Sunday, January 31, 2010

Making Our House err... our Apartment a Home

Even though Nathan and I will be moving out in a few months I recently decided that I wanted to add a couple accessories to our kitchen cabinets (specifically, on top of them). Our kitchen has felt pretty empty after I removed the Christmas garland and poinsettias from the kitchen cabinets!

One of the financial advisors in my office gave me $50 for Christmas and I've been saving it for something. But what have I been saving it for? I'm not sure exactly, but every time I see that crisp fifty dollar bill peeking out of my glittery wallet my mind explodes with possibilities. Some new clothes? or shoes? a new picture frame? date night at a fancy restaurant?!! Then on Saturday inspiration struck in the form of a little home decor at Gordman's:

So I don't think the picture really does it justice but it caught my eye right away in the store. The letters are black with a slight red around the edges; our kitchen colors involve black & red - perfect! I wanted the ornamentation I put on top of our cabinets to be a reflection of Nathan & I's taste and interests. Here was the perfect item to build inspiration for other items! Our faith is the core of our marriage and what a great way to remind us of that. "A cord of three strands is not easily broken." Ecclesiastes 4:12

SO I know that's not much for now but I'll update as I add little things... my goal is to do it all for cheap and stay within that $50 gift!

More updates soon about my plan to take up sewing again! I think my goals for sewing might be a bit lofty since I've completely forgotten what little I learned in "skills for living" class in high school!


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

In All Things, Give Thanks

Well as of this last Saturday I am officially 24! I remember when I was younger and my sisters being 24... it sounded so old and far away then (no offense sistas haha)! That's terrible isn't it? But I guess anything about 20 sounds old when you're oh, 12 years old or so.

Anyway, Nathan and I braved the elements and made a trip down to Nebraska to visit Beth and our friends Matt & Annie. It was great just to get out of town for a weekend; to meet new people, have some drinks, do some shopping, and eat some delicious food!

As usual I found myself feeling especially thankful on my birthday. Ever since I was a child I've always loved birthdays and it really hasn't changed much! I always end up feeling so overwhelmed with how much I am blessed with and how fortunate I am to experience this gift of life. Of course, there are many, many times when I get irritated with our current circumstances. The typical frustrations with work, endless student loans, and lack of money have caused countless sleepless nights and tears (on my part). But in the midst of these dark days God's grace always manages to find me somehow. When I say God's grace I guess I'm thinking of how in spite of a horrible day I always end up having this moment of happiness and clarity despite it all. Those days, when I just want to get as far away as I can from these stresses, God reminds me somehow, in some little way, just how much I have to be thankful for. So much of the time these moments seem to come to me through Nathan. I can't help but feel completely grateful for him and his ability to make me laugh hysterically at least once a day. What a gift I've been given. I must not forget to count my blessings and thank God for everything.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Painting The Entryway

In March of 2009, Ben and I purchased a 1987 short-sale home. We really love this house but the previous owners really weren't able to keep the house up to date. Saying it needed a "little updating" was really understating the situation. Every room pretty much is covered in wallpaper and all the lighting fixtures appear to be original. We have only been in the house for less than a year, but we have made some major improvements already.

One of the easiest updates so far has been just to redo our foyer. The chandelier was so dated and it was an ugly brown color (the only room without wallpaper). I came home one weekend and decided to paint it red. As I applied the blueist grey tinted primer, I noticed how the color really brought out the red in the oak around the room. With little deliberation, I made my way back up to Lowe's and purchased a whole new blue-grey color for the entryway.
I LOVED the end result, except for one thing. Our chandelier was so UGLY! The shaped was dated and it had glass etched with wheat. I was really not that into it. Replacing it was not going to be easy. The chandelier was about 46” tall. We really needed a large chandelier to make the space look the best. I soon found that chandelier of this size are EXPENSIVE! Most of them ranged from $500-1500. My husband was not to happy about that price tag.

One day I was looking around on and I stumbled across the perfect chandelier. It was 42” tall and 42” wide for a bargain price of $199.00! It was even antique brass, the color of all of our fixtures in the house. I had to have it! One week later my new chandelier arrived and I was so excited! I took it out of the box, played with it, danced with it around the room…you know the usual…then it hit me! How are we going to get this thing up there? Our ceiling is 16’ tall. The current chandelier weighs about 60 pounds. Even if we got up there on a ladder the weight of the old chandelier would for sure bring us crashing to the ground.
For the last 3 months, I have had this chandelier sitting in my front room, just lying in the box. It was beginning to cross my mind that the beautiful chandelier might be making the floor in the front room its permanent home ….until last week.

We have started remodeling our kitchen and my husband wanted to have an electrician come out so he could brainstorm some lighting ideas with a professional. I thought, what a great time to get my chandelier hung by someone who might have a 14’ ladder. I called the company and sure enough they had one. It took two fairly large men to climb up on both sides of that ladder and remove the old fixture. I sat there watching, biting my nails that they would not fall or have the chandelier come crashing to the ground. After 45 minutes of torturing pain, the new pretty chandelier was up and going.

It is so nice to finally enter my house with such a lovely sight as my new chandelier. It just is one more little accomplishment that my husband and I have made that makes this house feel so much more like a home.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Buffalo Chicken Dip for the Big Game!

With the Divisional Championships approaching this weekend I thought it would be a great idea to share an easy and delicious recipe to enjoy during the big game!

2 large cans of chunk white chicken (or 1 lb. of chicken cooked & shredded)
1 12 ounce bottle of hot buffalo sauce
1 8oz package of cream cheese
3/4 of a bottle of ranch (or blue cheese) dressing
1 bag of shredded colby jack cheese

Drain chicken and combine with buffalo sauce in a saucepan over medium heat until the chicken becomes "shredded".
Spread the cream cheese in the bottom of a 9x13 pan and preheat the oven to 350*. Once the chicken is shredded, pour and spread over the top of the cream cheese.
Then, pour and spread 3/4 of the bottle of ranch over the chicken and buffalo mixture.
Sprinkle the cheese and bake at 350* for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
Serve with tortilla chips (add celery sticks of you desire!)

Nathan and I enjoyed this during the Vikings' big win over the Cowboys this last weekend. Let's see if the Purple People Eaters will bring us another win this weekend and the SUPER BOWL!


Italian Bread Sticks


2 cups water, very warm
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
2 cup whole wheat flour
3 cups unbleached white flour Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients together and knead dough for 5 minutes. Let rise 30 minutes.
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Divide dough in half. Place one half on a floured counter top and roll it out to form a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick.

  2. Place dough sheets on a vegetable oil-sprayed cookie sheet. Cut dough into thin strips about 1/2 inch apart along the width of the pan. Twist each cut section. Repeat this process with the remaining dough portion. Brush with a little olive oil and shake some italian seasoning on the top.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes.

  4. Serve warm with salads and entrees.
Makes 18 servings- Calories 170 - Calories from Fat 35 - Total Fat 3.9g - Saturated Fat 0.5g - Trans Fat 0.0g - Cholesterol 1mg - Sodium 263mg - Total Carbohydrates 29.3g - Dietary Fiber 1.2g - Sugars 2.2g - Protein 4.1g

for the love of food!

I should first start out by saying that I love food. I love buying it, cooking it, and or course eating it! I am lucky enough to have married a man who has pretty flexible taste buds and will eat almost everything I cook.

My love of food has not always been a positive thing. I graduated high school at 104 pounds (a little underweight) and ended college at about 137 pounds. Now I know that is not too large, but for my 5’4” height, small frame it is a little on the heavy side. So when my then fiancĂ© (now husband) proposed, I knew I wanted to drop the extra weight and look the best in my wedding dress.

This was my strategy: eat healthy and workout. Seems pretty simple right? And it really is, just with some hard work and determination. I should say though, I am not a doctor. This is just the strategy that worked for me.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Find out your daily calorie intake- I used the Mayo Clinic website. I figure that the Mayo clinic would provide the most accurate and healthy number of calories. This number is very important because it determines how many calories you can consume without gaining weight (in theory). If you want to lose weight one pound equals 3,500 calories. To lose one pound you must burn 3,500 more calories than you are consuming or reduce your calorie intake by 3,500 calories. So to aim for weight loss of one pound per week, you would reduce calories by 500 per day.

  2. Tracking your calories- My newly discovered favorite website is Calorie Count. I was paying $40 a year for another site and I found this free site that offers all the features I wanted. This site allows me to search many food items, add them by meal, and track my intake. In addition, I can add my own recipes and it will calculate the calories in it. This is invaluable to me because I have learned to substitute items to make my meals healthier. Such as…egg beaters for eggs, splenda for sugar, wheat flour for white flour, quinoa for rice, and the list goes on.

  3. Planning Meals- This really should be number one. After all, this is the food section. I have found that planning meals is vital for eating healthy. If not, you end up coming home and throwing together some high calorie, pasta dish or worse yet fast food! I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Recipezaar's recipe sifter. It allows you to search by meal type, stuff you have on hand, and nutrition information. I usually try to find a main course that is less than 400 calories.

  4. Exercise, exercise, exercise- I am lucky enough that I have a very flexible job that allows me to work out over my lunch break. I try to get to the gym 3-4 times a week. I try to get some sort of exercise every day. If I do not go to the gym, I speed clean my house or walk my dog. I also read lots of fitness magazines- self, shape, and fitness. Studies have shown that reading these magazines help keep you more motivated to work out. Not to mention that it keeps my work out from getting boring.

That is my weight loss/maintain strategy and it seems to have worked for me. I have maintained my weight at about 119 pounds for over 3 years. This lifestyle change is actually pretty easy to do, as long as you plan your meals and track your calorie intake.

The question remains still, why the cooking section?? Well, I will post little healthy finds I make in this section. I mean, don’t get me wrong...this section will be completely full of unhealthy items too.

All of my healthy items will have this lovely little image on them to denote they are healthy.

I just hope this will be a good way for us sisters to share recipes, ideas, and a yummy, healthy way for all of us to live!


Monday, January 11, 2010

New Year's Ambitions...

Every year, thousands of people make New Year’s resolutions. I looked it up and about 40-45 percent make resolutions and less than half of those people actually stick to their resolution. I have always somewhat prided myself on the fact that I have never made a new year’s resolution. I guess it was always the feeling that if 50 percent of the people fail at their resolutions, my odds are pretty low.

I have always been that person who starts projects and never finishs them. Take for instance my painting that I started 5 years ago. I haven’t even picked up a paintbrush (other then to paint my walls) and even come close to touching the canvas. And then there was the Shutterfly kick…. I went to Carlsbad Caverns 3 years ago, started the photo book and have yet to finish it. It really is almost done, I just have to do all the final proofing and somehow I have managed to put it off for the last 3 years. I could go on with more examples, but I think you get the picture. I start projects and never finish them.

So this year, again, I vow not to be that person who sets an unattainable New Year’s resolution that I will start and never finish. I decided to make my “New Year’s Ambitions.” I thought this sounded “fancier” so we will go with that for now (but it could change later).

Kitchen- After sitting with an unfinished bathroom for 6 months, one of which I started and then stopped, my husband made the rule that I cannot start another room in the house until the first room is completed. Not having my kitchen finished is torture! I love to cook, and it is really hard to cook with limited counter space and the floor covered in plastic drop cloth. Priority #1 this year will be to complete this project. Not only for my New Year’s ambition, but also my sanity.

Shutterfly- Finish the photo books I have started. I have two actually that I need to print that are so close to being finished I can taste it. Really, it’s all about taking 2 hours and proofreading my work.

China Pics- This task comes in steps. First, compile all my friends China pictures into one file. That means getting together, with their sd card, my flash drive, and some sort of computer all at the same time. This sounds easy, but usually one out of the three is missing. Once I have all the pictures together in one file, I need to edit all the photos. That means: red eyes, slants, blurs, and the occasional crazy hair on someone’s head. I mean EVERYTHING! It’s time consuming, but if I work on it during my downtime at work I figure I could really get it done in a month if I tried really hard. Then the final step, upload them to my ftp and send it out! That will be a glorious day!

Painting- The dreaded painting…really it’s not that bad. I cheat when painting. I couldn’t draw to save my life, so I printed the outline of Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh on some canvas (5 years ago) and all I need to do is fill in the lines. It’s just like a large coloring book page. So why have I been putting it off?? I don’t know, maybe washing out the brushes, or not being in the right mood, or maybe that I am secretly still afraid of the basement so it is hard for me to be down there for extended amounts of time. Whatever the reason, I just need to get in gear, turn on some chic singers, have a glass of wine in hand and get that painting finished.

That is it! Four little ambitions for this year! Will this be another idea that goes so casually by the wayside? If 50 percent of the 50 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions fail, the outcome is not looking the best for me. I will make the effort to write an updated blog at the end of the year, so I guess time will tell and in the words of Arnold Palmer, “Always make a total effort, even when the odds are against you.”


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