Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Thinking of all our men and women who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom. Never forget what they have sacrificed so that we may live in this great country.

Freedom is not free
I watched the flag pass by one day,
It fluttered in the breeze.
A young Service man saluted it,
And then he stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud,
With hair cut square and eyes alert
He'd stand out in any crowd.
I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil
How many mothers' tears?
How many pilots' planes shot down?
How many died at sea
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, freedom isn't free.
I heard the sound of Taps one night,
When everything was still,
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That Taps had meant "Amen,"
When a flag had draped a coffin.
Of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, freedom isn't free.

Have a happy and blessed Memorial Day!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fashionable Prego Clothes?

First, I will start out by saying I am not the fashionable one of my sisters. I really only wear clothes that I can get dirt cheap and that look somewhat OK. My idea of accessorizing is throwing on my wedding ring and a pair of big earring...that's it!

So as my ever changing body become bigger and bigger, I have the opportunity to purchase new clothes! Being the cheap person that I am, I don't plan on buying a lot of maternity clothes that I can only wear when I am super pregnant. I wanted to purchase clothes that I can wear after this body transition.

Thanks to the recent fashion trends of tunics and leggings, my quest for fashionable prego clothes has been VERY possible. I don't know if you have tried leggings since 1986 but I am telling you, they are the most comfortable pants in the world! I feel like I am wearing sweatpants to work!

Above: Forever 21 Seamless Legging $5.50, Forever 21 Spotted Knit Top $15.80, Forever 21 Drawstring Striped Tunic $11.50, Payless Shoes Maggie Softie Cork Wedge Montego Bay Club $16.99 in black, Forever 21 Fab Mid Length Leggings $4.50 (in blue and grey), Forever 21 Cheetah Knit Tunic $17.80, Payless Shoes Maggie Softie Cork Wedge Montego Bay Club $16.99 in white

The shoes above are from Payless shoes and I own them in black, white, and gold. Why so many colors? When I find something comfy I buy it in all shades it comes in. I love these shoes!! I wear them to work everyday and run around town in them all the time. The little heal on them is enough to give me some height, but not enough to throw me off balance...which will be very helpful when my stomach is the size of a watermelon.

I should make one very important note on the use of leggings. Be sure to get a long enough shirt that it covers the front and back of your "swimsuit area". Trust me, the front is best left kept to the imagination and unless you have those AWESOME underwear with implants built in, it's just best to keep it all covered up!

With the heat of summer coming on, it's time to break out your shorts and dresses. I have looked at some maternity shorts, but I haven't found any that I really like. Plus, I would rather spend my money on some dresses that I wear to parties and work this year and next year! Good thing that baggy sun dresses have never been more in style than now!

Above: Old Navy Women's Ruffled Tube Dresses Regular Price $11.50 Clearance, Mossimo Supply Co. Juniors Long Sleeve Solid Cardigan Sweater - Fresh White $17.99, Old Navy Women's Striped Gauze Blouse Tops $24.50, Old Navy Women's Tiered Denim Skirts Clearance $14.50, Target Mossimo Supply Co. Juniors Elbow Sleeve Cardigan Sweater - Black $14.99, Old Navy Women's Jersey Tube Sundown Gowns Regular Price $10.50 Clearance

Yesterday I went shopping and picked up the two dresses and skirt at Old Navy on the clearance rack! The website still shows them at full price, but the store is bursting with clothes in the clearance section. Because tube tops aren't the most work appropriate attire, I pair them with cardigan sweaters. The denim skirt above is probably my favorite. The elastic waste band can stretch, as I do, and the style is just so flowing and free.

This section I call my randoms. I have purchased some of the items below, but eventually plan to purchase them all.
Above: Target BeBand Maternity Band Ebony $16.99, Forever 21 Linen Summer Pants (drawstring) $22.80, Forever 21 Relaxed Linen Pants $14.50, SO® Crochet-Trim Tube Halter Top $16.00, Forever 21 Pintucked Woven Top $17.80

The item to the left is the BeBand from Target. This band goes over your tummy and the top of your jeans, allowing you to keep wearing your regular jeans, only unbuttoned and unzipped. Sounds uncomfortable right? Well, it's not. I picked up a brand new one at a garage sale for $2.50. They lady just never used it and with that price, how could I not buy it? I wore it around my house and it felt great!

The next two pants are NOT maternity pants. You could have fooled me, right? They were at the Forever 21 store the other day and I tried both of them on. They fit really nice, but the only problem is that the store only had them in smalls. I may fit into a small now, but give me a month and I won't. I have been debating on ordering them online in larger size, but I thought I might check back at the store to see if they get more in. I just hate paying shipping costs.

The pink top I purchased at Kohls a couple of weeks ago. I just really thought is was cute and breezy, great for those hot summer days. Finally, the last shirt. This one was on the Forever 21 website and there is just something about it that I really like. I am going to try to hunt it down in the store as well, but I think the shirt will be a really good style for those summer to fall days. It probably will match a couple of my leggings as well.

Well, those are my finds so far. I am still small enough to fit in most of my clothes, but they are getting pretty tight. I have gained a total of 13 pounds so far and I am sure that is just the beginning of the weight gain. My next clothing quest....gym clothes that fit the belly!


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Weekend Project: Building A Herb Garden

A couple weeks ago, when my husband planted the garden, we purchased some herbs for me to plant. We ended up not having any room in our garden, so I had to find another spot around that yard to plant my herbs. After procrastinating for weeks, I finally decided to get this task done this weekend. Really I was forced into it, my oregano already died in the pot and the basil wasn't too far behind.

After searching around the yard, I settled on a spot on the backside of our house that faces South. We have future plans of landscaping around the entire perimeter of the house, so I wanted to incorporate this garden with future landscaping plans. This is the spot I chose:

I know, the air conditioner is ugly right?!? One idea for landscaping around the house is to hide the air conditioner with some sort of large shrub. I had to keep this idea in mind while I was laying out the garden. I searched around on the internet and found this picture of some one's herb garden layout. I really liked the plan, but my space is not as big as the picture so it has been modified a lot.
To start the garden, the first step is to remove the grass. This is a very tiring step. It involves some muscle, sweat, and determination. Get ready to get dirty and take out a bunch of earthworms in the process. I almost name this blog "Friendly Fire" due to the millions of earthworms that lost their lives in this quest of mine. I saved as many as I could, but some of them got in the way.

Here are the tools I used to get this part done: spade, hand trowel, lawn edger, and a dandelion weeder. (In order from left to right.)Ok, I know what you are thinking, 'What does a dandelion weeder have to do with this project?' Well, when it comes to removing grass, it is a miracle tool! I use the blade to stab right below the root line of the grass and it allows me to roll up the grass as I remove it. Really, it is the best tool for removing grass. I took a picture of how I use it. I removed all the grass from a 10' x 42" section. After all the grass was removed, I proceeded to dig a ditch. The ditch stops the grass from spreading into the bed. The ditch is about 4 inches deep and 2 inches wide. It is not necessary to add in a ditch if you are putting in an edging of some sort.
After the ditch was ready, it was finally time to plant all the plants! WooHoo!!
I chose the following plants:
Nanho Purple Butterfly Bush
Sweet Basil
Italian Parsley

On each side of the garden is the Nanho Purple Butterfly Bush. This plant is nice because it attracts butterflies and can grow up to 4'x4'...which is perfect for covering up the air conditioner!

Against the house I planted two dill plants, three sweet basil, and two rosemary plants.

In the front of the bed I planted one of each of the following herbs: italian parsley, oregano, chives, and cilantro.

To finish it all off, I made these very cute, little copper labels for the herbs. I found the copper labels at Target last year in packs of 4 in the $1 section. It came with a black marker to write names on them, but I wanted a more permanent label. I used an old pottery tool (it looks like a long pin) to poke the names through the copper. With time, they should develop that pretty, green copper look.

Finally my herb garden was finished. It was so nice looking, but just so plain around the edges. I decided to go digging through our pile of leftover landscaping items from last year. To my luck I found some retaining wall topper blocks. I laid them each out and got them to fit pretty well together. They are not level or perfectly lined up, but for a temporary garden they do the trick.
Here are the final results:

Here's a better map of the garden:
I am really looking forward to cooking this summer in our new kitchen, complete will all the fresh herbs we need. I have a nice sunburn from this project, but overall it just took a couple hours to complete! It's an easy weekend project that anyone can do.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tofu Egg Salad

What comes to mind when you think of tofu? For me, it's the Nickelodeon show "Doug." If you didn't grow up watching Doug, here's a little video to explain my reminiscing.

After spending our first year of marriage with the motto "eat, drink and be merry," Nathan and I are finally getting serious about losing the "love weight" and eating better. With that in mind we’ve been taking walks, riding our bikes and plan on attending spinning, pilates and yoga classes at the Y. The hard part of course is making healthier choices when it comes to eating. We’ve heard lots of great things about tofu but it’s one of those foods a lot of people shy away from (i.e. my dad who seemed absolutely disgusted by the recipe below). Nathan thought this recipe sounded good so here is our first adventure with tofu...

2 lbs firm tofu
1/2 cup mayonnaise (or Miracle Whip)
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon dill
1/2 cup green onion, diced
salt and pepper

1. I always drain my tofu first.
2. I cut it into 1/4", wrap it in paper towels on a cookie sheet, with another one on top, weighted down with some heavy canned goods.
3. Let sit in refrigerator for 10-20 minutes.
4. Mash the tofu in a bowl with a wooden spoon.
5. Mix tofu well with remaining ingredients.
6. Chill and serve.

This is great for sandwiches and also delicious on wheat crackers.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Handygirl's Top 10 Essentials

Throughout all of our home improvement projects there have been certain "miracle" items that I have stumbled upon that I could not live without.

Here is a list of my top 10 items that are essentials in my handygirl home improvement adventures. They are in no particular order because they all are very important to me at some point and time, depending on the project. Without them all, the projects would take twice as long and I might lose my mind twice as fast!
1. Frog Tape- I discovered this awesome invention while painting the ceiling of my kitchen. The area above the island needed to have the ceiling painted white and the wall around the canned lights painted blue. I tried and tried to make a perfect line between the two colors but every time the paint kept bleeding under the regular blue painters tape. I was getting so frustrated! I found this product on google and I couldn't be more IN LOVE. The tape has a chemical on it that repels the paint, so no more paint seeping under the tape. I plan on using this wonderful invention when I paint the stripes in the nursery. Cost is $5.97 @ Lowes
2. Razor Blades- These little tools are so useful for so many things. I use them to cut contact paper for the cupboards, scrape paint off the wood, open packages, remove wallpaper in tough to reach spots, and even screw in tiny little screws. (I know totally not safe!) I keep a pack of 50 around the house at all time. Cost is about $12-15 for 50.
3. Goof Off- I use this product for removing sticky residue, removing paint from the wood trim, removing wine labels from old wine bottles...really anything I can't get off right away from scrubbing I let the goof off take a crack at it. It really helps me out in painting the most because it removes the latex paint quickly without removing stain from the trim! About $6-9 depending on bottle size at most stores.
4. Q-tips- These little guys do more then just clean your ears. I use them to remove paint, apply stain, clean in little cracks and so much more! I really like using them with good off. I cut off the cotton end and dip the cardboard core into the goof off. It's great for removing paint from hard to reach places. Cost is around $3 for box of 500.
5. Sandblaster Sandpaper- I will NEVER go back to buying regular sandpaper. This stuff lasts three times as long and works great! I feel like if I am going to expend the effort of sanding, I will use the product that will get to my end result faster...even if I have to pay a little extra for it. Three 9"x11" run around $4-5 but we buy it in the large packs so the cost is cheaper per unit.
6. Foam sandpaper blocks- On the same note of sanding, these little foam sandpaper blocks really come in handy when sanding doors and trim. The foam conforms to the contours of the wood, making it easier to hit every little groove, cut or decorative element of the wood. The cost is usually around $4.50 for one.
7. Latex Gloves- Save your hands! There is nothing worse then cracked, dry hands from scrubbing paint and grime. Also, they protect your hands while staining. Get any of that stuff on your hands and it will not come off for days! We just keep a box of latex gloves around the house and use them whenever there is a chance our hands could get really dirty. We usually buy Walgreen's One Size Fits All latex gloves because they can fit both my hands and my husbands. They are about $5 for 50 gloves.
8. Biodegradable Paint Tray Liners- Paint tray liners save lots of time when painting. No more washing out the paint tray and clogging up your utility sink. These liners just snap right in and can be thrown away when the painting is done. They come in all different materials, but I buy the biodegradable kind because I just think it is better for the environment. They are almost double the cost of the regular plastic ones, but I will pay the extra cost just to have them break down in landfills faster. Cost is about $1.79 per tray.
9. Safety eye glasses- After getting oil-based paint in my eye while painting the ceiling, I always wear my safety glasses. You just never know when your razor blade could splinter, a rock come flying up at you while weed whacking, or really anything else. My eyes are my lively-hood and I hope to keep them the best intact that I can. I really like these glasses in particular because they are smaller, perfect for a woman's face. They are 3M Clear Plastic Virtua Safety Glasses from Lowe's and I purchased them for around $8.00.
10. Plastic coffee cans- I know you are probably like "What?!?" but these little leftovers from my morning coffee I use for EVERYTHING. When cleaning, I use them as a bucket and fill them with my many mixes of cleaning solutions. I soak my paint brushes in them, put paint in them for places where a paint tray might be too awkward, store paint in them over night (the lid keeps it pretty fresh.) Really, I find so many uses for them and I always have constant supply for free!

And that's my Handygirl's Top 10 essentials. I just can't think of how so many project we do around this house that wouldn't get does quite as efficient without them. And as someone famous once said, “Concentrating on the essentials. We will then be accomplishing the greatest possible results with the least effort expended.” That is really my overall goal with these projects: getting the job finished while expended the least amount of effort, and these little tools make that all possible.


Monster Cookies

Mmmm...cookies. These cookies are definitely not healthy, but they are so yummy! They are probably one of the easiest cookie recipes because all you do is scoop large, heaping amounts of the cookie dough on the baking sheet. No rolling into little balls or cutting into shapes.
They get their name from not only the fact they have a ton of ingredients in them, but also the large size they make. Hope your hungry because this recipe will feed an army!

6 large eggs
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup butter, softened
3 cups crunchy peanut butter
9 cups oatmeal
1 1/2 cups plain M&M's
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

1. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in HUGE mixer bowl until creamy.
2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
3. Mix in baking soda and peanut butter.
4. Add oatmeal, candy, and chocolate chips and mix thoroughly by hand. If dough is too sticky, add another 1/2 to 1 cup oatmeal.
5. Scoop ice cream size balls of dough onto cookie sheets, with plenty of space in between. (Like 2 inches apart.)
6. Bake at 350° for 13-15 minutes. If using two racks, switch top to bottom and bottom to top about halfway through.

Yields 60 -80 cookies


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Makeover in Minutes: Dresser

Ahhh the power of spray paint! Last weekend my parents brought down an entire children's room furnature set they pick up second hand from someone they knew. The set included one upright dresser, two nightstands, one toddler bed, one crib, and one dresser that doubles has a changing table. All of the items are in really good condition and are very sturdy. The only problem I had with them is that they all have shiny brass handles.

I know some people out there like the shiny brass, but I really am not a big fan of it. My first solution to remedy this problem was just to purchase new hardware. The current hardware made dents in the woods, so I would have to buy the similar shape to cover up those dents. After searching around on the internet I found that hardware in this design usually runs from $4-5. Doesn't seem like much right? But considering I needed 30 pieces it was out of my budget.

What else is a girl to do??? Well spray paint! I purchased Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Metallic Spray in Dark bronze and the results are perfect!
It took about 10 minutes to spray paint all the hardware and a little longer to reinstall it all, but the results are amazing!

Here is the dresser/changing table before:
And here is the dresser/changing table after:
I think the color of the new handles deepens the color of the wood on the dresser and I love it! Now if only I could rip up the maroon carpet in this room!

I have been walking around my house trying to figure out what else I can attack with this spray paint. If I come up with anymore ideas I will post them. Nothing is better than a quick, easy, cheap, makeover in minutes!


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Think'n of Green

No, this is not a blog about being more environmentally friendly. (Though it is never a bad idea to conserve.) In my world green, is green...and that means the color green and I am really thinking of the color green lately-- for the nursery of course!

I can honestly say that I have never been much of a decorator. I think becoming a polished decorator comes with practice and being that this is our first house I have never had the opportunity to practice.

For the nursery, we have chosen the bedroom across the hallway from our master bedroom. The room is a good sized room (13'x11'3") so I am hoping that we have plenty of room to create a really cute space for this little man. The room is pretty dated looking with it's brown string wallpaper, but it has some other pretty good features: a nice quality chair rail, good sized closet with solid oak doors, and my FAVORITE PART a window seat! Below are a couple pictures of the room...really not the best pictures, but you get the idea of the VERY dated current look.

Lately, I have been trying to think of the best way to go about practicing this newly wanted artistic trait of 'decorating'. When I was in undergraduate school, for my graphic design degree, in one of my first classes we created an "idea book". The book consisted of magazines ads, coasters, stickers, or really anything of the print media sort that we really enjoyed the design elements. The idea was that before you started designing a project you would flip through the book and it would get those creative juices flowing. I can honestly say I use the same sort of method today at work, but now I click through award winning graphic designer websites.

My first thought about the overall decorating of this nursery was to create my own "idea book", but this time share my ideas with everyone and hopefully get some great feedback. It will be a perfect way to get ideas and practice the art of decorating. The problem I am having is that every picture I find, I like parts of it, but not necessarily the whole thing...which I guess is all a part of the 'practicing'. Without further ado, here are my ideas for the nursery.

In my vision of the room, the top half of the wall will be painted a light green. The wall would be separated by the golden oak chair rail (which is already in place) and stripes would be on the bottom half of the wall. I haven't decided to incorporated the color brown in the stripe or just use 3 different shades of green. Here are a couple ideas of the stripes I like:

Really I would like the stripes to look something like this below.
I just can't decided to add brown in or not...
The main part of the room that I really LOVE is the window seat. I can just imagine our little boy curling up in the window seat and reading his little books. There are just so many ideas I have had about this window seat, but I think I have narrowed it down to a couple.

Idea number one, bookshelves! I just think it would be so great to add bookshelves to the sides, above, and below the window seat. It will be functional for storage and also add a finishing touch to the room. Here are a couple of ideas I have found that reflect what I am thinking:

In addition to the super cute, functionality the bookshelves will add, it also will be a great woodworking project for my husband and a good opportunity to help in the creation of the nursery. He really enjoys building projects and I think he would really enjoy building this addition to the room. I showed him what I wanted yesterday and he had this look of doubt on his face. There is a heating vent in the way, so we would have to move that and I think he is afraid that it might turn into this HUGE project (and it probably will!) I figure he just needs some healthy encouragement to get the project going. I guess we will see if I can convince him to add the built-ins bookshelves. :)

Idea number two, curtains! I know genius, right! Who adds curtains to a room?!? I would like the curtains to be long, thick, and green, that can be tied back when needed. The whole purpose of the curtains are to create a small, little hideaway within the window seat for the little man. He can climb up in the window seat, close his curtains, crack open a little book and read in his little hiding place. I know, my imagination has really run away with me.

As for bedding, pillows and all the other finishing touches...I just haven't found the right ones. I am debating on refreshing my sewing skills and possibly creating my own bedding for the crib and toddler bed to make it match all that is in my mind. Again, I might be a little too ambitious with this project, but a girl can dream right?

Well, those are my ideas for now. They might change or I might add more as time progresses, I guess only time can tell!


Monday, May 10, 2010

Not Too Bad For You Pineapple Chicken

Did someone say healthy Chinese food? Is there such a thing?? This one is really not that bad for you and it tastes just like Chinese carryout, with less cost and for sure less calories!

- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 (13 ounce) can pineapple bits (reserve syrup)
- 1/3 cup vinegar
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper
- hot cooked brown rice

1. Cut the chicken into 1 inch cubes. Coat chicken with cornstarch.
2. Brown in large skillet.
3. Combine brown sugar, pineapple juice, vinegar and soy sauce.
4. Remove chicken from skillet and place in oven proof dish.
5. Place chicken in dish and pour sauce over the chicken.
6. Bake at 300° for 1 hour.
7. Add pineapple and green peppers.
8. Bake for an additional 30 minutes. Check to make sure chicken is not pink, if it is keep cooking for another 15 minutes.

The Skinny: Serves 4 @ 302 Calories without the rice


Just a Stone's Throw Away!

And they are finally installed! Well, they have actually been installed for a while, but I have not had time to take pictures. Almost as soon as they were installed, my husband covered them up with paper to install the back splash. They are just so pretty and we can't be more excited!

We originally chose a very beige looking stone color, New Venetian Gold, but two weeks after we ordered the granite, the company ran out of that particular color so we had to start over from scratch. I was so IN LOVE with that color! Oh well, things happen. We ended up with the New Venetian Light, which is more of whiter stone but we are pretty satisfied with the color. It doesn't show ANY food crumbs or stains at all! I was wiping them off yesterday and it was so hard for me to tell if something was on the counter. It just blends in! Which I guess is a good thing in case we have some unexpected guests.

When you install new countertops, they usually recommend to install a new sink and we chose this beauty! A granite composite, undermount, double bowl sink in black! Complete with a lovely low-profile divider, which makes the sink better to accommodate larger pots. It has really made doing dishes easy, no more odd-shaped pans that won't fit in the sink! I just love the wavy cut in the granite for the sink.
We also installed a new faucet: a single handled, pull out adjustable sprayer. The finish is antique brass and matches the soon to be handles on our cupboards.
Along with the new counters, we purchased a new LG cook-top for the kitchen. We chose a five heating element cook-top with touch sensor buttons, so cleaning it is super easy! It is gorgeous! We are waiting to update the other appliances until one of them breaks down. They all work pretty good, so we decided just to keep them for now. (But I can't wait for them to break down!)

Up next on the "kitchen to-dos", the backsplash! We chose this nice mixture of browns & grey slate tile for the backsplash. We felt the darker backsplash would add some depth to the kitchen and the blend on the slate is just so natural and very fitting for the granite countertops. My husband is very excited to get all of it installed, but due to his grueling work schedule lately he hasn't been able to get as much finished as he likes. I am just excited that we are one step closer to finishing the VERY LONG remodel project!


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