Wednesday, April 25, 2012

DIY Kitchen Cubby Bar

I know, I know this post has been a long time coming.

I finished the kitchen bar thing in time for our house warming party. Just barely. I had to go out and buy a hand saw and cut about a quarter of an inch off the end the night before because it was too long. Mike said "measure twice, cut once." Well I measured about 4 times. And I watched the Home Depot guy measure a couple of times too. Apparently all that measuring was just not enough.

So before I show you the awesome pictures, a little back story.

I found this awesome minimalist desk on Pinterest one of the first days after I signed up and I fell in love. It was simple and functional and awesome. And we had just put a bid on our new place, which had a little space for a kitchen table. But we don't have a kitchen table. We do, however, have two bar stools. So I put two and two together and decided that this desk would be perfect in the kitchen. A little counter to put the bar stools under. As a bonus, it would be a test run for the bar that we're thinking of putting in in that space.

I liked the minimalist idea, but I wanted to give it a more kitchen-y feel and less of a desk feel. So I switched it up a bit. I used 1"x10" boards for the bottom and the sides (and the cubby hole sides) and a 2"x12" board for the top.

I had a ton of fun (can you read my sarcasm) sanding them down by hand, and I'm super picky, so I rounded the edges out a bit to give it a more home-y feel (and also as a bit of protection for the Z as she toddles around.).

Then I drilled pilot holes on the top and bottom where the ends were and also for the cubby separators. I put wood glue on both ends of each side and screwed right through it to strengthen the bond. In hindsight, I should have just used wood glue for the separators as I ended up with screws in the middle of the bar that weren't pretty. Just used a little bit of wood filler over them as camo and poof! Almost gone.

I wiped it down with paint thinner to get all the dust off and let it dry. Then I used Minwax pre-stain wood conditioner to get it ready for staining. (I have to say that I would have skipped that step, but we got a "welcome to the neighborhood" coupon from Ace for $10 off, so I thought, what the hell.) After letting it dry, again (you will see a pattern forming here), I stained it with Minwax Wood Finish in Puritan Pine. Insert more drying (the drying was the suckiest part of this project), and I sealed it with 3 coats of Minwax Polycrylic (more drying between coats).

Sidebar comment: Jeeze, you'd think that I'm getting paid by Minwax, but I'm not. I just heard good things about their products when I was researching how to stain and seal the bar.

I hung it on the wall using some cabinet cleats I found at Home Depot (something like this, but a stronger version rated for 200 lbs. Also I used two of them.).  I screwed them into the studs and used wall anchors -- the good kind and ones that are rated for 75 lbs. The whole bar doesn't way 75 lbs, but I'd rather be safe than sorry.

Ok, in that short description I left out the part where it didn't fit when I tried to put it on the wall and I had to take apart one end and saw off some and then reassemble it. That part is like the mistakes that Mom use to make in her cross stitching. :)

So yeah. That was the whole week long process. I wanted to take pictures of the process, but I did it all in our garage space and I kept forgetting to bring the camera down. So you'll just have to imagine. Or use the photos from the original post I used as inspiration. Those are pretty good.

In any case, here's what the kitchen looked like before:

And with our awesome addition:

Oh yeah, we painted the walls as well. After tearing down the wallpaper. Actually -- credit where credit is due -- the Dads attacked the wallpaper, skimmed, and painted the walls. And they did an amazing job. 

And the actual bar:

 I love the cubby holes and can't wait to find bins that will fit in them. And that corner is totally going to become my desk area for all the bills and paperwork that comes in. I've already got an in and out box up there (tutorial coming soon) and I'm going to have letter bins for Mike, Z, and I as well.

So slowly the kitchen is coming together. Can't wait to get all the ideas out of my head and into the real world.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Noodles Alfredo

 Momma Duck's Noodles Alfredo.

She was so good at having those quick meals that offered such variety in dinners. I never got sick of anything that she made all the time. This is a good quick fix for the creamy white sauce that I have yet to master. Honestly, somehow I cannot cook a good rue and make a good bechamel (look it up sister). I can't even melt cheese into a good cheddar cheese sauce. But with this - TADA!!! I can make cheesy pasta in the microwave.

Now I have a small kitchen, but I've managed to incorporate most every type of dish/gadget I need. Until now. I sat down yesterday morning and took a look at the recipe just to find out, I have only large casserole dishes. Its those stand by dishes that apparently I am lacking.

Anyway... this recipe will do just fine in any microwaveable dish that is large enough to hold your 3 cups of noodles.

It was sooo gooood to eat. Like adult mac & cheese.

I know there has to be a good way to make this slightly healthier. For one thing, we can probably swap the whipping cream for a 1% or skim milk. Also, we can probably use less butter, and maybe swap in some mozzarella cheese for the creaminess the butter would add. I had used the faux-parmesan cheese (ya know the fake stuff that's grated down). I bet this would be awesome though if you use freshly grated parmesan cheese - that would also help with creaminess.

Another swap that I know had been done before, is the pasta. Once you master the cheese sauce, any cooked pasta can be tossed in with the sauce. 

Still a good stand-by to add into the recipe box!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Best Manicotti Recipe Ever!

Remember the other day when you called me and I was making manicotti? Well here it is!

I got the recipe years ago in Home Ec. class in middle school. This time I made it with whole wheat flour 'cause that's what we have. I probably should have changed something in the recipe because of this, but I didn't and it still turned out delicious.

I made it the hard way, because it's just more fun that way. Also, because I have a crepe maker and I haven't used it in forever.

Without further ado,


First we make the crepes...

2 eggs
1 cup water
1 cup flour
2 tbsp butter (melted)

Beat the egg, add the water and butter, then add the flour.

Pour batter onto a plate.

Use crepe maker to make deliciousness. (If you don't have a crepe maker then a: get one and b: you can make them in a pan it's just harder. You have to pour some of the batter in a heated pan and then tilt to spread the batter out. Then cook it for a couple of minutes. I haven't done it this way in a very long time. The other option is to buy manicotti pasta from the store and just cook it and then fill it, but that's just not as much of an adventure. And I like adventures.)

Yum! (on a side note, awesome blister right?)
I stacked them up on a separate plate with wax paper between them so they didn't stick together. I don't know if I was suppose to, but I did.

Then we make the filling. I'm a cheese person, and since I'm trying to eat better I added spinach. (and extra parmesan cheese because it's delicious.)

1 lb ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 tbsp parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella
1 cup cut spinach
dash of salt and pepper

Mix the cheeses and egg together. Add the spinach.

And then comes the fun part: Manicotti burrito time!

Fill the crepes and fold like a burrito and then place in a baking dish (best described in pictures):

Fold over the top and bottom (or what you deem the top and bottom to be).
Then a side. 
Fold over the last side and...


Cover with sauce (I used Culinary Circle's Marinera sauce. It's delicious and doesn't have any added sugar, which is a big button for me. Because, really, who needs added sugar.) Sprinkle mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top and then stick it in the oven for 25 minutes at 325 degrees. 

Dig in. Even Z loved it. She picked the spinach out and some of it ended up in her hair and on her lap, but she'd just been finger painting before dinner so she needed a bath anyways. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tick Tock

So I'm a clock fanatic. We have wall clocks in every room of our house. (Wait, let me think.... I need a new one for the kitchen. The old one didn't fit the new decorating scheme and is now in the office. And I don't have any in the bathrooms. But almost every room in the place has a clock.) I didn't use to be this way, but with Z having to be at day care and me having to go in to work in the afternoon instead of the morning, I started losing track of time (and my cell phone). It became easier to just look at the wall and see what time it is no matter where you are.

It helped that I had a clock that I absconded with when I moved from Cali. I think that was the first wall clock I had and the rest of them I've collected over the past couple of years. Every time I think about getting rid of the original clock I find a new place to put it. And now, I get to give it a second life (or third, or fourth life. I haven't really been keeping track.)...

In it's old incarnation it fit in perfectly with Z's old room. (Remember those striped bins? Perfect, right?) Well, now the Z's room is purple (as are the bins). And really, I'm not going to have a green and blue room again any time soon. So what to do? Paint it! I love painting things. I'm so glad we have a paint closet in storage, because we have so much paint now. Love it!

I designed and printed up some new numbers (free printables!). Sanded down the face of the clock a bit, and then painted it purple with the left over paint from Z's room. I marked where the numbers were on the side edges and kind of guesstimated putting the new ones on based on the marks. The plain purple with the numbers was kind of boring, so I reached into my ginormous Sharpie box and added some curly cues. Cover the whole thing with Mod Podge to seal it and hang it up.

And now the Z has a clock that fits right in with her decor! I think it's the only clock in the house that doesn't tick, so I don't have to worry about it bugging her when she goes to sleep. (Like the one in our room does to me. Thank goodness for earplugs!)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Answer Unknown

The Great Kale Chip Question

I just don't know sister...

I have a lot a kale in my house right now. I was able to snag both a bushel and a peck of kale from my local produce store (which is my new favorite place - because the kale was only $2!). I have been trying to eat more fresh fruits and veggies in order to be healthy and lose weight through an overall life change. Incorporate more fruits and veggies, and OPTIONS of different fruits and veggies, I will be less tempted to eat the whole cheesecake I made the other week.

So - kale was purchased for green smoothies (something like this). But because my produce place is the creme de la creme of all produce, I have a TON! Thus comes the kale chip.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Remove tough stems of kale, wash and tear into large bite sized pieces.
Toss kale in 2 tbs olive oil
Spread in one layer on a baking sheet
Bake for 15 min
Sprinkle with salt immediately after removal from oven

They taste like little munchies :) It still definitely tastes like a dark leafy green, with a pinch of salt. The curly kale has provided all sorts of little crunch capabilities. I would warn, they shrink more than I expected. So when tearing, keep your pieces larger than bite sized. I have to say - it is no potato chip, but I will also admit, these would be a great replacement for that large bowl of popcorn during a movie!

Please try it yourself and let me know what you think about it :)

Friday, April 13, 2012

What to do WIth a Pile of Jeans and Pillow Forms

Since you didn't get a chance to post this week, I'm going to do some sharing with my post. Because I couldn't have finished this project without you. (Ok, maybe I could have. But I'm lazy and didn't want to go to the store. And you're awesome and sent me what I needed.)

The other day I was trying to simplify our life by getting rid of stuff we don't use and I stumbled upon...

Pillow forms and jeans! I had a ton of pillow forms and jeans that were just sitting in under the bed boxes. What a waste, both of space and function. Since I knew Z's room was going to be awesome and I know how much she loves flopping on the husband pillow we have, I thought I'd create the perfect reading nook with jean pillows for her.

Lucky for Z, I love weird jeans. And since I love them so much I can't help keep them even after they don't fit any more. I have had some of these since high school! (Flare much?) One pair had lace up sides. I kept the sides because I knew they'd be awesome for something, and poof! Lace up jean pillow! Thank you so much for the ribbon, it is perfect! We really are doing some long distance crafting!

Really the ribbon was perfect, and perfect timing too. I tried some other ribbon I had and it didn't work. So that pillow was just sitting around waiting to get done while I lazily ignored it and watched Castle. :)

The pillows finish up her nook perfectly. I'll do another post on the rest of her nook soon, I just wanted to get this one done. She loves sticking chalk and magnets in the pocket. She grabs books (well I grab them for her, they're kind of high up as she kept pulling them off the shelves at the old place.) and then sits down and leans back on her pillows to read!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Holy Healthy Eating, Batman!

Ok, so I'm doing this happiness project with some of the girls from work. (Sorry for the shameless plug, actually, no I'm not. I love where I work!) I think I told you to read the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin way back when we visited in October last year. I think you were a bit busy, so I guess you can be off the hook for not reading it yet. But I totally think you should. And then you should start your own happiness project, because it is... well not really life changing, but it is empowering. And it's making me get off my butt and be productive.

Anyways, the idea is that you set aside one thing to remember or change or work on each month. This month my thing is to take better care of myself. You know how I eat (or rather how I don't eat). I know that Z's still pretty young, but I'm afraid of her picking up her eating habits from me. So I decided that we're going to start having family dinners. Which Mom made seem really easy to do. I don't know how she did it. I know that we always had a fridge full of food, but until now I couldn't understand how she did it. Our fridge is always just the bare minimum of stuff. Anyways I was perusing Pinterest, like you do. And I came across a menu planner someone made. A bell went off in my head and I realized that if we planned dinners out for the week and just went shopping for that stuff then we'd be able to eat better. (You don't want to know how we use to shop.)

So I made one up for us.

I took a piece of foam board that I've had lying around our home forever and covered in scrapbook paper. The days of the week go down the middle, the left side is for main dishes and the right side is for sides. I used velcro to attach them to the board (the rrrrrrip is so satisfying!)

 I like being able to change up the meals by mixing different sides with different main dishes. Also we have some really simple main dishes - like "Chicken Breast." But that gives us more room to play with what we want to do and allows us to change menus without having to make a bajillion new cards. I also made up two fill-in-the-blank cards, one for main dishes and one for side dishes. I covered them with clear packing tape and I can write on them with dry erase marker. That way we can test out new dishes without having to make new cards for them. (See the main dish for Saturday?)

We had an unused recipe box, which is perfect for storing all the unused cards. And since I had so much of the navy card stock left, I cut it up and store it in the back of the box as well. Now if I want to add new cards, I just need to print them up and glue them to the card stock.

Of course I had to make the recipe box match the menu planner, I couldn't just let it be boring brown.

Yay for spray adhesive. I know you're not a big fan of it. But it made the recipe box covering so easy. I just cut out the pieces of scrapbook paper then sprayed them and stuck them on the box. *Note: Don't be lazy - make sure you have a drop cloth or newspaper or something under the box. I didn't and ended up with a sticky kitchen floor for a few days. 

So yeah, I had fish tonight for dinner. I still don't like it, but I ate it. I like to think that Mom would be proud. She'd probably also say something along the lines of "About damn time." :)

(I would like to apologize for not having step by step photos, but I'm working on doing it better in future posts... like way in the future. The next couple of projects are lacking in the step by step photos as well. In my defense, they're pretty easy projects and the step by step photos would be boring.) (And now I have the Step by Step theme song stuck in my head... Step by step, day by day. A fresh start over, a different hand to play....)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cake Mix should be in EVERYTHING!

So I found the recipe for cake mix rice crispy treats on that wonderful thing called Pinterest awhile back. And I made them. They were OK. Nothing really to write home about. Mostly they tasted like rice crispy treats, but that may be because I didn't let the marshmallows melt enough before adding the cake mix. (My bad.) (Yes, I just said that. I'm allowed to, I grew up in the 80s and 90s. We Early-Y's are nostalgic like that. Then again, maybe it's just me.)

ANYWAY, at the end of the cake mix rice crispy treat recipe, Ali gives you an idea for cake mix cookies. Yes you read that right. Cookies. Made with -- wait for it -- Cake Mix. That sounded like a great idea. And after all the zaniness of moving, I needed something delicious. Also the cake mix was sitting in the cabinet asking to be eaten.

So, without further ado, Cake Mix Cookies (a la Gimmie Some Oven):

Stir 6 oz cake mix, 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil, and an egg until mixed. Form into cookie dough balls, and bake at 350 for 10-12 min:

As you can see, I did not get cookie dough balls. I got cookie soup blobs. But as a wise woman once told me, "It's not what it looks like, it's how it tastes that matters." Even so, I dressed them up with some jimmies. (Don't get me started on jimmies vs. sprinkles.) VoilĂ ...

About 10 minutes later I had the best cookies I've ever had. Z and I each had one, then she ran around in circles for awhile :) Mike and I finished them later while watching Community. SO GOOD.

P.S. I'm sorry about all the caps in this post. I couldn't help myself, these cookies took away my caps lock filter. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Simple Turned Special

I always see these little signs in stores. You know the ones, the ones that you'd expect to find in little coffee shops. And you always look at them thinking "I can't put that in my house, I've never been there."

Well, now I can actually say "I have been there." And it was the most wonderful place in the world.

My hubby and I fell in love with Paris on our honeymoon. I would have to say that we both enjoyed it most of the 6 European destinations we plowed through in 2 weeks (yeah- do the math - we plowed through). Its the one where we had the best meal, duck at Le Petite Canard, and had our first Creme Brulee. We experienced art through architecture and history. Ahh, to be back in Paris....

I finally felt I had the right to purchase this decorative piece.

But see, I have a thing.... I like to make things my own. Since no 2 people are alike, we should all make our things unique. It was my wonderful hubby that had the idea of turning this into a photo holder.

We hot glued little clothespins (found at your local craft store) that we painted black (to match the letters of course) to the back of a few letters, to allow for photo options later. With a photo of us from our wedding, we now had a piece that brought together our wedding and our honeymoon.

Now, we will always have Paris.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Giving Tree

I'm stealing unsecured internet! (This problem will hopefully be solved by Tuesday. Fingers crossed!) I probably shouldn't be logging in to things to protect my passwords, but I just can't help myself, Z's room is almost finished and I have to share one of my favorite parts. Her Giving Tree!!!

I'll get more pictures up soon of her whole room, I'm waiting for some glue to dry on the trim around her bookcase right now, so it'll probably be early next week. But I finished the Giving Tree on Friday and I am so excited to share it with you. 

So the whole thing is that I LOVE Shel Silverstein. I love his zany poems, I love his whimsy, I love everything about his writings. And I want Z to have part of that. I especially love The Giving Tree. What a great story of friendship. So many people have come and gone in my life, and it's nice to read that story and remember the people who even when they leave, they are still there for me and still caring about me even when we don't talk every day. 

At first I was thinking vinyl wall cling, but those are EXPENSIVE. Especially when we are talking about the size that I'm thinking. So I thought, why not just paint it on? It can't be that hard. And it wasn't. 

Kudos to Curt for letting me borrow his projector, it really made the whole thing go very easily.

My set up.
 I had to get out the old MacBook. No literally, the OLD MacBook. The new one didn't have the right plug to work with the S-video adapter that we had. So glad I saved it after all this time.

As you can see, the tiny MacBook meant I had to do it in parts. Not horrible, but inconvient. 

Painting the outline
Filled in

I think painting that outline was the worst part. I'm just not patient enough to find it enjoyable. And I've got just enough perfectionist in me to be annoyed when it's a little bit off, but not enough to care enough to fix it. 

Anyways, here's the finished product. The lighting is kind of crappy, but I'll get a better picture up when I take pictures of her completed room. Which means you have to wait with bated breath to see the awesomeness!

It really turned out amazingly well. Ideally I'd like to get a picture with her in her crib reaching up for the apple like the little boy on the front of the book, but Z's not one for performing. At least not performing what you want her to do. That's not to say she's not a little performer. Yesterday before nap time she walked out of her room and up to the TV to dance to the Muppet Show theme song. As soon as it was over, she turned around to me and gave me the sign for bed. "That's it mom, I just needed to dance before nap time. I can go to sleep now." It's amazing how she talks without speaking :)