The New Year-- aka Planning mode

I am not a resolution person. My goals (if needed to be done) will always be accomplished:
Weight? It's 5 pounds at a time.
Eat better? It's a 7 day goal.
Sleep better? It's a daily goal.
Be more patient? ...Let's try 5 minutes.

It just so happens my home/decorating/DIY projects are all coinciding with the New Year. They have been on my to-do list or already started before the holidays came in like a wrecking ball. Ha ha! I had to. 
So here's my Resolution List: (to start on by the end of January because I am just that good.)

1. Finish painting upstairs guest room - 2 more walls need a second coat.

2. Paint the accent wall in the Master Bedroom - Palladian Blue!!!! - can you tell I am excited for this?!?

3. Rearrange furniture - Bookshelf moved from one guest room to the other.

4. Decorate downstairs guest room - It has a bed and 2 nightstands. It needs help.

5. Redecorate Master bedroom and hang art.

6. The office - dang it! Can't this room do itself???

7. Garage- or not. I keep telling my hubby that once we insulate and drywall it, that I will tackle it. And oh, my dreams are big... but I really have no idea where to start.

8. Decrapify and Organize.

9. Hang my gallery style frames in the hallway- print off pictures too.

10. Eat more chocolate- yes!

Happy New Years, and may all your dreams come true.


First step in the office!

Well, you might have noticed my really sad office here.

I took my first step in that room. Actually two. The first was shredding everything I had found that was shred-able. Something we should do regularly. I'm so very tempted to move the shredder up to my laundry room, which happens to be right between my recycle spot in the kitchen and the recycle bin just outside the garage. (It's also where half of the mail ends up anyway when I have to shove everything out of sight.)

The first actual step took place after I discovered some wallpaper discounted to half price at Lowe's. I was rather surprised with it because online it looked grayish. It's not. It's almost the same color as all the walls in my house. Not all the walls, just 90% of them.

So I gently removed the cardboard-ish backing and cut the wallpaper to fit, making sure that the seams lined up and the quatrefoil synced up with the seams and other pieces.
I was pleasantly surprised with myself that I almost accidentally did it right the first time and then I was constantly making mental notes to make sure everything would keep lining up. It turned out fabulous!

I have started putting things back. Mostly in containers to disguise the mess. It's still scary but getting better!
And I would love to say that my husband noticed.


The office- the organizing nightmare.

It's been like this forever.

My hubby informed me that I needed to clean it. 

yeah, about that...

I said in a sing-songy high-pitched voice- "Yard Sale!"

He was like "when you have a box for me to go through, let me know."

I must have said it to fast. "OK!"

"What? Why are you being so agreeable?"

"Which box would you like to start with? There's like a dozen."

"No. You have to go through them, so you know what's in them..."

"It's all crap."

that flew like a ton of bricks. 

But I'm mildly excited about organizing it. I have started developing a plan. 
- photo storage boxes (looks like they might fit perfectly)
- zip ties or rubber bands (to restrain the cable mess)
- move the furniture pieces to make it flow better.
- toss the old computer cases (slightly excited for recycling day!)
- hunt down more workspace for his projects to stretch out on.
- add some color probably by way of art-ish to the walls.


at my parent's house...

the in-progress pictures!!!
before painting
after painting

before staining

after staining (same two pieces!!!!)

before painting
after painting
I am loving how much cleaner and crisper it feels now. The whole room feels better. 
Now if I can get them to listen to rhyme and reason about functionality and practicality everywhere else in this room. And get my teenaged brother's feet off the couch!!!


Demolition at the parent's house...

I made a promise long ago. To help my mom redo the living room.

Scrape off wallpaper.
Sand off the glue.
Mud over everything.
Sand it as smooth as I could.
We had to work progressively through the house because they have a lot of big furniture that couldn't be moved out and the house is busy and full of people 24/7.

Started at the stairs
Then the wall parallel to the stairs
Then around the room.

We ran into a few hiccups along the way. Wetness and mold in one of the walls. Fix the siding outside and then-- New insulation. New drywall.

The wrong colored sliding door going in.
Waiting for the right one to be special ordered and installed, which happened while I was out of the country for 3 weeks.

And our favorite moment- new carpet. Preceded by 2 days of yanking up carpet, padding, tacks, staples. And we put down an additional sub-floor.
With screws... on average 40-50 screws per board.
With one sprained wrist- yeah, I didn't help much with that.

Hopefully one of these days my mom will let me stage it for "after"pictures!! Who am I kidding? Sigh, pictures of the return to craziness - soon to come!


One. night. stand.

The search ends! I have found a nightstand! I've been on the prowl for one more for my guest room. I mean Hello, you need one on each side. I had given myself a limit of $25 for it because I bought my nightstand (actually a drop leaf table) for $20, my husband's nightstand (a small desk) for $15, and the other nightstand in the guest room for $22. 

This sucker was $8 at Goodwill. Can you believe I was trying to talk myself out of stopping there?? (I really needed to get home and put my son down for a nap.)
I saw it. And there were a couple of gals were looking at it and saying "oh, this would be fun to re-do." They walked away. I checked the price tag. $7.99. I wandered around the store checking for other pieces. None. 
The gals were on the other side of the store. 
I grabbed it.

I had some lovely pale muted blue leftover just sitting in its little paint sample can. Oh, yeah. Much better.

Next project- Decorate this boring room. But hey, I have nightstands!


baby's 1st birthday!

My world traveler's first birthday. He spent his actual birthday in Madrid and I was really in love with the idea. Maybe why his bedroom is traveled themed also. 
French Vanilla Cupcakes and Whipped Cream Frosting. Stickers from Hobby Lobby.
 Deliciousness. Fruit, Veggies, and Airplane food- Pretzels and Peanuts. 
 Barf Bags. Just kidding, so they have a little bag of pretzels, M&Ms, Passport Sticker Books, and Juice boxes. 
I found these Earth paper lanterns, so cute! On the table are little clothespin airplanes that the kids got to paint and take home. And of course little foam ornaments.
I am really glad I bought the flag banner too. 


The Pantry Panic~ what a relief.

I was going insane. The Pantry was driving me nuts. When we moved in- a little over a year ago. I just started stuffing things in... I kind of had a plan. Random small appliances on the right. Food on the left. Piece of cake. Then it started to look like this.

Food items were falling off the shelves. I couldn't find things. It was just chaos!

Sunday morning at 6:30am I was fighting off the cleaning bug. I was not ready to be awake. Or wake up my men.
With breakfast done, I started pulling stuff off the shelves. Breakfast items grouped together.
Canned goods together.
Pasta together.
You get the idea .
Then my table looked like this!

This mess stayed until I arrived home with some baskets from Michaels (50%off- cha-ching) Monday afternoon and got to work.

I lose things in these back corners. So the baskets were my solution. They were the closest to the perfect size for my corners!! Yes!
The top basket holds baking goods.
The second basket holds drinks- coffee, hot chocolate, tea, etc.
The third basket holds my leftover containers (and lids- sigh). 
The bottom basket holds snack stuff.

Finally it was done!

Sanity has returned. I can see into my pantry more then I have in the last  9  3 months.

I was giving my son a bath. I heard a "Whoa! Holy smokes!" The Hubby found my pantry. He said he'd hire me to do his office and the garage.

Dude, you can't afford me.


Pork Tenderloin (Bourbon Maple Sauce!)

This was a cheater recipe... but hey, we all have them! and we all have those days!
My hubby had decided we should have pork more since I keep cooking chicken even though he'd rather not have it as often as I cook it. So I was looking over the Pork selections at the store and the fresh meat seemed really fatty, so I took a closer look at the pre-packaged selection. There were a few different "flavors" and the Bourbon Maple caught my eye. This I can do! 

6 slices of bacon (8 depending on the size)
1-2 cups of Bourbon*
1/4 cup of maple syrup (keep the bottle handy)
1/4 brown sugar
1-2 cups of water*

1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp flour

In a slow cooker mix bourbon, maple syrup, brown sugar and water Add a pinch of salt and pepper.
Wrap the bacon around the pork. (I overlapped them at an angle and then set the pork on them and then wrapped them around.) Place in slow cooker. Drizzle some syrup on top of the bacon. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours.

Saute mushrooms and onions in oil on medium heat until they soften. Stir in flour and allow the flour to soak up the oil on low heat. Stir in the bourbon-maple mixture from the slow cooker. Simmer on low heat until the sauce thickens. Move pork onto serving plate and pour sauce on top. Serve!

*These depend on the size of your slow cooker/crockpot and the size of your tenderloin. I wanted the liquids to cover the bottom of the pot and come up the sides of the tenderloin a little. The water will evaporate a little and leave behind the taste anyway.


Beef Lo Mein

If I could have found some way to avoid my kitchen this week I would have. It's been a long week and I've run the dishwasher more times then I can count and I've swept under my son's highchair the same number of times... This turned out pretty good, although the sauce was lacking... I can tweak it for next time I suppose. Oh, and for the veggies I found a veggie mix in the freezer section with everything I needed for this recipe. Bingo!! 

1/2 pound angel hair pasta
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 medium onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
4 to 5 shiitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup sugar snap pea pods, halved
1 (15-ounce) can Chinese baby corn, drained and cut in thirds
1 to 1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-size strips (or beef in my case)
Cook the noodles according to the package directions until just tender. Drain out the water. Rinse the noodles with cold water, drain them well, and then set them aside.
In a small bowl, mix the hoisin sauce, chicken broth, soy sauce, sesame oil, and cornstarch. Then set the sauce aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a large wok or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Stir-fry the ginger for 30 seconds. Then add the onion and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and carrots and stir-fry 2 minutes more. Finally, add the broccoli, pea pods, and corn. Stir-fry the vegetables for 2 more minutes, then transfer them to a plate.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the pan. Add half of the chicken and stir-fry it until it's no longer pink, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer it to another plate. Stir-fry the remaining chicken, then return the first batch to the pan. Add the cooked noodles, vegetables, and sauce. Turn the heat down to medium.
Using two spatulas or wooden spoons, lightly toss the mixture until heated through, about 3 minutes. Serves 4 to 6. Or a 2 hungry adults and 1 hungry baby.


trying to plan a birthday party

I mean how cute are these?

Gut tells me to go with it. Practicality tells me to talk over every little detail with my hubby. And my hubby is not being helpful... at all. So many ideas floating around in my head and I am trying to decide how to execute a party for a 1 year old when all the other kids are going to be much older. Our budget is snug for this, as we have been traveling overseas, and paying out of pocket for most of it.
Want to guess the theme?

The party is going to be a month late anyways. I feel crazy for even attempting a party! Oh well, here goes something!


The second makeover- Kitchen Kerfuffle

These are probably the most familiar and the most embarrassing. Familiar because we've all been there, every. day. Embarrassing because we let it get that bad, though we would dare not let anyone see if possible. But alas, here it is!

So since this fateful day, 3 days ago, I've loaded up the dishwasher (named DW, ha ha!) and run it every evening, full or not. It feels good but kinda wasteful at the same time. Although if you knew the love/hate relationship I have with my dishwasher, it's not really that wasteful. It loves it, I hate it.

So the love/hate relationship is...

Soak dishes in the sink.
Load in DW.
Run the cycle. DW decides to:
turn itself off after I walk away,
not start at all,
run a partial cycle (though all the buttons are pushed),
run the cycle without opening the soap compartment,
get the spinners caught on something that's not in the way.

Re-run cycle in DW, which suddenly works fine.
Re-soak at least 25% of all dishes because they decided they didn't want to be clean.
Load pre-pre-pre-pre cleaned dishes and the start on the new pile that has accumulated during the previous 4 cleanings.

Annoying right? And it's a brand-new dishwasher. State-of-the-art. blah. I really want to go all paper and plastic. I recycle. no pun intended.

My ultimate finishing goal is:
1. to love everything above my cabinets. Its a smorgasbord of things I'm trying out to see what I like and what works for me.
2. Attack the pantry. It's scary.

Well, this is it. Makeover #2!


the start- Laundry - Drop your drawers here!

I was finally fed up. with everything.

Tripping over stuff every time I came in through the garage.
Shoes. Laundry. Boxes. Cords. Rugs. Brooms.
I was fed up with hearing my husband ask what I did today.
"here's dinner and your son hasn't been given up for adoption." What more could he want?!? 
My son isn't that bad, but I get 5-10 minutes in each station.
Each station being:
1. the highchair
2. the johnny jump-up
3. the dishwasher
4. the magnets on the fridge
5. the pool toys

So naturally whatever I could get done in each of those 5-10 minutes is all that really got done. I dedicated all of my son's naptimes plus folding the laundry during play time to accomplish this:

Minus sorting through my "fan" mail, which I never want to do. Shred, shred, shred, I don't need 20 credit card offers from the same place in 1 month!!!

Anyway, this is my start.

It can only get better from here, right?


my dining room

As some of you know, I moved into my house about 9 months ago. It took a little bit but alas there's only a couple of unnecessary boxes still unpacked and our storage room full of totes of stuff we can't decide what to do with. Did I mention we have hoarding on both sides of our family?


I decided when I was packing that our hoarding tendencies had to change. I got rid of several boxes worth of junk before and after our move. Maybe I should clarify, my junk.
With some rearranging and sudden lack of walls, all my previous decorating items have found new homes. Always a good thing, I think. I realized I had a lot of unnecessary things and really... less is more...

Anyway, to the dining room.
Another room that has had some difficulty. Our dining table comfortably seats 4, in a pinch seats 6, and yes, you guessed it- uncomfortably seats 9 people. After that I run out of chairs anyway. Oh, and there's no room for food and plates after 6 people. Somehow our Brady Bunches have done it, and to me it looks like a clown car exploded in my dining room.

Don't tell my families I said that.

I just realized how pathetic my dining room looks. 
So I have been telling my hubby for about a year that we need to get a bigger table. and we need a bigger table. and we want a bigger table because we need a bigger table. Either he picked up on my hints or he heard me the first time and I've been nagging ever since. oops. 
Off we went to the furniture stores searching the clearance and/or dinged up section (who pays full price for something you're gonna have 3 kids hammering on in 5 years anyway?) I looked at the prices and walked away. All I wanted was some wood planks tongue and grooved, biscuit joined, or glued together with 4 legs or a middle stand.

Or so I thought.

And so started our project to make me a dining table. It's not just some wood planks with 4 legs. It's got planks here and there, outer edge planks, a disappearing leaf- which means it has those gear things so it expands, and some tricked out pedestal legs. In theory. 

It's taking forever. Hopefully we are still married at the end of this. Just kidding. But seriously someone is gonna die. Again, just kidding. Maybe. You see the sarcasm right?
The picture is our dining room, with the first half of the top of the table. Yup, 3 weeks after getting the walnut wood and that's what we have to show for it. Don't get me started on the last 3 weeks, but  at least we have a start. I can not wait to get new slipcovers for the chairs. Those slipcovers are so last decade. yawn.

Well, wish us luck. and by us, I mean me. I'm off to tackle the clown car clothes explosion in my laundry room.
my cute little man 


low-down two-timin' pasta.

ok, so not so "low-down", i love the two-timin' name. Like they're working against each other, but they really aren't. Who would have thought to mix Marinara and Alfredo sauce?!? someone on pinterest, of course.
So I found this recipe here.
The flavor was pretty good, my hubby is still waiting for a big flavor kick tho. (maybe I'll add red pepper flakes next time.)
I also added about 1 cup of cooked Italian Sausage.

1 box penne pasta
1 (15 oz.) jar Alfredo sauce 
1 (24oz.) jar Marinara sauce (i picked sautéed onion and garlic) 
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to directions and drain.  
Mix the sauces together in a large bowl.
Add the mozzarella and stir to combine.  Then toss in the penne and toss to coat.
Pour pasta into 9x13 baking dish and cook on 350 for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese and bake for another 5 minutes. 

Yup, that easy. We had it with a side of veggies and garlic bread.


Smothered Chicken Casserole

I love this recipe made with a few modifications. I put it in the crockpot, minus the flour. I used thin spaghetti instead of angel hair. I made the caesar dressing from a packet.
I wasn't able to let it marinade as long as I wanted so extra caesar dressing went in with the rest of it!

1/2 cup prepared caesar salad dressing
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

4 slices bacon

8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 cup onion, diced
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
3 tbsp butter
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated

2 C fresh tomatoes, diced
1/4 C fresh parsley, minced

1 lb thin spaghetti
Marinade chicken breasts in caesar dressing for at least 3 hours, up to overnight.
Cook bacon until crisp, remove from pan and drain off all but about 2 tbsp of the fat. Heat pan to medium-high heat.
Remove chicken from marinade and cook in bacon fat until well browned. You don't have to cook the chicken through, just get some color on it. Remove chicken from pan and place in casserole dish.
Drain off all the bacon fat from the pan and add 3 tbsp of butter. Once melted stir in the onion and mushrooms. Cook until soft and starting to caramelize- 5-7 minutes.
Stir 3 tbsp of flour into the onions and mushrooms and cook for 1 minute.
Stir broth and cream into the flour mixture, bring to boil -constantly stirring- for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Stir in salt, pepper, lemon juice, cheese, and parsley and pour over the chicken in the casserole dish. Top with fresh tomatoes and bake, uncovered for 20-25 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly and chicken is cooked through.
While the chicken is baking, cook 1 lb pasta on the stove-top and drain.
Remove chicken from the oven, stir pasta into the sauce and serve topped with crumbled bacon and more fresh parsley.


snow day and s'mores

Several inches of snow have been dumped across Midwest and I am loving it... Sadly I'm stuck inside for the most part. I really would rather not fall on anything slick with my little mister on my hip.
So I am enjoying it from afar and where it's much warmer...

And I made some s'more goodness. 

Yes, you want to know how to make this.

4 squares of semi-sweet baking chocolate
2 tbsp of butter
Melt on low in a saucepan. Stir every couple minutes.
1 package from a box of graham crackers 
1/2 a bag of mini marshmallows

Line a 9x13 pan with wax paper or foil.

Break the graham crackers into their indicated quarters and then each of those quarters in half and spread them out in the pan. Don't crush them. 

Sprinkle with marshmallows.

Scoop melted chocolate in small spoonfuls onto crackers and marshmallows. (don't be exact, just scoop out the chocolate evenly over all of it, not one pile in the middle.) 

Gently stir mixture with your chocolate spoon. Keep mixture spread out.

Freeze for 45-60 minutes or until chocolate hardens. 

Break mixture into smaller pieces (chocolate will melt on your fingers so do this quickly). 

Pop the mixture in the fridge until you want to serve it. 

Make sure everyone gets some. This is like food crack.


Quesadilla Casserole

Another Pinterest recipe! (I have no idea where it originated (sorry!) it was repinned like crazy from lots of places- I bet it's in a Betty Crocker cookbook somewhere)
This one was another relatively easy one- I just cooked up all the meat saucy goodness when I was prepackaging my freezer meals.
This recipe does usually call for a can of black beans, but since my hubby is severely allergic to beans I have left them out.

Meat/Saucy Goodness:
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp minced garlic, can use dry or fresh
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp oregano
15 oz. can of tomato sauce
1 can of corn, drained
1 can of chopped green chiles

4-6 flour tortillas*

2 cups cheddar cheese

*I used a smaller pan and cut the tortillas down to fit the 9"x9" casserole dish. You can use a 9"x13" pan and cut and overlap the tortillas to fit.*

Brown ground beef in a large pan or dutch oven. Stir in onions. Cook on low for 5 minutes. Add Seasonings. Stir in canned ingredients, simmer for 5 minutes.

 ~At this point you can either continue the recipe and finish it for a meal now or freeze for later.~

Spread a heaping scoop of the beef mixture on the bottom of a casserole dish. Top with tortilla(s). Sprinkle with cheese. Repeat until you run out of the beef mixture. Top with remaining cheese.
Bake at 350 for 15- 20 minutes.

For freezing: Allow the beef mixture to cool for about 15 minutes and then bag it in a labeled Ziploc. When you wish to complete the recipe, thaw for a few hours and then reheat in a large pan and continue with the instructions.