Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ten things

Today seems like the perfect kind of day to stop and be thankful, mindful and pick out just a few of the things I am enjoying right now.  Life around here is crazy-busy (I think that should be a word) and there's no end in sight, even more of a reason to stop for a minute and look, really look.

1.  Lilies of the valley (from my side yard)

These smell so amazing for some tiny little flowers.  Apparently some bunnies must like them, too, because the tips of the leaves have little bite marks. 

2.  Sunshine and warmth today-yesterday was too chilly and windy

3. The new vera bradley catalog, which came with these lovely paper dolls. I haven't decided yet if I am going to share them with my daughter or keep them for myself

4.  Yoga-oh look, there I am sitting poolside doing yoga.  Oh, wait-that's another page from that Vera Bradley catalog! 

5.  I have exactly one week left in my thirties.  I feel like that should have been written in ALL CAPS but I don't want to scare myself especially considering my advanced age.
6.  I have a lunch date
7.  I just found out that my iPod has a pedometer.  And, it's 1200 steps to walk my kiddos to school the short way.  When I pick them up this afternoon, I think I will go the long way.  I did accidentally end my "session" with the pedometer, but I did 3400 steps in two hours.  Not bad for an old lady.
8.  In addition to the numerous weeds that are flourishing while I can't really garden (tree pollen) I found a pretty purple columbine growing in my backyard this morning. 
9.  Naked juice-specifically red machine.  Love it!
10.  Sparkpeople-just started using their site again after a long hiatus.  I really like logging what I am eating.  In some weird way, I think it keeps me on track.
Hope you have 10 things time 10 today that make you happy and give you a moment to pause, reflect and be thankful-or just make you smile.  

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

time for a little makeover

We are still very much in the process of furnishing this house, nearly three years after signing away our money, time and quite possibly our sanity to purchase it.  When we moved here, we didn't even have to rent a truck, party because we only moved 1.3 miles and partly because I was bound and determined to leave all the hand-me-down and unwanted furniture behind.  My theory was that if we didn't bring it, we would be more likely to replace it.  The proof of exactly that is the futon that still lives in my basement, but that's a tale of woe for another day.

Today, I am turning my attention to this little beauty:

This thrift store gem only cost $30 and when I bought it almost 3 years ago, I thought I would have it for about 6 months and replace it with something taller, more interesting and, well, just better.  The only thing is, I haven't found anything that fit those criteria and my budget.  So, here it sits-on the side wall of my dining room. 

Because it's in my dining room, you would probably be thinking that it holds linens or china or maybe fancy dishes we only use at Christmas or Arbor Day-but, you would be wrong!  It holds every art supply and assorted piece of junk my children can collect until I force them to purge and get rid of at least some of it.  In fact, when I emptied it to get started on the refinishing, my son saw the bag that held the contents of just the top drawer and said "MOM!  what did you buy us???" 

Here's the progress so far:

I am quite pleased with the new look.  I bought the hardware and the legs at Lowe's and they were so simple to attach.  I just positioned the metal base at each corner of the bottom of the cabinet and screwed them in.  The, the legs just screw into the hardware.  Luckily, my husband helped with the jigsaw to cut off the front legs.  The back ones were attached with a peg and a few screws.   

Because I just happen to have a few gallons of "oops" paint lying around, I am thinking of painting it black with maybe distressed pale green over it.  But, I am not so sure.  I am sure, however, that I will get that kids out of the left cabinet before I paint it-or it could get messy!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

the best soup ever

A few years ago, we were at Wegmans for lunch and I had the most wonderful southwestern chicken soup.  If you have never been to WEGMANS you should stop reading this immediately and go there-not the website, but the actual store.  If you have to drive several hours, don't worry-it will be worth it. 

Back to the soup-it was amazing.  I tried to track down the recipe on their website (because they do publish most of their prepared food recipes) and even asked my brother-in-law who was a chef there before moving on to his own restaurant.  No one, and I mean no one, could get me the recipe.  Thus began my quest for making the perfect soup. 

On top of being so crazy delicious I could eat this every day, this soup ends up being really healthy, too and it's simple to make. Line up your ingredients:

This is about as easy as it gets, because all you have to do is start dumping the ingredients into your soup pot.

Let's start with the onions.  I hate, hate, hate chopping onions, and thankfully someone at Wegmans knows this and they have packaged their chopped onions for me so I don't have to cry about how much I hate chopping them.  I also love how their food is called FYFGA (food you feel good about) because really, I do feel good about already chopped onions.  Put some olive oil in the pot and pour in the onions.  I use half of this bag.

Once you've got the onions nice and translucent, it's time to bring on the chicken.  I usually marinate the chicken overnight (at least) in the Wegman's Fajita marinade.  This marinade is tomato based and spicy without adding any heat.  I cook the chicken covered on low-medium heat till it's tender and ready to be chopped. 

Many people use two forks to shred chicken or meat in soups and other recipes-I prefer this tool, which is used for making cheesesteaks.  This way, I can chop the chicken right in the pot. 

Next, get your can opener ready, because you are going to add the canned goodies:

I use two cans of original ro-tel and a can or two of mexicorn-undrained for both.  The next step is the beans, and lots of them.  Don't forget to rinse the beans if you are using canned (or drain them if you are using dried and then soaked beans).  I use three cans of black beans, you could use more or less or even throw in some other beans if you want. 

At this point, the soup looks like this-try not to eat it yet. 

Sorry for the blurry photo-I think I was getting hungry!  Add 2-3 cans of vegetable broth and a few cups of water and simmer the soup for a few hours.  In the end, it comes out like this:

We eat it with shredded cheese (I like the jalapeno jack or cheddar for some kick) and a few crumbled tortilla chips.  I tried to figure this soup out roughly for Weight Watchers and I think a one cup serving (without the chips and cheese) is 3-4 points.  Enjoy!  If you end up making the soup, let me know how you liked it!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

the joy (and horror) of picking paint

As much as I love color and thinking about colors and taking about 1,239 paint samples from Lowe's on every visit, the thought of actually selecting a color for any given room is incredibly stressful.  It's like having to pick a favorite ice cream; it honestly can't be done without at least a little bit of remorse.  Like, maybe I should have had black raspberry instead of the coffee... 

In the spirit of complete decisiveness, I present the new color for my kitchen (maybe)

I love the small samples you can buy just about everywhere now because they really help you get an idea how the color will look on the wall.  The paint is supposed to cover a 4' x 4' area, but I usually do what I did here in the kitchen-paint a small square on each wall.  That way, I can get an idea what the color will look like at all times of day on the different walls in the room. 

The wall color is fennel seed by Martha Stewart (home depot) and the ceiling is endive (also Martha by home depot).  I love the idea of painting the ceiling a light color because our new raised ceiling is a focal point in the room.  The cabinet color is called seal (Martha again), which is a rich charcoal.

So, this is it for the kitchen (I think!)

Monday, April 05, 2010

I live in zone 6....I live in zone 6

but today has me wondering.  It is a toasty 80 degrees right now, on April 5th.  I feel like I should be out in the garden, weeding, planting, something.  But, I do actually live in zone 6 and it's way too early for it to be this warm, or to really start planting anything of substance.  After all, we could actually still have frost, though it seems more than a little unlikely.  The temperatures around here are going to stay up in the 80's till about Thursday, then go back down to what will feel like a chilly 59! 

In the meantime, I will share some gorgeous pansies from one of my two very favorite places to buy plants. These beauties are from Renninger's Farm

What says spring better than pansies?  I actually love pansies-they are so bold and seem to really not care that winter might try to show up again.    Here are some more lovelies:

One (actually two) of the reasons my kids love to go to Renninger's with me are these guys

and this one:

I love the sign near the pig-pen.  Basically, it says to keep your fingers out because fingers look like tasty pretzels!  That's some good advice, especially when the owners of Renninger's give out baskets of pretzels for you to feed the pigs. 

Lastly, my son had his own personal chicken following him around the other day when we stopped in:

So, I will keep reminding myself all week that it's not time to plant yet, it's not time to plant yet...  even if it feels like June! 

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Happy Easter!

Wishing everyone a very happy and blessed Easter.  I for one am ready to come out of the season of Lent, not only because I really miss eating cheese, but because I need to be an Easter person and not a Lent person. 

Thanks, also to everyone who stopped by thanks to my post on Hooked on Houses-your comments were wonderful and I have thoroughly enjoyed doing my own "visiting" thanks to Julia's blog party.  Oh, and don't you just love how I hid Easter eggs for you in that photo?   Happy Easter!

Friday, April 02, 2010

In honor of freaky (house) friday-my dining room

I fell in love with the blog hooked on houses at first sight.  It was like finding a 12 step program for house obsession and it made my heart warm to know I wasn't the only one who did this:

I think the best time to take a walk is at dusk–after people have started turning on their lights, but before they have closed their blinds!   (from Julia's quiz "are you hooked on houses")

She does all the snooping for you:  celebrity homes, movie homes, homes for sale.  So, when she announced her "freaky house friday" blog party, I thought I would jump in and share with my dining room. 

My house, just 3 short years ago, was decorated in early 90's mauve, colonial blue and floral overkill.  Just about every room had some sort of stencil or adornment to remind us that flowers are great, really great.  The dining room, though, was really something.  Here's a look at a few of the "befores"

I should also mention that the living room and dining room were covered in mauve carpeting, which we will discuss at another time.  For now, just check out that awesome paneling.  I don't really know which part of it caught my eye first, the irridescent floral  border that was only about 24" from the baseboard or the interesting choice to paint the upper part of it white, and leave the bottom in all its wooden glory. 

Whichever it was, the dining room was now mine.  Even before we had moved in, when I was imagining how I would decorate this house, I wanted a very traditional dining room.  I love toile-love it!  So, in my perfect dining room, it would be toile, chair rail and then a neutral color. 

Because we were very new at renovating and had just spent about every dollar we had on the house, I didn't want to rip out the paneling for fear of what was behind it.  Even now, I am glad I didn't take it out, because after ripping out the kitchen ceiling, I know what I would have been in for. 

So, I... filled in every groove in the paneling with joint compound
every groove
every one
with joint compound

during that process, it looked a little something like this:

I can't show you what I looked like while doing this, but I am pretty sure it was scary!  Even the hulk seems a little annoyed with the whole project. 

The process was time consuming and at times frustrating, but eventually, it looked something like this:

This was before we did the floors and got our new table.  And, judging from the china cabinet, it was also before I owned any dishes. 

Here is the dining room today-pretending to be ready for Easter:

And here is a blurry shot of that same wall and the closet door from the before picture.  That little blur is my son who just got a new scooter. 

I think my dining room has definitely come out of freakiness.  We eat every meal in this room, the kids do their homework, I spend many days working on the laptop at this table-it's our favorite spot to gather.