor.

We've tried various tactics to keep his things in one place. Obviously unsuccessfully.

So, I've decided to tackle the problem head on AGAIN. This time I'm attacking the problem with the tactic of "if the place where the things are to go is RIGHT BY the door, then it will be really easy for Mr. 31 to just dump the stuff right there." Seems logical.

There are two drawers in the kitchen right by the main door that we go in and out of that I decided to appropriate. They were holding tablecloths, cloth napkins, and a box holding fancy serveware. So all of those things needed a place to go.

For that, I decided to empty a drawer in a hutch in my dining room, which was the last spot that I tried getting my husband to corral all his stuff. It has since become a true junk drawer, holding all sorts of goodies and, to be honest, trash. It was really kind of frightening.

After emptying and cleaning the drawers, I decided to line them. I didn't have contact paper or equivalent, so I decided to go with leftover wallpaper from my dining room. It works, right?

I attempted to pull the old lining out of the kitchen drawers, but evidently the liner is integral to the structural integrity of the drawers. Not wanting to rebuild drawers, I left it underneath the wallpaper.

Then I loaded the dining room drawer up with all my tablecloths, runners, and napkins.

In the kitchen, I kept the serveware and an apron in one drawer and used the other for Mr. 31's stuff.

Look how neat it is!

I also want to show you the proximity of the drawer to the door, so you can see that he literally has to take one step into the door, open the drawer, and dump his stuff in.

Here's hoping we've got the solution!!

I'll be linking up to the usual suspects!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Praline Stuffed Yam

As promised yesterday, here is the recipe that I made to use up a lingering yam. As I only had 1 (large) yam, I adapted the recipe to fit. Hence the odd measurements.

Praline Stuffed Yams
Adapted from The New Holly Clegg Trim & Terrific Cookbook (Trim and Terrific)

1 large yam, unpeeled
1/8 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon, divided
1/8 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
1 1/2 tbs. butter, melted
1/6 cup flour
1/8 cup light brown sugar
1/8 cup chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Poke yam with a fork a few times. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour.

2. Cut yam in half (You'll probably have to hold it with a towel or pot holder while you do it. It will be HOT). Spoon out contents into a bowl. Mash together with sugar, milk, half the cinnamon, and half the vanilla. Spoon mixture back into the yam skin halves.

3. Mix together butter, flour, brown sugar, pecans, and remaining cinnamon and vanilla. Crumble on top of the yam halves.

4. Turn oven down to 350. Bake yams for 15 minutes or until topping is browned.

It was yummy and I didn't have to add the yam to the compost bin!

Please check my link party page for all the wonderful blogs I'll be linking up to!

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Problem with Produce

Making the switch to eating healthier is posing some interesting problems.

Take fresh produce for instance. I've always known I should eat more fruits and vegetables (in a form other than the Hostess fried cherry pies from convenience stores). The lesson was hammered home in Michael Pollan's book Food Rules: An Eater's Manual (a great book - I really recommend it!). His basic rules: Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.

Probably good ideas.

However, with only two of us eating at our house for the most part, produce is sometimes difficult to stay ahead of. We buy it and eat it....except for that last banana that ends up going bad...or that last handful of lettuce that neither of us manage to eat before it wilts...or those last few blueberries that went moldy.

You know, you don't have this problem with Hamburger Helper. Which also explains why I shouldn't eat it.

I've been working on figuring out ways to save those last bits of produce so they don't go bad, like making apple muffins out of the lingering apples, cutting up and freezing berries, etc. In the interest of being honest, we've also been making some contributions to our compost bin.

Tomorrow I will share a recipe I came across that helped me use up a yam that was on the verge of being not so fresh.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Scripture Saturday - Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. - Philippians 4:8

I've decided to take a break from Proverbs 31 to look at this verse from Philippians.

There are occasionally times in life when, for whatever reason, it seems like we are surrounded by negative circumstances. There's bad news all around and difficult situations to tackle. It's extremely easy to get down in the dumps or pessimistic when faced with such times.

That's why I love this scripture. What a great solution that the Lord has given us! Instead of continuously dwelling on the terrible things, think on the things that are lovely, pure, of good report. Doing so will not necessarily make the difficult circumstances disappear, but you will have the peace of the Lord as you go through them.

So the next time things start bringing you down, change the things you are focusing on. Focus on the good things, the pure things, the lovely things, the just things. There are always plenty of those around us - we just need to make the choice to dwell on them.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Smothered Meatloaf

When I first saw this recipe I was like, "Meatloaf in a crock pot?? Whaaaat??" Then I made it. Because I love my crock pot and am always looking for new recipes. And because it's the one kitchen appliance that I can outcook my husband in. And Oh. My. Gosh. It was so good!!

The recipe came from Sandra Lee at the Food Network. Her's originally calls for a lot of mushrooms. Seeing as my husband's not a huge fan I omitted them.

Smothered Meatloaf
Adapted from Sandra Lee

4 cups Potatoes O'Brien
2 lbs. ground beef
1 box Garlic Herb Shake and Bake
1 envelope Beefy Onion soup mix
1 egg
1 (12 oz) can condensed Cheddar cheese soup, divided
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 (10 oz) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 onion, sliced thin

1. Place potatoes (mine were still frozen) in the bottom of the slow cooker.

2. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, Shake and Bake, dry soup mix, and egg.

3. In another bowl, combine 1/2 cup Cheddar soup with the evaporated milk. Add to the meat mixture (I ended up using my hands. Seemed to work better than a spoon). Form it into a loaf and place on top of the potatoes (I ended up redoing a lot of the forming once I got it into the slow cooker). Make sure the meat is not touching the sides of the cooker.

4. Stir together the remaining Cheddar soup and the cream of mushroom soup. Pour on the meatloaf and top with the sliced onions.

5. Cover and cook on High for 1 hour. Turn temperature down to Low and cook for another 5-6 hours.

I've cooked mine a bit longer and it was fine. I also thank the good Lord for the timer and the Keep Warm setting on my slow cooker. Works wonders when you work an 8 hour day and you have a 6 hour cook time.

I usually throw this recipe together first thing in the morning. Then I cook it on High for the hour while I'm getting ready for work. By the time I'm ready, it's usually ready to go down to Low.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Scripture Saturday - Proverbs 31:16

She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. - Proverbs 31:16

Ah, the Proverbs 31 businesswoman. Who said Christian women can't be entrepreneurs?

Here's a biblical example of a female landowner and entrepreneur - smack in the middle of the description of the ideal way a Christian woman should be. This woman is not being shunned for getting involved in arenas that she shouldn't be - she is being put forth as the woman that men should strive to marry.

Not only is she a businesswoman, but she is a wise businesswoman. She considers her moves before she makes them. She also is wise with her finances - she has the means to purchase a field.

She is also a profitable businesswoman. Not only can she purchase a field, but she has enough earnings to plant a vineyard.

I know lots of women with the entreprenurial spirit - whether they work outside of the home in their own or someone else's business or are stay at home wives and mothers with businesses on the side. We're just doing what we've been called to do by God!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Enjoying Life

First, I want to thank Michelle at Someday Crafts for featuring my house number planter.
Thank you!!

These past two weeks have been really hectic both at work and at home. There is a lot going on at work in general and then we decided to do a heavy duty spring cleaning of the building. It now looks great and is soooo organized, but it was very tiring!

Then, my husband's family had a surprise birthday party for his grandpa's 75th birthday. We had a lot of family visiting from out of town, which was great. But we decided that some things had to be fixed around our house before they got there. So, in the evenings we were tackling projects like painting the foundation of our house, painting our decks, laying a laminate floor in a room where we had to take the carpet up...

Then, the weekend of the party, we cooked breakfast for 40 people at our house, we traveled from house to house visiting people who were in town...and, oh yeah, we had the actual party. We stayed up until 1:00-2:00 every day over the 4th of July weekend. We had a GREAT time with everyone and his grandpa was really touched and happy about the surprise. But, dang, was it tiring!!

I don't think I've been this tired in a long time. It's been really easy to get overwhelmed and exhausted at points. Then, I came across an entry in Joyce Meyer's devotional Starting Your Day Right: Devotions for Each Morning of the Year. She was looking at Deuteronomy 12:7: "And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you."

She went on to say, "It is amazing what happens when you decide to enjoy God every day. It is easy to get so caught up in all your responsibilities that you forget to enjoy what you are doing. You can get so busy raising your children that you forget to enjoy them. You can get so caught up in cleaning your house, trying to pay for it, and remodeling it, that you forget to enjoy it. But you can learn to enjoy God so much that no matter what you do today, you can truly say, 'I enjoyed it.'"

What a great reminder. No matter how busy we are or how many projects we are trying to juggle, we must remember to enjoy our lives! I bet that, in 20 years, I won't remember my organizational system at work, or what color I painted my decks; but I will remember the look on Mr. 31's grandpa's face when he walked into the surprise party because I took the time to soak in and enjoy the moment. I stopped working and bustling around long enough to enjoy.

So, as we're working, and fixing our homes, and feeding our families, and caring for ourselves, let's remember to take the time to enjoy God and all the blessings he has bestowed upon us.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

House Number Planter

There are lots of improvements I've been wanting to make on the house we live in, some of which you've seen.

One of the changes I've been yearning to tackle is the appearance of our house numbers. The existing set up was fairly ugly:

(There were brass numbers on there, but I got excited and jumped the gun on taking them off before I took the picture. I really need to work on that).

I really like how the wooden plaque broke at the bottom and they just repainted it. Classic.

So, I wasn't sure what I wanted to mental block...until I saw Amanda at Hand Me Down House's brilliant address planter idea. SO CUTE!!

I did have to modify the idea - our numbers have to be hung on the house plus our house is really close to the street, so having two sets of numbers within 5 feet of each other seemed like overkill.

I took the existing plaque down - and there was much rejoicing!!! By me, anyway.

Then I attached the numbers that were on the plaque to a decorative holder that some flowers had been delivered in. My husband purchased some impatiens (he's the green thumb in the family. Vanessa = plant death) and repotted them into a container that would fit in the holder.

Then, because I don't do well with power tools - yet- and he didn't want holes and nicks all over the brick, Mr. 31 hung the planter using two heavy duty L-brackets and some bolts.

Now my house numbers are not an embarrassment!!

Big shout out to Amanda!! Without your creativity I would still be looking at the broken plaque!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Burrito Bake

I've made this recipe a few times and it's really good. The technique they use to cook the hamburger is also good with other Southwestern dishes like tacos and enchiladas.

Photo from Kraft Foods
Burrito Bake
Adapted from Kraft Foods

1 lb. ground beef
1 pck. or 4 tbs. taco seasoning
3/4 cup water
4 10" tortillas
1 can refried beans -or- 1 can black beans, mashed
1 cup cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown meat in skillet and drain. Stir in seasoning and water. Bring to boil. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Grease a 9" round cake pan with olive oil. Place two tortillas on the bottom (the tortillas will go up the sides a little bit, which is helpful in keeping it all together when you're serving). Cover with half the beans, meat, and cheese. Place 1 tortilla on top and put the remaining beans, meat, and cheese on it. Top with last tortilla.

Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted. Cut into wedges to serve.

* Note: I have also used homemade tortillas for this recipe. Because they are smaller, I used double the amount to get the coverage I needed. It tasted fine, but serving it was messier than with the larger tortillas.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Scripture Saturday - Proverbs 31:15

She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. -Proverbs 31:15

I love sleep. Love it. Adore it.

Due to this, I am not necessarily what you could call a morning person. I'm more of a hit-the-snooze-button-as-many-times-as-I-can-get-away-with-it person.

However, there are many scriptures which reference awaking bright and early and getting a productive jump on the day, including Proverbs 31:15. In this verse, the woman awakes and makes sure her family and their help are taken care of before the rest of her day begins.

I can't say that's been my strength. I rarely wake up in time for me to eat before I go to work, let alone fix breakfast for my husband. I don't have "maidens", but I wouldn't be awake to fix them breakfast even if I did.

If I could get disciplined about getting my behind out of bed, there is so much I could get done before I even got to work. I could exercise. I could fix my husband breakfast and maybe even iron his clothes for the day. I could pray and read my bible and spend time with the Lord. There are a world of possibilities - if I would just get up!

I guess that's something to work on!

While I'm working on that, I hope everyone has an enjoyable 4th of July!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Please Pardon My Absence

Hello all!

You may have noticed I haven't posted in a couple of days (or maybe you haven't, which is perfectly fine!).

We've been getting ready for a big family get together this weekend and tackling various projects around the house, a couple of which I'll share with you next week.

So, pardon my lack of posting, but I've been barely keeping my eyes open the last few days!