Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Will Throw a Yee Haww Good Time 2nd Birthday!

If you have known me long, you will know that I LOVE to plan parties.  It's in my blood.  My mom used to plan and host a lot of parties and now it's something I enjoy doing.  I hope the love for parties gets passed on to at least one of my girls!  I started planning Morgan's 1st birthday before she was even born and I think the Michael Jackson theme worked out really well.  I was torn on a theme for Morgan's 2nd birthday, but eventually decided on a farm theme since she really enjoys pointing out all of the farm animals on the way to daycare (we live near a lot of farms & cornfields). 

Once the theme was finalized, my first order of business was to pin all sorts of decoration, food, and favor ideas.  Then I pulled out my contacts from last year and asked around for contacts in the area.  After putting together a giant to do list, I started working on the decorations.  We ordered some checkered tablecloths from Oriental Trading, picked up some flowers from Meijer, and used red lanterns we bought at IKEA for last year's Christmas.  I think the final tablescape turned out pretty well!

While the cupcakes for Morgan's 1st birthday were tasty, they didn't exactly have the look I wanted for the Michael Jackson party.  We were fortunate enough to attend the birthday parties of the Chadwick girls and scope out some pretty great cakes and cupcakes.  After begging Kristin for the contact information and scouring Pinterest for the perfect design, I was able to work with the Cake Lady to put together the best cake and cupcake display I have ever seen in person!  This was probably my favorite part of the entire party and I will continue to use the Cake Lady at every opportunity possible!

Summer at Initially Yours Monogramming made the onesie for Morgan's 1st birthday and she did a fantastic job again for the 2nd birthday.  If you have need a custom shirt or onesie, I would highly recommend Initially Yours Monogramming, not only do they put out a great product but the price is unbeatable!  Below is a picture of the birthday girl in her special shirt!

I also dragged my sewing machine out of the closet the night before and put together a bandana shirt/tunic for Amelia.  I tried creating a bandana skirt for Morgan as well, but didn't have enough bandanas to put both together (I ended up finding 2 more bandanas after everything had been put away).  Since I did not have a pattern to follow for this tunic, I am pretty darn proud of the end result!

Thanks to Pinterest, great family and amazing friends, I think the party was a HUGE success.  We want to extend a BIG thank you to everyone who came out to help celebrate!  Morgan is one very lucky birthday girl!

Monday, October 15, 2012

She Will (Get Her Husband to) Makeover the Kitchen!

I know I said I would be posting more frequently in my last post but time got away from me.  Posting today was important because I couldn't wait to show off our kitchen!  Several months ago, Matt and I talked about changing our kitchen cabinets.  It's not that they were bad, but they were your standard oak cabinets and didn't really match our tastes.  You can see a picture of our initial cabinets in the pictures below (ignore the mess).

We went back and forth on what color cabinets we wanted: black, really dark brown/espresso, or white.  We eventually decided on white and due to budget, we decided to try painting the cabinets ourselves.  I did a little bit of research before we started and decided Rustoleum Cabinet Transformation was the best fit for us.  It doesn't require any sanding and came with everything we needed, except the paintbrushes.  I tried out the half bath cabinets first to see  how it would look.  Even though it took us awhile to complete, we though the end result was worth the effort and went full steam ahead on the kitchen cabinets. 

Matt and I both agreed that if we started on this project, we wanted to have it complete in time for Morgan's 2nd birthday on Saturday, October 13th.  We don't remember the exact date, but we stated at the beginning of August and put up the completed upper cabinet doors on Friday, October 12th.  Whew, only 1 day to spare!  We could have gone a LOT faster, but we got a little lazy and we were only painting after the kids went to bed or when Matt was off of work.  The last week, we kicked into high gear and were painting two coats a day. 

Rustoleum Cabinet Transformation has 4 major steps: Deglosser, Bond Coat, Sealer/Top Coat, and Glaze.  We chose not to use the glaze because we didn't like the color/effect, but we did put on 4 coats of the Bond Coat instead of the 2 recommended coats.  It's a long process, but overall, we are super happy with how it turned out and would definitely recommend it to anyone else who is looking to make an affrodable change!

Below are some step by step pictures of the process.

Another large part of the transformation are the cup pulls and knobs.  The original cabinets didn't have any hardware, so we really got to start fresh.  I searched a lot of websites for ideas and fell in love with cup pulls.  In the end, the combination of cup pulls and knobs came together really well.
Now comes the fun part...the budget breakdown!  I don't remember the exact cost of everything and can't find all the receipts, but below is a pretty conservative assessment:

Rustoleum Cabinet Transformation (200 sq ft kit) - $150
Cup Pulls = $4.97/each x 8 = $39.76
Knobs = $2.97/each x 20 = $59.40 (I think this estimate may be high)
Husbands Labor = Priceless
TOTAL = $249.16

For under $300 this is a pretty amazing transformation and we haven't even touched the countertops or backsplash.  We will be making a change there as well, but right now we are pretty burnt out on big makeover projects and probably won't be ready to spend any more money on the house until after Christmas. 

I'm really proud of our kitchen, so I'll leave you with one final shot!


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

She Will Come Back With A Vengeance!

Whew!  It has been a LONG time since I have blogged (3 months on Friday)!  To be fair, it has been a little crazy in my household as we got used to having 2 little girls under 2 and I went back to work mid-June.  Now that we have put together some semblance of a schedule, I feel like I can pick up the blogging once again.  Luckily, we have been trying out LOTS of recipes and I have tried to remember to take as many pictures of the process as possible.  Below are two tried and true recipes that we truly enjoy and continue to make in our house.  Enjoy!

Breakfast Loaf
Degree of Difficulty: 3-4
Mess Factor: 3
Taste: 8
I was inspired by a recipe I saw on Pinterest, but ultimately this became my own recipe based on tools I had on hand and the ingredients my family enjoys.  It's pretty easy and pretty quick to make.  The hardest part and the reason I wavered on my difficulty score comes into play when trying to roll up the loaf with the filling.  I tend to make too much filling, so when I roll up the loaf and try to flip it over to put the seam on the bottom it's a mess.  After my first attempt, I have just left the seam on the top which usually means it opens up.  I don't really mind, but you can see both options below and make the recipe whichever way works for you!

The original recipe recommended one pound of Jimmy Dean sage sausage and cheddar cheese.  We always have mozzarella cheese on hand, so I decided to go with a more Italian flair and use ground Italian sausace.
 After browning the sausage, I mix it in a bowl with 2 beaten eggs and a cup or so of cheese.  I really just eyeball the cheese depending on how I am feeling (I'm usually feeling cheesy)!
 Once all of the filling is mixed together, it's time to stretch out your french dough.  I buy the Pillsbury french loaf, split it down the middle (not all the way) and stretch!  The more you can stretch it, the more filling you can fit.  Careful as it can tear and getting the tears back together is not easy. 
 Fill the stretched out dough, then attempt to pinch the ends all together.
The ease of the next part is up to you.  If you want to leave it as is, place it in a 350 degree oven for 16-20 minutes, and the seam will probably open, leaving you with something simliar to the picture below.

It is still incredibly tasty and it's not the most hideous breakfast available, so this is the option we prefer.  The first time I made this, my dad helped me flip over the loaf so the seam was on the bottom.  He then got a little creative with some fruit and made a snake to entertain the girls!

Easiest Ribs Ever
Degree of Difficulty: 1
Mess Factor: 3
Taste: 9
This recipe is actually from my aunt and uncle.  They make the best ribs and I am lucky enough to enjoy them when we have large family gatherings at their place.  These ribs literally fall off the bone and their taste is entirely derived from the spice rub you choose.  Experiment until you find a rub that works for you.  If there is any leftover ribs, take the meat off the bones and use for pulled pork sandwiches later in the week!

There are 3 ingredients for this recipe: ribs, apple juice/grape juice/apple cider, and spice rub.
Liberally apply your spice rub on both sides of the ribs and place in a large baking dish.  I used a disposable pan because we were bringing these to a friend's house and I thought it would be easier for clean-up.  ONce your ribs have been covered in the rub, pour apple juice, grape juice, or apple cider (hard cider in our case) into the baking dish until it comes up about 1/2 an inch. 

Cover the baking dish with tin foil and place in a 250 degree oven for 3 hours.  You can do this just as easily on the grill.  Use low heat and cook for at least 3 hours.  The longer these cook, the more tender the ribs will be!
I am sorry I don't have a picture right after these came out of the oven but we were in a hurry (when aren't we in a hurry?) and I forgot!  Here is a pic of what we had leftover at the end of the night.  We have made these with several different spice rubs and continue to experiment.  Our grocery store, Schucks, has the Weber Grill spice rubs on sale all the time and I usually pick up whatever flavors look exciting that week. 

I am have plenty more recipes and pics, so hopefully I should get up at least one more blog post this week and at least 2 next week.  Plus, I finished the headboard in our master bedroom and we are in the process of painting our kitchen cabinets.  Wait until you see the transformation!  Glad to be back!


Thursday, May 10, 2012

She Will Start to Get Her Groove Back

Amelia Rachel is 3 weeks old and we are starting to get a routine together.  She takes three pretty solid naps a day with some cat naps thrown in, so I try to get things done around the house during the longer naps.  In order to feel more in control of my life, I have finally started planning ahead with dinner.  Earlier in the week, I planned out three meals to make throughout the week and thought enough ahead to double one of the recipes to freeze.  Check out two of the dinner recipes plus one healthy dessert recipe below!

Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf
Degree of Difficulty: 2
Mess Factor: 3
Taste: 9
I am pretty sure I have mentioned it before, but I LOVE easy prep meals and meatloaf is almost always easy prep.  Meatloaf is actually one of my favorite dishes and I love experimenting with different flavor combinations.  I decided to try out this recipe, found on Pinterest, but double it and place one loa
f in the freezer to use at a later date (which was only two days later). 

Since I could not find ground chicken at the local Meijer, I used ground turkey instead.  I was also too lazy to measure out all of the individual spices, so I subbed with 1 1/2 teaspoon of Italian Seasoning.  Finally, I really didn't feel like dealing with an onion, so I left out the grated onion entirely.  Can you tell I am getting really lazy? 
I mixed together ground turkey, eggs, Italian Seasoning, Itallian breadcrumbs, and parmesan cheese together with my hands (this is actually my favorite part). 

I then split up the meat mixture in to two disposable loaf pans (the epitome of lazy since I didn't even want to put the loaf pan in the dishwasher). 

Added half a cup (I just eyeballed it) of sauce to the top and put in a 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes.  I had a litte leftover Classico, which is on the loaf on the right.  The loaf on the right has my normal go to Ragu sauce.  Honestly, I really couldn't taste a difference between the two sauces used.  After cooking for 40 minutes, I took out the loaf and topped with shredded Parmesan and Mozzarella cheese and put back in the oven until the cheese was melted.  When I made the frozen meatloaf two nights later I cooked it for 55 minutes before taking out to add the cheese. 

I wish I had a picture of the finished product, but this dish went so fast in my house I wasn't able to get a picture!  This is a really easy and really tasty recipe that we will definitely be making again and I would recommend anyone try.  Best part, we told my daughter it was meatballs and she actually seemed to enjoy it!

Cheez It Chicken Tenders
Degree of Difficulty: 4
Mess Factor: 6
Taste: 8
This recipe was inspired by my friend, Crystal.  She suggested covering chicken tenderloins in plain Greek yogurt, then rolling in cheese and crushed Ritz crackers.  I'm not a huge fan of Ritz crackers, but I love cheese so we used Cheez Its instead.  This is really easy and when the girls get a little older, I think this would be a fun dish for them to help with.  After rolling in Greek yogurt and crushed up Cheez Its, I popped them in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.  They were really crunchy on top, but a little soggy on the bottom, so it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to flip these halfway through the cooking.

I served them with yellow bell peppers and mini pierogis.  Not sure why I decided to go with yellow and orange colors for dinner this night, but I think I was hoping to get my daughter to eat more of her dinner (it didn't really work).  I did finish off my first tender without any topping, but brought out some salsa for the second tender and it added just the right amount of zing!

Healthy Chocolate Chip Blondies
Degree of Difficulty: 3
Mess Factor: 3
Taste: 6
A friend of mine, Molly, writes a blog about healthy eating, working out, and everyday life.  If you are interested in checking it out (it's one of my fave blogs to read), you can find her at Wine and Workouts.  In one of her past posts, she talked about making healthy brownies with a recipe from a blog titled, Chocolate Covered Katie.  I checked out this blog and became hooked!  I checked the pantry and decided I had enough ingredients to try out her healthy chocolate chip blondies. 

You may have seen one of the Pinterest pins for healthy chocolate chip cookie dough dip made with chickpeas.  If so, this is probably the blog from which that recipe was pinned.  The blondie recipe used chick peas as well as peanut butter to create the blondie base.  All of the ingredients, except the chocolate chips, were thrown together in a food processor and blended until smoothish.
After all of the ingredients were blended together I stirred in half cup of mini chocolate chips (I find the mini morsels disperse better in recipes).  The mix was put into a 8x8 baking dish and baked in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. 

These bars are pretty tasty, but I must warn you that they do not taste like a blondie or really even a cookie.  I think it would probably be better to name these chocolate peanut butter bars as that may help people get over the cookie hurdle as they really just taste like peanut butter and chocolate with none of that sweet and salty cookie flavor (this is probably not being explained very well).  Either way, we will definitely be making these again because my daughter LOVED them!  Even better, I didn't feel all that bad giving them to her since none of the ingredients are that bad for her.  Also a bonus is this recipe is gluten free and vegan.  Not really an issue in our house, but definitely good to know!

I have plenty more recipe to try out this week and weekend including some fun breakfast pancakes and grilling recipes for Mother's Day! 


Monday, April 23, 2012

She will Have a Baby, Then Finish the Nursery!

Amelia Rachel entered this world at 7:48am on Tuesday, April 17th weighing 7 lbs 2 ozs and coming in at 19.5 inches.  We are so excited to add another little girl to our family and feel incredibly blessed that she seems to be very happy and healthy! Below is a pic of beautiful Amelia.
And below is a picture of her proud big sister, Morgan!
We were able to finish up most of the nursery while my parents were in town two weekends before Amelia's arrival, but the finishing touches (mainly, the crib wall) were put on while I was in the hospital.  As I have probably mentioned before, I LOVE bright colors so the walls of Amelia's room are quite bright.  I did get some questions on the color and for the life of me, I cannot find the paint chip and the paint can with the remaining paint has been placed too high for me to get down without some assistance (I forget to ask as I forget most things these days).  I can confirm that we bought Valspar paint and primer in one from Lowe's.  I have found that Lowe's seems to have the best color selection for our purposes. 
As mentioned before, I am not very good at taking pictures and always seem to take them when the light is horrible so I apologize ahead of time for the bad pics.  Above is a pic of the whole room.  Matt finished up the trim and baseboard a couple of weeks ago.  My dad helped Matt paint and install the white closet doors.  We finished them off with some pretty pink knobs my mom and I found at Hobby Lobby.  The rug was originally in Morgan's nursery and really brightens the room up.  I believe it was originally purchased from Babies 'R' Us, but I have seen it at Meijer as well.

Above is a picture of the crib that we have now used for both girls.  I wasn't sure what to put above the crib and knew the wall needed something.  I found these letters at Hobby Lobby for $2 a piece. 

This is a picture of the changing table and bird artwork.  You may remember a previous post regarding the bird artwork done on canvases (below)
Apparently modge podge and I do not get along, so applying the bird bodies to the canvases did not go as planned.  I probably did not use enough modge podge as some of the bird bodies did not stick entirely on to the canvas and I ended up with ripples on some of the bodies as well.  I still had some leftover scrapbook paper, so I created a smaller bird template using the baby blanket we bought from Baby Beulah on Etsy (below) as inspiration.
I found the white frames at Michael's with the mats already included.  I purchased light pink and light blue stock paper to use for the background and went from there.  I actually think the finished product looks even better and more professional than my original design.
As you can imagine, posts will probably be limited over the next couple of weeks as I won't be completing as many projects and I am lucky enough to have family here to help with the cooking.  My goal over the next couple of weeks is to get used to being a mom of two and learn to better manage our growing household!


Sunday, April 8, 2012

She Will Find Her Own Recipes to Try

I made two new and delicious recipes over the past two weeks and I am very proud to say that I found them myself!  I did end up pinning them after I found them, but I do enjoy the satisfaction of starting my own pin chain. 

The first recipe is from one of my favorite blogs to read: Pearls, Handcuffs, and Happy Hour

Crock Pot Pot Roast Sliders with Creamy Chipotle Sauce
Degree of Difficulty: 4
Mess Factor: 4
Taste: 7
As I have mentioned before, I really do love crock pot recipes that only require dumping in all of the ingredients, setting the pot to low, and coming back 6-8 hours later.  This is one of those recipes.  The pot roast sauce used a lot of powdered dip and seasoning mixes. 

The sauce was poured over a beef roast, set on high, and after 3-4 hours, I was able to shred the meat with a fork.  Normally I prefer to use the low setting for 6-8 hours, but I didn't get to grocery shopping until later in the day, so I had to go with the faster setting.  In the future I would definitely use the low setting for 6-8 hours instead because I do think the meat would be more tender and easier to shred. 

The real recipe suggests making sliders, but I only had leftover hamburger buns, so we had full sandwiches.  I used the broiler to melt pepper jack cheese on the buns and slathered on the creamy chipotle sauce. 
The end result was pretty tasty.  I used the leftover meat as pot roast with mashed potatoes and carrots for dinner the next night.  The leftover chipotle sauce was mixed with miracle whip and hard boiled eggs to make some tasty egg salad sandwiches!

The next recipe we tried out this week was inspired by a Taco Pie pin I found on Pinterest.  After pinning the picture, I clicked on the link but it didn't go anywhere.  Since I was already in the mood for Mexican, I ended up googling Taco Pie and picked/pinned a new recipe from Pillsbury.  Not only was this recipe really easy, but it was super tasty as well!

Superspeedway Taco Pie 
Degree of Difficulty: 5
Mess Factor: 4
Taste: 8
In order to make this recipe a little healthier I used ground turkey instead of ground beef and I really don't think we lost out on taste.  The first step is to brown the ground turkey, mix in 1/2 cup water, a packet of taco seasoning (low sodium of course), and a small can of sliced olives.

While the meat was browning, a package of crescent rolls was used to make the crust and topped with 1/2 cup of crushed tortilla chips.  The original recipe called for corn chips, but I think the tortilla chips worked just as well for the crunchy texture and didn't add as much salt. 

Once the meat was done cooking, it was added to the crust, topped with sour cream, shredded cheese, and another 1/2 cup of tortilla chips. 

The pie was then placed in a 375 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes.  It came out looking and smelling delicous.  We sliced it up, topped it with salsa and devoured our slices pretty quickly!  This has been just as good for leftovers this past week as well. 
This has probably become one of my new favorite recipes and will definitely be added to the rotation.  The Taco Pie is so good, I might even contemplate making this for company and that's not something I take lightly!  Prep time was pretty minimal and it was a great way to get rid of leftover tortilla chips, salsa, and sour cream. 

I'm in my last week of pregnancy, so not exactly sure what this week will bring in terms of getting projects done.  My parents were in town this past Easter weekend and they were a HUGE help in getting Amelia's nursery ready.  We just have a couple of art projects left to finish and hang up, then I will take the final pics and make the final reveal of her room!


Thursday, April 5, 2012

She Will Prepare for Baby's Arrival!

We have less than two weeks until Amelia's arrival and we are so excited!  Well, mostly excited and a LOT of scared.  I'm actually not worried as much about managing two kids but more worried about the lack of sleep we are going to get for the next year.  Morgan is a great sleeper and I'm really hoping we are able to get Amelia on a solid sleep routine by 6 months.  Hey, a girl can dream!

Speaking of sleep and dreaming, we have been working on Amelia's nursery.  The original walls in her room were painted with a football theme, yardlines and Green Bay Packer stickers included.  My adoring husband painted the walls a light green/moss color, but it looked pretty pukey (spelling?).  I picked out another color and this time we ended up with a brighter, light green.  While I liked the color, we both agreed something was off.  All of the trim in our house is the original oak and we had been talking about painting the trim white.  I suggested Matt try out the white trim and baseboards upstairs first, more specifically in Amelia's nursery.  While it took him quite a while (most of his projects do), I think he did an amazing job.  I am sorry I can't find a before picture, but below is one picture of the wall color with the white trim, the baseboard was added later.  Can you tell I love bright colors?
 After all of the baseboard was put up (I promise I will show more pics on a later post), Matt moved the crib and changing table/dresser from Morgan's room into the nursery.  The room looks really bright and clean, but it definitely needs some sprucing up.  We purchased the below blanket (with Amelia's name) on Etsy from Baby Beulah and we LOVE the way it turned out! 

I blew up the bird design so that we could create some matching wall art for Amelia's room.  First I painted four 12x12 canvases, two in light pink and two in light blue.  I then cut out the birds from 4 coordinating pieces of scrapbook paper.

I then painted on legs and beaks.

I still need to modge podge the bird bodies onto the canvases, but the below picture gives you the basic idea of how they will look.

Sorry for the poor picture quality, I took this one with my phone versus my camera and the lighting was not very good.  I think the pictures still need one more thing, but I will probably hang them up this weekend and hope the last finishing details will just come to me.  If you have any suggestions for finishing details, please leave a comment!

Now that Amelia's room is finally coming together, Morgan's room is looking a little bare.  Currently all we have in her room is her big girl twin bed (pic below) and some baskets of books and toys.  I need to work on a dress or something for her, but that is another project to be completed at another time!

I searched long and hard before finding a super bright and fun owl bedding from Target.  This is not the same owl bedding they sell in the stores as it was an online only deal.  Due to the rails, we can only fit the pillow sham but I started on a matching owl pillow long before I realized our comforter dilemma. 

I got the basic body pattern from here, but I added a more detailed and bright applique face because of the owls I saw sold on etsy here.  I have NEVER appliqued before and to be honest, I am not sure I really did this correct, but I had a lot of fun learning and I think the end result is pretty good.
After cutting out the front and back pieces for the body, I hand drew the pattern for the face.  I used a zig zag stitch to attach the whites of the eyes and the small triangle nose.  I am 99% positive this pillow would NOT last one wash!
I then used a zig zag stitch to attach the face onto the front side of the body and added black button eyes.  I was pretty much in major like with this project already but by the time I saw the cute face all put together I fell madly in love!

After sewing the front and back pieces (two different fabrics) together, I ended up with the above pillow.  I still need to get some batting and finish it off, but I am so darn proud of this little owl.  I think it turned out great and I know it will fit into Morgan's room really well.  I wouldn't mind making a bigger one, but it isn't too high on my to do list right now.

Next projects I want to finish up include a small birdhouse mobile for the nursery.  The bird houses are painted, for the most part, but I do want to add some black and white details to the bottom and do some little touch ups.  Still not sure how I will hang them, but I have faith something will come to me! 

I'll try to post again tomorrow as we did try out two new recipes in the past two weeks and they were delicious!  Thanks for the positive feedback and comments!