Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My resourceful little city

I absolutely love the city we've chosen to set roots in, and I find new reasons to love it every day. People here are very aware of their impact on the environment and try to find innovative ways to minimize any damage and get creative with their recycling. Here's 5 things I've learned in the short time I've lived here that make me appreciate my city and its efforts even more:

1. During a trim at a local salon I noticed a stylist was sweeping up hair clippings from the floor and stuffing them into bags. I thought it odd that she wouldn't just sweep them into a dustpan and dispose of them so out of curiosity I asked what she was doing. Turns out hair clippings can be recycled into absorbent mats that are used to soak up oil during spills, and this salon sends their clippings each week to support the cause. Who knew?!

2. One of the malls here is expanding and needed to clear out some land that was filled with brush and overgrown weeds. Normally one would rent some type of machinery for a project like this, but the developers decided to hire goats instead. Goats like to eat weeds anyway, and they will consume even more invasive plants like kudzu and bamboo. They're also better for the environment and leave behind free fertilizer!

3. There's an abundance of farmer's markets here and I haven't yet heard of a single locally-owned restaurant that doesn't get their food from these farms. It's great to see this because it stimulates the local economy, the food tastes better, and it reduces global warming by eliminating the need for transporting crops from hundreds of miles away.

4. Almost everything is considered reusable here. Even flowers donated from weddings, funerals, and other events are repurposed into arrangements by a local non-profit for patients in hospice care and nursing homes to enjoy. Such a better option than throwing them away!

5. Most cities have recycling services, that's nothing new. Here, though, they've found a way to recycle items that typically aren't accepted by local recycling companies. Number 5 plastics like butter and yogurt containers are usually not on the list of recyclables these companies are willing to accept, but there is an organization that uses the material from these containers to make toothbrushes. The city caught wind of this and have now set up various drop-off locations around the area so that these plastics can be shipped off rather than take up space in the landfill.

Tasty Tuesday-Oreo Truffles

I make these all the time for family gatherings, church functions, office parties, you name it. They are deliciously rich and super easy to make, which is a good thing considering once you let your friends taste these they will be begging you to make more!

You'll need:

1 8oz. package cream cheese

1 package regular Oreo cookies

1 24oz. package chocolate Almond Bark

1 6oz package Baker's white chocolate baking squares

Take oreos out of the package and place them into a large freezer bag and seal. Using a rolling pin, roll over cookies until they are finely crushed. Mix crushed oreos with cream cheese in a large bowl until no white color remains. Microwave the Almond Bark as per instructions. Shape oreo mixture into 1-inch balls and dip into the melted Almond Bark. Use a fork to roll the balls around and coat them entirely. Place the coated balls onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper and refrigerate for half an hour. After truffles have firmed, remove from refrigerator and melt the white chocolate per instructions. Use a fork to drizzle white chocolate over the truffles. Refrigerate for another half hour.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Caulking trick

Maybe it's just me, but I find caulking to be a little difficult. It should be easy in theory-squeeze it in a straight line, wet your finger, smear it, done-but I somehow end up getting too much on the wall and it looks messy to me. It could be the fact that I'm OCD and have a need to make everything down to even this little detail perfect haha But either way if anyone else is struggling with this or just wants a way to make the caulk lines look more clean and less gobbed I found a video that shows an easy way to get professional-looking results using painter's tape. It's a simple, genius solution that I would have never thought of!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tasty Tuesday-Baked Spasagna

If you love spaghetti and also love lasagna there's no reason to settle on one or the other when you can have both! The texture of this dish is great and the taste is phenomenal. It's also very easy to make it a vegetarian dish by eliminating the meat sauce.

You'll need:
1 1/2 lbs spaghetti noodles
2 lbs mozzarella cheese
8 ounces ricotta cheese
8 ounces sour cream
1 1/4 cup half and half
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 tablespoon basil
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
2 teaspoons of kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook spaghetti noodles according to directions then rinse with cold water and drain. Place noodles in a large bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl stir together ricotta, sour cream, half and half, mozzarella cheese, oregano, garlic, basil, salt, and half of your parmesan cheese. Add that mixture to the noodles and gently mix together with your hands. Rub a 9x13 glass baking dish with the olive oil to keep everything from sticking. Slowly pour spaghetti into dish and sprinkle remaining parmesan cheese on top. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. After the spasagna has cooled, cut into squares and top with marinara sauce for a vegetarian option or your favorite meat sauce.

*Meat sauce recipe for those who want some inspiration!
You'll need:
1 lb ground beef
1 chopped onion
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 jar of tomato sauce
1 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

Combine ground beef, onion, and garlic powder in a saucepan. Cook and stir until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain the grease. Stir diced tomatoes and tomato sauce into the pan. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste if needed. Simmer sauce for 30 minutes stirring occasionally.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bathroom progress

Remodeling our place has been quite an adventure thus far. When we got a first look at what is currently our home we had to really use our imaginations to see what it could ultimately be transformed into. It's not that the place is ugly...it's just so boring. Off-white walls all throughout the house (that's right-no color whatsoever), humdrum dome light fixtures, and basic builder features with no personality or style. Okay there was some wallpaper and I'll admit that was ugly, but everything else really just lacked pizzazz and only needed a few tweaks to look great! The hubs and I decided to start small and focus first on our guest bathroom. It was one of the rooms with wallpaper and we wanted to rip that all down and give it some life with a nice blue color.
Here it is before with the lovely floral printed paper. What you can't see in the picture is that the wallpaper also had a sheen to it. You're probably thinking I'm crazy for wanting to take it down now, huh? ;)

Pretty, right? Not so much. It reminded me of my grandma's house, and while I love my grandma, I don't particularly want my house looking like hers. Taking the wallpaper down was a pain in the butt. We tried a few different methods suggested to us by different sources to see what worked best.
Method #1-A mixture of fabric softener and water: This worked well but you run out of the stuff fast and it's also fairly messy. We poured the mixture in a spray bottle to make it easy to put on the walls but since you have to apply it so liberally to get the paper soaked enough to want to come off, you end up with bluish colored puddles in the floor to deal with cleaning up.

Method #2-Using a scoring tool and steamer: Scoring sucks. It would be time-consuming to do an entire room from top to bottom and the sound it makes is like nails on a chalkboard. The idea is that scoring the paper allows the steam to penetrate better thus making the paper come off the wall more easily. It was more of a headache than anything so we did only one wall this way and called it quits.

Method #3-Wallpaper remover concentrate: We didn't read the instructions before we bought it, but discovered when we got home that this product also required scoring to be effective. I stubbornly refused to score anymore walls again so we didn't end up using this as it was meant to be used.

We ended up kind of combining all these methods to successfully get the wallpaper and glue removed. We put the wallpaper remover concentrate (mixed with the recommended amount of water) into a spray bottle and sprayed only the top of the wallpaper around the ceiling. That enabled us to get the paper peeled down enough to allow the steamer to effectively separate the paper from the drywall and from there things got much easier!

Typically you would uncover a nice primed surface after wallpaper removal, but apparently the contractors that worked on this house decided to cut some corners and so this is what we found instead:

That, dear readers, is drywall. Unprimed drywall that required much sanding and spackling before we could even think about priming it. A few friends in construction confirmed it's unusual for a builder to leave walls like this. Guess it was our luck that we got stuck fixing up a lazy person's negligent mistake! My goofy husband got it all primed quickly though and even had time to write me a cute little message on his shirt:

Gotta love him! After the longer-than-planned wallpaper removal project was finally finished we did get to paint and I am in love with the color. Such an improvement from the floral mess that was in there!

Color is Valspar Summerhouse Blue. I think it really pops. And the crown moulding that we put up sets it off well too. It's amazing what a two-inch piece of wood near the ceiling does for a room!

I'm hoping to have full reveal pics to post soon. We've bought all the accessories we just need to paint the oak cabinets white and get some hardware and we're done!

Tasty Tuesday-Gooey Butter Cookies

Okay, okay, it's actually Wednesday and I'm a day late but regardless here is your weekly recipe as promised! I've made these cookies for co-workers on numerous occasions and there are never any left to bring home. This is probably a good thing because once you start eating them it's hard to stop and with an endless supply I'd be about 50 pounds heavier right now!

What you'll need:

1 8oz. package of cream cheese

1 egg

1/2 cup of butter (softened)

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 package of yellow cake mix (chocolate cake mix is delicious too!)

1/4 cup confectioner's sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine the cream cheese and butter and stir well. Add in the egg and vanilla extract, then stir in cake mix until well blended. Form the mixture into little balls and roll in confectioner's sugar. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for approximately 10 minutes or until done.

Our bedroom furniture is here!

We decided on a bedroom set from Ashley, but apparently everyone else in our area had decided on the same because we were told it would be a whole month before our furniture was in because of high demand. I was hoping they were estimating a longer length of time just as an "in case" kind of thing, but no. It's been 3 weeks and 5 days and we finally got the call that our furniture is in! We have been sleeping on a mattress on the floor for the past little while so I'm beyond excited about having a real bed frame again! The last bed we had was my husband's childhood bed which was really old and it literally fell apart on us one evening. No further comment on that haha I'm hoping this set will work out great as our Ashley store has a no return policy. I was so indecisive in picking out furniture that my darling husband actually stepped in and made a decision so that we wouldn't go on forever in our current arrangement. He did a good job though as I think it will work well with the look I was going for in the master. Pic of the entire set is below. We're not getting the chest or the mirror since our TV will be wall-mounted above the dresser. And ignore the fact that it looks a little brown. It's actually all black which will look better with our gray walls.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My first fondant cake

I genuinely enjoy baking but I've never spent as much time trying to make my goodies look good as I have making them taste good. I was recently asked by a friend to make a birthday cake for her husband, however, and so I decided to try my hand at decorating with fondant. Go big or go home, right? I quickly discovered that working with fondant is a process. At least in my experience it was. I bought the ready-made variety from Michael's and while it wasn't hard to roll out, getting it over the cake and smoothed definitely took some time! For it being my first creation though I'm happy with the results. Please excuse my craptastic photo below since it's the only one I have. Cheap camera and bad lighting=not so post-worthy pic, but I wanted to share my little triumph regardless of quality anyway :) If any readers out there happen to have experience working with fondant and have tips please comment them below! I've been asked to do a wedding cake by a co-worker so I'd love to work on honing my skills.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Shiny addiction

I have a problem. The problem is I like sparkly shiny things. It is because of these sparkly shiny things that we won't be buying new kitchen countertops for awhile. Do I feel guilty? Yes. But do I also love my new LeVian diamond butterfly ring? Ummm...hell yes.

Out with the old

This is what was on our living room ceiling when we moved into our house:
And this is what it just got replaced with:
I can't believe what a difference it makes in our space! I honestly feel a bit ridiculous at how excited I am about a ceiling fan, but really it's pretty great :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

You know you're a homeowner when...

  • You keep a measuring tape in your purse at all times (even the small clutch) just in case. Hey, you never know when you might run across some furniture you love and need to know if it will fit in your space!
  • You and the cashiers at your local home improvement store are on a first-name basis, and you rarely go two days without seeing them.
  • You forgo a new pair of shoes and opt instead to buy a ceiling fan.
  • Your recent hobbies including spending hours online watching home improvement how-to videos and googling design ideas of which you have at least 40 favorites pages saved.
  • You have no pictures of loved ones in your wallet, but you do have paint swatches and photos of your house which you proudly display to anyone willing to look just like a parent would show off their children's school pictures.
Anyone else have anything to add?

Tasty Tuesday-Monte Cristo Sandwich

This sandwich is to die for. For those of you who are going to attempt it I must warn that these puppies are as addicting as crack. A monte cristo sandwich is like a funnel cake with meat inside. It's all the food you love at a carnival rolled up into one delectable fried piece of awesomeness! I know you might be thinking, "powdered sugar...on a meat sandwich...fried?" But fear not. When you take the first bite you'll be a believer.

You'll need:
1 quart of oil for frying (approximate)
2/3 cup water
1 egg
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 slices white bread
4 slices Swiss cheese (I also enjoy provolone on these)
4 slices turkey
4 slices ham
1 tablespoon of confectioner's sugar

Heat 5 inches of oil in a deep-fryer to 365 degrees. While oil is heating, make the batter. To do that, whisk together the egg and water. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt and whisk into the egg mixture until smooth. Place in the refrigerator. Assemble sandwiches by placing one slice of turkey on one slice of bread, a slice of ham on another, then sandwich them with the Swiss cheese in the middle. Cut sandwiches into quarters and secure with toothpicks. Dip each sandwich quarter in the batter so that all sides are coated, then deep fry in the hot oil until golden brown on all sides. Remove toothpicks and arrange on a plate. Dust with confectioner's sugar and serve with raspberry preserves.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

New dress!

One of my husband's friends is getting married soon and I just realized I have nothing to wear to the wedding. I've never actually been to a wedding without being in it and thus forced to wear whatever the bride chose, so I don't have any go-to dresses for the occasion. Soooo I figured what better excuse to go shopping for something new? I wanted something classy and simple and ended up choosing the beauty you see above. I absolutely adore the rosettes and I've always loved a good bateau neckline. The store didn't have my size in stock, so thankfully they were able to special order it and it's scheduled to arrive *just in time* for the big day. I'm just crossing my fingers that there are no delays!

Tasty Tuesday-Breakfast Pizza

This is a recipe that my husband and I absolutely love. We don't get the time to cook breakfast together very often but when we do this is usually our go-to dish. Another great thing about this recipe? Kids love the thought of pizza for breakfast!

You'll need:

1 8 ounce can of refrigerated crescent rolls

1 pound sausage (I've used both pork and turkey and think they both work great)

1 cup frozen shredded hash brown potatoes-thawed

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

3 eggs

1/4 cup of milk

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Unroll the crescent dough and place in a greased baking pan. Press dough up the sides of the pan slightly to form a crust and press seams together where triangles meet. Brown sausage in a skillet over medium heat then drain and let cool slightly. Sprinkle sausage, hash browns, and cheddar cheese onto crust. Beat eggs and milk in a bowl then pour over entire pizza and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 30 minutes. You should let the pizza cool for 10 minutes before cutting to make sure the slices don't fall apart!