Sunday, February 28, 2010

$50 Later...

So I have to make a confession. That $50 i've been saving?...To decorate the top of our kitchen cabinets? Well it didn't go as planned because I bought some clothes instead :) I'm moving out in 2 months anyway so not a big deal, right?

Whenever I have some extra money my girly-girl impulse takes over and I end up buying some trendy jewelry or a cute shirt. Clothing inspiration struck at Target this weekend when I happened upon some beautiful floral dresses. I simply cannot resist a cute dress in the spring or summer! Once I tried on those breezy, cinched waist dresses I knew where that $50 I had been saving had to go.

The first dress features a dreamy blue/green floral pattern. It reminded me of a pretty water color painting. Here's an example of how I might wear it for a lunch date with my girlfriends:



The second dress is the same style but with a red and yellow flower pattern on a royal blue background. Here's an outfit for a night out with friends. In order to balance the girliness for a night-time look i've edged out the dress with a faux leather jacket and some dark polish (OPI’s Lincoln Park After Dark – an oldie, but a goodie!)


Now if only the weather would warm up. I feel like spring and summer may never arrive! I can tell you that as soon as we have a day above 65 degrees I will be rockin one of these dresses :)

~Christi

Spicy Romano Chicken

Well as usual I'm adding a recipe that's NOT in the healthy category. I'll leave that for Beth :) I've had this dish at Johnny Carino's and wanted to try it out at home. It was delicious and best of all hubby loved it!

Spicy Romano Chicken

THE SAUCE
1 pint heavy cream
4 T Butter
2 t salt
1 T pepper
1/4 cup Romano cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 t Cayenne pepper
*for extra zip add 1 to 2 tsps red pepper flakes in addition to cayenne (I added one "shake" of the red pepper flakes and it was plenty spicy!)
INGREDIENTS
10 ounce package of bowtie pasta cooked and drained according to package directions - al dente.
1 1/2 T melted butter
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 small jar artichoke hearts - drained
1 7-8 ounce precooked sliced grilled chicken, sliced
1/8 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 oz heavy cream

DIRECTIONS
To Prepare The Sauce:
Melt butter in saute pan or skillet. Add cream, salt and pepper, heat to a boil. Remove from heat and fold in cheeses and cayenne pepper. Set aside.
For Ingredients:
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter, then add mushrooms, green onions and sundried tomatoes. Stir for one minute. Next add artichokes and chicken. Stir. Stir in 1 ounce heavy cream and 1/2 of the sauce. Add bowtie pasta followed by rest of the sauce. Stir gently. Serve.

~Christi

Vegetarian Meatloaf








My husband loves a good vegetarian meal before working a night shift. I came upon this recipe one day and I absolutely love it! It's amazing how the consistency is like a real meatloaf.



1 (16 ounce) carton cottage cheese
4 eggs, beaten (I used egg substitute)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 (1 ounce) envelope dry onion soup mix
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 1/2-2 1/2 cups corn flakes (some people use Special K Whole Grain)
1/4 cup chopped onion

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Grease a loaf pan.
  3. In a large bowl, combine cottage cheese, eggs, vegetable oil, soup mix, walnuts, cereal and onion.
  4. Spoon into prepared pan. Bake for 60 to 70 minutes.
  5. Let the 'roast' rest for 5 to 10 minutes; turn out onto serving platter.


The Skinny: 8 servings @ 287 calories (if using real eggs)


~Beth

My First Time...with wallpaper!

One of our first remodeling projects in our house was one of our first floor half baths. It was my first experience in wallpaper removal and because it was the least used room in the house I could take my time in learning this process. We also chose this room, because the wallpaper literally made people motion sick. We had several friends who came to our house and used that bathroom and all came out with the same comments. The small flower/dots on the wallpaper created an optical illusion of movement, which in turn made many of them a little sick to their stomach.
Removing the wallpaper was easier said then done. The 'lovely' builders of this house applied it directly to the sheet rock without a primer coat in between. I ended up ripping off the paper layer of the sheet rock in many places.

To remove the wallpaper, I used several techniques: Dif, PaperTiger, and a steamer. Overall, buying the industrial steamer was the best move. Dif took too long and it created this gross blue goo everywhere. The PaperTiger just cut the wallpaper into little strips, which might be fine if you have a primer coat under the wallpaper, but not having that it created more difficulty in the process. The steamer, by far, worked the best. I had to remove the wallpaper in two layers. First remove the paper print and then remove the adhesive layer. It was a long process.

In addition to the wallpaper problem, they also *glued* the wainscoting directly to the wall. My husband removed all of that, but it took lots of chiseling to do so. We were left with holes and marks all over the drywall once all the wallpaper and wainscoting was removed. We then had to joint compound over all of those areas. It took five coats of joint compound and sanding.



We wanted the bathroom green, so we chose a light green for the top and a darker green Venetian plaster for the bottom. The Venetian plaster was very easy to work with. You apply it much like joint compound but in a v-shaped wiping motion. Several layers give you the textured effect. (Note: I used Dutch Boy paint in the room and I will NEVER use this brand again. It was like painting with water and the colors did not come out like they were suppose to.)



The next step was to rip out the linoleum floor and replace it with ceramic tile. This process should be painless, but it was not in our case. The builders of this house LOVED glue and again they GLUED particle board to the subfloor of the house. (Note: the particle board is used to increase the floor height, so it matches the hallway floor height. If we would have tiled over this there would be a good 1/4" height difference.) My husband and I spent and entire weekend with a Dremel Multi-Max and a chisel removing this particle board.



Once that was removed, my husband tiled the floor. He also sanded the cupboards with a 200 grit sandpaper, applied a light coat of stain, and then polyurethaned them. We replaced the handles cupboards and put in a new light above the sink and we were finished!



This being one of our first project, it definitely put being a homeowner in to perspective. Like with all home improvement projects, when you are elbow deep in them you feel like it will never end. It seems to take three times longer then you think it will, and at many points you just want to put your house on the market and walk away. The thing that keeps us going is the feeling of when you finish your project. Knowing that you did this all yourself and it looks so wonderful!


~Beth

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Grandma's Yeast Rolls




Yield: 40-50 medium size rolls

2 pkgs. active dry yeast or 2 small squares compressed yeast
2 cups warm water(for compressed yeast)
1/2 cup of sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk solids*
6 cups of flour approximate
1 TBS salt
1/2 cup of soft shortening

*you may use liquid milk. Scald and cool 1 1/2 cups milk. Soften the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water.

Soften the yeast in water in a warm bowl. Use warm water for dry yeast; Use lukewarm water for compressed yeast. Add sugar and beaten eggs.

Stir the dry milk into 3 cups of flour. Add flour mixture to first mixture and beat vigorously until smooth. Add salt an soft shortening. Gradually add remaining flour until soft dough is formed.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Cover it with a greased bowl and let it rest 10 minutes.
Knead dough until it is smooth and velvety (about 5 to 10 minutes) Cover it and let it rise until it doubles in bulk.

Punch dough down for a second rising or for shaping. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Punch it lightly and divide it into portions for shaping. (dough will shape easier if you let it rest a few minutes before shaping) Shape dough into rolls or coffeecakes.

Grease the surface of the dough with melted shortening or oil and cover it lightly. Let dough rise until it is very light ( when the imprint of your finger remains when you touch the dough gently on the side.)

Bake dough at 375* F. or 400*F., depending upon the size of the rolls or coffeecake. Use the lower temperature for large items. Medium size rolls will take 18 to 20 minutes. Coffeecake may take up to 35 to 40 minutes.

Turn coffeecake or rolls onto racks. Brush them lightly with melted butter.

~Luci


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Decorating on a dime

I really only have one finished room in my house. It's our formal dining room and for months I have been trying to figure out how to decorate it. I received a lot of crystal from my wedding shower and one great gift was this very pretty tall hurricane candle holder with matching candlesticks. This is the centerpiece of my antique, almost 100 year old dining table.

My first decorating task was the windows. I decided I wanted to have a scarf to add some formality to the room. I don't know if you have every priced a scarf for your window, but they run from $50 to $200 and honestly most of the material for the lower cost ones look cheap. Also, our window is large so I needed more yardage then the standard size of 7 yards that most scarfs come in. My solution: make it myself. I purchased 9 yards of this very pretty, shiny gold fabric from Hobby Lobby for $20. I don't have a sewing machine, so I used iron-on hem tape to make the edges. The rod was also from Hobby Lobby and with a coupon I paid $14 for it. Total cost $36.


The next task was to figure out what to put on our almost 100 year old antique hutch. I found these tall candle holders at Garden Ridge for $15 that really went well with the hurricane candle holder. I filled one of the holders with some pusywillows add dried branches ($5 Hobby Lobby). The other two holders I filled with white candles ($3.99 for four at Hobby Lobby) and white sand ($2 at Hobby Lobby), but it looked so plain. I needed somehow to tie them into the gold curtain, so I purchased some ribbon ($3 Hobby Lobby) that was the exact match to my curtain to wrap around the bottom of each candle. The are secured with tape in the back, so if I get sick of this look I can easily change it. Total cost: $28.99


Now what to put on the other end of the hutch? This became quite the problem because I just couldn't figure out what to do. I had a plant sitting there for a while, but I was afraid of it making a water mark on the hutch. I don't like fake plants, I much prefer the earthier look of dried plants, but it just looks too drab with the crystal. One day searching for ideas on how to decorate I stumbled across this photo from a wedding decorating site:

I thought, how perfect! It combines the crystal theme of the room with a more earthy feel that I prefer. I purchased the branch from Save On Crafts.com for $9.99 and crystals from Cristalier.com for $5.95 and wallah! The other half of my hutch has now been decorated! Total cost: $15.94


Lastly, I found this mirror at Gordman's for $20. It has yet to be hung on the wall, but it goes great in the center of the hutch. I think once it is on the wall it will make the room look larger.

Total cost for the room: $100.93



~Beth

Oriental Meatloaves with Honey Garlic Sauce


source

This is the easiest, quickest, most delicious, recipe you can make for dinner. I found this recipe on food.com a few years ago and have been making it ever since. The best part about it, it's healthy!

Meatloaves

1 1/2 lbs ground turkey
1/3 cup water chestnuts, chopped fine
3/4 cup fine breadcrumbs
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup green onions
1 egg
2 teaspoons oxo low-sodium instant chicken bouillon granules
1 garlic clove, minced

Sauce
1/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic

Meatloaves-

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Mix lightly but throughly to blend.
  3. Divide into 12 muffin cups.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. (You can freeze the loaves at this point. Place into a large ziploc bag, label and freeze. To serve: heat in oven or microwave until warm, serve with sauce.).
  5. Or Remove from pan and serve with honey garlic sauce immediately.

Sauce-

  1. Combine ingredients in a sauce pan.
  2. Cook and stir on low heat until hot and bubbly.
  3. Serve with rice or Oriental noodles or mixed veggies

The Skinny: 12 servings @ 181 calories per mini loaf



~Beth


Friday, February 19, 2010

Surviving the Dust Bowl

Months ago I was watching a documentary on PBS called “Surviving the Dust Bowl.” If you ever get a chance to watch it I highly suggest it. It is interesting to see how dust became such a part of everyday life. Dust would fly under doorways, wedge into small cracks, covered furniture in blankets, dirty clothes and even get in everyone’s teeth. I guess chewing the grit of the dust was quite common back then. I just remember watching it and thinking how could anyone live that way?

Well, lucky me, I got a chance to experience it this last week. We have been remodeling our kitchen for the last two months and this last week was about to drive me crazy. At first the remodel was easy and casual. A little sanding here, a little paint there. In your mind it will be 1-2 months tops. Well, that never seems to be the case in home remodeling. We have just started our 3rd month and now we have the dust bowl. Here is our kitchen before:




- Removed cabinets above the island. They broke up the space between the kitchen and dining area and it really made it look more open with them down.

- Got rid of the wallpaper, well sort of. The entire kitchen, wall and ceiling, were covered with 1987 wallpaper. They applied the wallpaper directly over the drywall with no primer coat in-between. I have removed wallpaper like that in other rooms and the word ‘nightmare’ really does describe the horror of it. We opted for the cheating method and just painted with oil-based primer over the top of it. It’s not the best, but the wallpaper was pretty stuck on the walls and from what I gathered it is what many home improvement sites recommended. (Note: Use oil based, it won’t break the seal between the wallpaper adhesive and the wall. Latex is water based, which could cause the wallpaper to pull away.)
Right now, as you are reading this you are probably thinking, “OK, where does this dust bowl reference come in?” Well, here is the part of the remodel when it gets messy. The following events proceeded to the event of our dust bowl.



- Modified lighting. We installed canned lights above the counter, which really made a nice working space. Then we had another genius ideas, which was to add above and below counter lighting. My husband wanted to put them all on the same switch as the main light, but I put my foot down. All we needed was someone to flip on the lights and be blinded by all the lights in the kitchen. To get all the lights on their own switch, we had to modify a 1-switch outlet to be a 3-switch outlet. This required him to fish wire through the ceiling the entire length of the kitchen, which meant he had to cut holes in the ceiling. Which requires lots of joint compound and sanding to fill the holes, which = DUST! And when you have to joint compound over the hole three times that equals lots of DUST! Not so bad you think…well there is more.

- Removed the backsplash. The backsplash was this lovely wheat etched muted brown colors. It really was quite neutral, but the wheat etching screamed 1987! (I am sure the wheat was a lovely match to the wheat-etched chandelier I talked about in a previous post.) Big surprise here….they adhered it right to the drywall. I know you watch tons of home improvement shows and they do that all the time, but according to many sources it really is a bad thing to do. Sheetrock is not built to hold the weight of tiles and grout. Best thing is to install cement board where the backsplash is placed. It provides more stability and the less chance for your grout to crack. When I was at Home Depot buying the Hardiboard I actually had the person working in the tile department thank me for using cement board and not sheetrock.

Well anyways, to get the cement board to match all backsplash areas requires quite a bit of cutting, which in turn kicks up a TON of dust. (For cutting I recommend an angle grinder and the good old carpenter’s knife.) We could have cut the boards outside, but that would have involved lots of carrying them out and bringing them back in. In the middle of winter, this is really not the best and more time efficient route to take. After a couple hours of cutting my husband had all the boards up and we were finally on our way. We were both so excited!


As we ventured upstairs to clean off for the day, we began to notice all the dust in the rest of the house. And I mean, it was dusty! I am sure the furnace had a large roll in this, but it caked the living room, the banister to the upstairs, and even the bedrooms upstairs. Almost everything we own had a sheet of dust on it. It was as if our plastic sheets on the doorways had zero effect. In addition, my husband and I were finding dust in our ears, mouth, nose, you name it! It took me 2 days to wipe down the kitchen from ceiling to floor and dust the rest of the house. I am sure this won’t be the last of our dusty experience, but at least we won’t be tracking through the house as much.

As I am typing this, I am preparing myself to begin the next step for our kitchen remodel. Priming over all the joint compounded areas and paint the ceiling and walls. It will probably take me all day and hopefully I get it finished today. We are both so proud of our work we have accomplished so far. It is a lot of work for two people to take on, but I feel that we now can somewhat see the end in site. On Monday they come out to measure our countertops for our new granite (YEAH!!!) and then once the painting is finished we can refinish all the cupboards.

There really is no comparison of the dust bowl to our kitchen remodel, but at least I understand more about the situation people went through. Like I said before, it is a lot of work and things like the dust make you want to quit the project but we know we must go on. As like the people who lived through the dust bowl, it may not be fun, but overall when it is finished we know that we have survived a trying time and persevered.


~Beth





Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Macaroni Rosa

When I turned 19 this guy I met in college took me out for a birthday dinner to Buca Di Beppo. Now, I had never heard of this place so I was pretty impressed! Family style Italian food and eclectic Italian decor - dining at it's best. ;) The guy was kind of a loser but thanks to him I fell in love... with Macaroni Rosa that is! Ever since then I've had a special place in my heart for this dish (because it's deeeee-licious) and have pined for it regularly. Luckily, I found the recipe online and wanted to share it on our blog. I made it for dinner tonight (perfect for Fat Tuesday) and I was pleased to see my hubby take 3 helpings!

Macaroni Rosa


YUM!

Ingredients
  • 8 ounces macaroni, cooked (go for Barilla's Cellentani - it's just like Buca's!)
  • 3 ounces olive oil
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, quartered
  • 6 ounces cooked chicken breast strips
  • 3 ounces peas
  • 16 ounces marinara sauce
  • 6 ounces cream
  • 6 ounces broccoli, buds

    2/3 cup grated romano cheese (mozzarella will work too)

    below are the ingredients for bruschetta that you add to the creamy marinara sauce;
    To save time & money, instead of making the brushetta mix I buy a can of petite diced tomatoes flavored with garlic and olive oil. I add an ounce of dried basil to this and let it sit in the fridge while i'm preparing the rest of the meal. It's much easier, saves TIME, and costs less. Regardless of what you choose to do, it still tastes great!
  • 1 ounce basil, for bruschetta mix
  • 1/4 tablespoon salt, for bruschetta mix
  • 2 ounces olive oil, for bruschetta mix
  • 1/4 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper, for bruschetta mix
  • 2 ounces garlic, peeled chopped for bruschetta mix
  • 4 ounces red onions, for bruschetta mix
  • 1 lb roma tomato, for bruschetta mix

Directions

  1. 1
    Add all the ingredients together listed for bruschetta. Set aside.
  2. 2
    Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan.
  3. 3
    Add mushrooms and chicken tenders. Sauté until chicken starts to brown along the edges.
  4. 4
    Add marinara and cream and reduce by a third; After adding in marinara sauce and cream, this should be brought just to a boil and then lowered to a simmer and covered for about 10 minutes to help the sauce reduce by a third efficiently
  5. 5
    Add 4 oz of bruschetta mix and peas. Cook for three minutes.
  6. 6
    Drop macaroni and broccoli buds in boiling water for three seconds. I usually ignore this portion because it doesn't always blanch the broccoli effectively; instead I just cook some frozen broccoli and add it into the sauce. Easy "Peasey" :)
  7. 7
    Drain noodles and toss in sauce along with Romano cheese and serve on a large platter. (Or just keep it in a large covered pot - it keeps it hotter).

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!


Okay, so I know a lot of people hate Valentine's Day but I've just never been one of those people... ever! I can't think of a time in my life when I detested it or cried over it. Honestly, it's just another day right? More importantly, I treat as I do a most holidays: a reason to dress festively and eat yummy food! I mean pink and red are two of my favorite colors so yay, I get to wear either of those AND I get to gorge myself with chocolate! How is this not a win-win situation??

But seriously, this is the first year Nathan and I have celebrated Valentine's Day as *husband & wife* - and may I add that we are extremely happy and excited about this. Just being able to buy each other cards that say "husband" and "wife" ... it just makes everything seem that much more special. We celebrated by going out to dinner at Spezia's and then to the movie Valentine's Day. I know some people say, "Valentine's Day is stupid because you should celebrate your love every day." Well, I disagree with this. I say, "Why not?" I mean, do you really celebrate your love adequately? every. single. day. Really?? In the midst of daily stresses from work and just life in general I think it can be difficult to make time for yourselves. So here's one day that gives you the excuse to dismiss everything else going on and just have time to yourselves. Why not?

Is it ever a bad time, especially on Valentine's Day, to show your loved one how much you care about them? I think not :)

~Christi

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