Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Wall...

If you have read the post about wall demolition, you will know that husband and I have been tearing down the wall that separates the kitchen/dining room from the living room.

Everything is moving along fabulously, and the husband and I are just letting the mud dry. I've been told (who knew?) that the joint compound will contract when it dries, which means that we may need to go over it once or twice more. And that is okay by me. Here's how everything looks now (please excuse the mess, we started this whole project without cleaning up/putting things away):

Last night:

 This morning:

This moment:

I have to admit that it is rather exciting to have the wall completely gone. I love it. It definitely means that we will have to keep our kitchen nice and tidy at all times (that's a tough one). Our living room is so much brighter now (there are no ceiling lights, only a lamp or two). With the wall gone, the natural light from our sliding glass door and the kitchen window do wonders for the lighting situation.

Like I said before, we still have some joint compound to add. And then, I know that the husband and I will want to paint straight away. I already have a color in mind. It's called Olivewood, and I adore it. At this point, it is the color of our entry way. But, with the dreams I have for the kitchen cabinets, Olivewood would work wonderfully in the kitchen and dining room. Plus, we have two walls that are painted with Glidden's Soothing Green Tea. I think the Olivewood would really tie everything together.

I love big projects (and I am most thankful that my husband does, too!).

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Curtain Inspiration

I really have nothing more to say, except that, someday, I want curtains in my house. And this post at Dig This Chick (my favorite!) is my inspiration for a curtain rod.

We have nice windows here (some that need to be replaced) and they all have wooden blinds. Don't get my wrong, the wooden blinds are great and, they were with the house when we bought it.

But, they don't seem to add much character to the home and I love character!

Project: Organize #2 ~ The Kitchen Sink

When I read about this project idea on The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking my plan was to do one organization project each week. That didn't go exactly as planned, as I started a week or so late. I finished Project #1 last weekend, and finished the kitchen sink an hour or so later. I just haven't had time to post until now!

Ahh, the kitchen sink. You can read about organizing underneath the sink at a lot of blogs and on a lot of other websites, which is great. Most of them portray similar ideas: that cabinet can become a catch-all of stuff that doesn't otherwise have a home. It can also be a place where items get lost: think "Land of the Misfit Toys." Only we aren't dealing with toys here.

Like all kitchen sink cabinets, most of mine is hard to access because of the plumbing and the garbage disposal. Not many things can get beyond the sink's drainage system. I attempted to organize away anyway. This time, I gave myself a rule:

Do not spend any money.

I found that the change in the kitchen sink cabinet wasn't that crazy (unlike the pantry organization!). It just became a bit more "tidy" if you will. It is definitely more appealing to the eye, and only a couple of items were removed from the cabinet all together. Those items were removed to the laundry room, which I thought was a better fit (I don't need the CLR in my kitchen!).

Here's the before:

And here's the after:

You see, it isn't a huge change by any means. But, having it this way makes me feel a little better (even if the only real change was putting the sponges, never-been-opened rubber gloves, and microfiber towels in a bucket). Eventually, I will let myself spend a few dollars on this cabinet, because I really like the way this looks at The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking.

Friday, February 24, 2012


We've started wall demolition and an experience it has been! As mentioned before, we had a construction buddy stop by. We were told that the wall was not load bearing and could be taken down (hooray!).

The big, ugly, useless cabinet was emptied during the pantry reorganization (another big hooray!).
Do you see how horrible it is? It isn't that deep, which is the problem. You know the big cans of tomatoes? Crushed, stewed, whole, etc.? Think of the diameter of that can (I think it's the 28 ounce size). That's how deep the pantry is. Useless, just useless. Plus, you can see in the bottom right corner of the picture, there is a counter top. That is our peninsula. Makes for a little walkway between the kitchen and dining room. Key word: little. After emptying the cabinet, it wasn't missed even a little bit.

So...after dinner the other night, we took it down. And it was frighteningly easy. And now, amazingly g-g-g-gone!
Oh yeah. We put some holes in it too. You see, here is the story:

First came the hammer.
Then came the (big) holes.
Then came the...

  • Why are there two 2 by 4s in there?
  • What does that note say? (there was an inspector's note nailed to the doubled up 2 by 4s).
  • Can I put more holes in the wall? (that was from my lovely husband).
  • Let's call a home inspector (that was from the sensible wife).

So, when I started thinking about this post, I was going to say that now we'd have to wait to hear from the city's building inspector and that we hope that the wall is not load-bearing and that we will live with a wall that is half destroyed.

But the wonderful husband went to the city right after work and found out that "what? That wall? That's not doing anything."

And, as I type, our wall looks ... fabulous? It doesn't look that fabulous right now, but the husband is pounding and demolishing away.

And soon, there will be no wall!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Crock Pot Tacos

I love tacos, especially chicken tacos. I also love my crock pot (well, crock pots...I have three). I just finished throwing dinner for tonight in the crock pot and now can go on with my day (working on organizing project #2, laundry, typical house stuff..). The chicken for the tacos will be done in four to five hours, it's that simple!

Here's what you need:
  • 4 frozen chicken breast halves
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes and green chiles (we use the Rotel brand)
  • 2 tablespoons Cholula Sauce
  • 1 cup salsa (I blend it beforehand, but that is totally optional)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
Here's what you do:
  • Place the frozen chicken breasts in the crock pot.
  • Add everything and stir it up a bit.
  • Set your slow cooker to cook on high for 4 to 5 hours. Be sure to check and stir it up once in awhile. When the chicken is done, use forks to shred the chicken while in the crock pot.

This makes a pretty "wet" taco, so I use a noodle scooper (does it have a real name?) or a slotted spoon to scoop the chicken onto tortillas. I serve this with homemade Mexican rice (not store just doesn't taste the same!) and margaritas.

Enjoy the tacos!

For those of you that were wondering, this is the recipe I was working on when I had a homeowner novice moment and met The Gas Man. Ay, ay, ay.

The Gas Man

Did I ever feel like a home-owning novice today. Goodness. Here's the full story:

I was making a recipe in the slow cooker that called for chicken stock. I glanced at my newly organized pantry and realized that I was out of chicken stock and chicken broth. Oh no! Luckily, I did have chicken bouillon cubes. Now, I've never prepared the cubes in water on their own. I normally just toss a few into the crock pot. I thought I'd give it a shot, so I put a chicken bouillon cube in a saucepan with a cup of water and turned on the stove. Hooray, it worked!

I poured all of the other ingredients into the slow cooker and then added the ... can I call it "homemade" broth? to the slow cooker and went on my way. No biggie, the recipe was turning out and smelling wonderfully!

I went about my business: checking email, putting the laundry into the dryer, cleaning off the dining room table. Then, about twenty minutes after finishing the "broth," I headed into the kitchen for a little lunch. I looked down at the stove and HOLY EXPLETIVE the stove was still ON. Quick, quick, quickly I turned it off and turned off the crock pot and the dryer (what if my house blew up!?).

If you know me at all, you know I can be a paranoid person. So, I called the gas company and talked with the woman in the call center. She decided it necessary to send a tech out to check out my house. She also made me even more nervous by asking me all of these questions, then having me open all of the windows in the kitchen, dining room and living room. She told me to not turn anything on or off (including lights) and to leave the house.


An hour and fifteen minutes later, the gas man came (thankfully...I was getting cold, after having been outside the whole time) and said the air was clear in the house. He said there is no issue at the furnace, water heater or dryer. He checked the gas oven and stove. All was well.

And, all is well. My toes are a little cold and the house hasn't warmed back up. As tedious and annoying the whole process was, I have to say that I am happy that I called. I'd still be worried (a full hour after the gas man left) had he not come out and said everything looked OK.

AND! Look what I found in our garden from last year (no lie, these pictures were taken today):

There's only one of them, but this is where we had onions planted last year. Needless to say, winter has been pretty odd in Minnesota this time around!

Sunday, February 19, 2012


I made the mistake of walking into the hardware store today. Love, love, love that store. I could wander its aisles for hours. Luckily, I had some frozen food items in the car that I had to get in the freezer. A typical Minnesota February would allow me as much time as needed in the store with frozen items in the car. This year? This year is a little different. It's 49 degrees out today!

I digress...

My goal was to pick up a bunch of paint swatches. I had recently read this post over at A Bowl Full of Lemons and loved the idea. I have to admit, it felt weird taking all of those paint swatches, so I decided to do my color books in stages. Today, I picked up oranges, blues and some browns. Have no fear, I will head back shortly and get some reds, purples, greens and grays.

As usual, I got a little sidetracked at the hardware store (not uncommon!) and headed over to the "seasonal" area. I noticed that the salts and shovels were being packed into a smaller area and garden stuff was making its arrival. Hooray!

I started to pull the packets of seeds for all of the vegetables I want to grow this year: carrots, peas, cucumbers, potatoes, summer squash. And some herbs, too: chives, cilantro, basil, oregano. I had quite a few packets ready to be purchased.

But then I remembered what I told myself when I pulled into the parking lot: "Don't spend any money." Dang, I had to put everything back.

It's probably better that way, as I know that Mr. Husband would like to help with picking out the vegetables for this year's garden...

Do you have a vegetable garden? What do you plan on growing?

Project: Organize #1 ~ The Pantry

Because our kitchen is so tiny, our pantry isn't actually in the kitchen. It's in the hallway. I know it sounds weird, but our kitchen is weird (and I kind of really don't like it). But, I love everything else about this house so I can put up with the kitchen (remodel plans are in the works!).

Anyway. The pantry is in the hallway, and it's a pretty good space. And today was the day to make it organized. I had a few places I needed to stop before I could actually start organizing (any excuse to go to The Container Store, right?). My first stop was at Crate & Barrel in search of freezer safe opaque storage, but that's an entirely different project.

Crate & Barrel wasn't that impressive today, so I headed down the road to The Container Store. My oh my, that store is beautiful. I could lose myself there for hours, and I could spend thousands. I found what I was looking for cabinet shelves and under-shelf baskets.

Pretty, oh so pretty. I'm extremely happy with these two products, and cannot wait to go back to The Container Store to show my husband the amazing elfa storage system. And the elfa stuff isn't just for the kitchen! It can be anywhere. Ahh, I'm in love with the entire store.

Back to the pantry project. Husband and I shop at Costco and stock up on our canned goods there. Which means we have a lot of the same item at times. Being that my pantry is in the hallway, taking one picture of the entire thing was..well, not good. The picture doesn't look that great, see:

Here's what I'll do: give you the before picture (on the left) AND the after picture (on the right) at the same time.  Ooh, special.

This first pictures are of the top, left side of the pantry. You can see that it originally was the cereal storage. Not ideal, because there are chips and stuff behind the cereal and if you know me at all, you know I'm short. And unable to reach things at the back of that shelf. So now, it is the lesser needed items: napkins, paper towels and the "back-up" toilet paper rolls.

Below that shelf now the Kitchenaid attachments, extra Ziploc baggies and some cough drops are found. It used to be ALL of the canned items--the only other shelf that used to hold food items in the pantry.

The bottom two shelves on the left side used to hold appliances that didn't otherwise have a home in the kitchen (and the rice). These ones stayed the same because everything fit so nicely:

The liquor cabinet also stayed the same. Again, everything fit so nicely and it is up high. Mr. Husband and I don't have any kids, but we will someday. It's important to keep naughty things out of reach.

Next, the napkins, paper towels, Pledge, and paper bags were kicked out and some food (cereal, chips, pancake mix) found their new home.

Then, we had the paper plates, table clothes and other random stuff that didn't really have a home otherwise. It was one of those shelves that was the catch-all. Now, it has most of the canned goods (which are mostly tomatoes and a few other random things). Hopefully next year, the canned tomato items will be homegrown, but that's another post for the future.

Then came the shelf with the pointless dividers. I took those right out with Mr. Husband's drill, hung the under-shelf basket and packed in the cream soups, oils, noodles and popcorn kernels. Popcorn on the stove is the only way to go. We always have popcorn kernels on hand for a quick snack (and, it's just plain fun to make). I'm glad I ended up taking the shelves out, though. It was difficult to store anything there in the first place.

And finally, the bottom shelf, that used to house some cleaning supplies. It now has boxed items (instant potatoes, stuffing mix), some sauces, seasoning packets and a few packages of noodles. The cleaning supplies that started there are now hanging out in the front hall closet, near the Swiffer mop, steam mop and broom. It seemed like a much better place.

Now, after that crazy-long post, I've already started organizing some other aspects of my house. The front hall closet, cabinets in the kitchen (under the sink!) and under the bathroom sink.

I love long, productive weekends!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

My New Favorite Soup Recipe

I have a new favorite recipe and, as the title suggests, it's for soup. Really yummy soup.

My original plan was to make Beef Barley Soup using this recipe, but I found the recipe in the morning and wanted to eat the soup that night. And, there just wasn't the time in the day to hit up the grocery store. I didn't have the chuck roast, but I had stew meat. I didn't have the barley, either. So, I improvised. Big time.

Here is what I had (and what I used):
-Stew meat
-Frozen carrots
-Frozen peas
-Frozen green beans
-Vegetable oil
-Bay leaves
-Beef broth
-Beef bouillon cubes (only two of them!)
-Garlic and peppercorn grinder

Here's what I did:

First, I browned the meat using a small amount of vegetable oil and a generous supply from the garlic and peppercorn grinder. If you don't have this fantastic grinder, I suggest you pick it up. It is a great addition to a lot  of meals. I especially like it on scrambled eggs and in my homemade spaghetti sauce.

At the same time, I poured a little more oil into a stockpot and dumped in a fair amount of frozen vegetables (in writing this, I've come to realize that I did not measure a thing while making this soup...whoops). I didn't use a ton of green beans, because they're not my favorite. In fact, next time, I think I'll leave them out. I did, however, use a lot of peas and carrots. YUM!

I can't tell you how long I cooked the vegetables...when the carrots tasted mostly done, I added the beef, broth and two bouillon cubes. I sprinkled on some more garlic pepper and dropped in two bay leaves. I probably simmered the soup for 15 to 20 minutes and served it right up, with homemade rolls. It was delicious-and Mr. Husband thought so, too!

I'm sorry this isn't written like a normal recipe with clear cut measurements, steps and cook times. I plan on making the soup again this weekend, so I'll pay more attention to the details.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pretty House? Pretty Blog?

I was reading this blog the other night and decided that I wanted to do what she did.

Back in October, she did a little project. Well, a HUGE project. A 31 day (to be exact) project.

She organized her home. And she blogged about it. I loved her ideas, especially this post from day 30. It makes me envious. What's nice is that my husband and I have set aside an entire room for my craft stuff, but it is not nearly as organized as the closet from this post. Her closet is beautiful. I want one.

Anyway, back to my main thought: I'm going to organize my house. I can't promise that I am going to do something every day. There are a couple of reasons:

1. I work full time outside of my home. I have one of those jobs that isn't done when the clock says it's "go home time." I bring work home. I love it, I wouldn't trade it, but it means that I don't have my evenings free all the time.

2. Another job "excuse." I am unable to access my personal email/personal blog websites at my workplace. Having that access would make it a lot easier to update this little blog more frequently...

3. My husband and I are just married, recently out of college, working on our masters, going to re-do our deck, thinking about painting our house, and buying a dog. Needless to say, our money is well budgeted. And there isn't a budget for blogging projects. Wouldn't that be fun, though!?

My plan is to do a modified home organization series. Modified in that it won't be every day (I'm going to shoot for once a week...).

Thanks to Lindsay for sharing a link to Kelly's The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking blog!