Sunday, April 26, 2015

You've pinned it, now make it! (food edition)

I am officially throwing down a challenge.

You and I pin stuff all the time.  We probably spend more time pinning than making, if we're honest.  Oh, sure, we go through and reorganize our boards so we won't "forget" we've pinned things but do we ever actually make half the stuff we pin?  (Be honest!)  That's about to change, at least for one lucky recipe, because it's time to make these meals happen.

What's the recipe that you find yourself accidentally pinning two or three times because the picture looks so darn tasty?  Is it a snack?  Dessert?  A casserole?  What have you been meaning to make?

I tried this recently with Chicken Potato Casserole.  You can find the original link here but I snapped some pictures along the way to show you how easy it was.  (I was out of bacon...the horror!)



I have to admit it was easy, but it would have tasted better with the bacon...and maybe some of that ranch seasoning I made recently.

Make sure you leave a comment when you make your meal so we can hear about the recipe you chose!


Reading grants in DC (or, the hardest I've ever worked on vacation)

A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to be a grant reader for a federal competition in Washington, DC.  I'd done some remote ones through conference calls but this was my first time to be sent to DC to do it on-site.  It was much more intense than the picture I had in my head.  We read through grants, discussed them in small groups, came to a consensus on the scores, and went back and forth with the Department of Education people a few times to clear up anything that wasn't up to their standards. Fortunately, my group was awesome and we got along really well.  I liked them from the start, when we were emailing each other before the trip.  While the days (and nights, and early morning hours) were long, I'm glad I went, and toward the end of the week I even managed to escape the hotel to snap some pictures in the Pentagon City area!

That first evening I arrived I got to have dinner with my husband's aunt and uncle and had a great time catching up with them.  They're such a fun couple!  Little did I know it would be my last time to escape the hotel for a while, haha!

Here's the view from my room:

Okay, that part was kind of awesome.  I didn't expect to get one of the coveted "Potomac View" rooms but, lucky me, I did!  I never made it down to the touristy area to get up-close pictures of the cherry blossoms but they were gorgeous from the plane as we dipped and curved to make our entrance into the airport.  That's a pretty lucky view to get to have, too!

That first evening I arrived I got to have dinner with my husband's aunt and uncle and had a great time catching up with them.  They're such a fun couple!  Little did I know it would be my last time to escape the hotel for a while, haha!

Here are some of other gorgeous blooms in the area:

This was my fourth visit to DC so I wasn't in a rush to go look at the mall and monuments.  (The reflecting pool was drained again, anyway.)  That turned out to be a good thing, since I didn't have time until the last night, and at that point I was too tired to go!  I am the type of traveler who wants to spend as little time in the hotel room as possible because I WANT TO SEE IT ALL.  By Thursday, the near-all-nighters had caught up to me, and my reading pal and I went to the revolving rooftop restaurant instead of out on the town.

The views were gorgeous, we got an outside table (closest to the windows), and it was sunset.  Totally worth not going out.

After a long week and a long flight that ended with circling the region due to some storms, I finally got off the plane and found my sweet husband waiting for me with a GIANT bouquet of flowers.  What a treat!  That definitely cheered me up after a long, bumpy flight.

It's good to be home, but I'm thankful for the experience.  It's pretty cool to meet people from all over the country, from difference backgrounds in education, and work together to figure out who should earn some grant money for some innovative new programs!


Make your own ranch seasoning mix

When I found out how easy this is, I felt silly for buying packets of ranch seasoning for all these years.  I bought new dried herbs and seasonings so I could make a lot.

Here's what you'll need:

homemade ranch seasoning mix

-black pepper
-onion powder
-parsley flakes
-garlic powder
-dried onions or shallots

Here's the standard recipe (to make about 2 packets' worth):

Measure out 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, 1 teaspoon each of dried onions, onion powder, and garlic powder, and 1 tablespoon each of dill and parsley.  Mix it all up in a container and that's it!

How much you make depends on how much you want!  I wanted to make quite a bit so the way I went about this was to quadruple each measurement which got me through about half of each container, and then I repeated the process 1-2 measurements at a time, being careful to stay consistent with the multiplier (always doubling measurements that round, or making single measurements if I see that the herb containers are getting low).

I think it helps to lay it out like this, so you don't confuse the measurements for each item.  Now you're able to do this like an assembly line!

homemade ranch seasoning mix

I keep mine in one of those nice, latching, super-airtight containers--that way, I can shake it to mix it up without being afraid the lid will pop off!

homemade ranch seasoning mix

Here's what it looks like when it's ready:

homemade ranch seasoning mix

Isn't that easy?  It can be used to make ranch dip for veggies, to season chicken, or even mixed in with ground beef for some flavorful burgers!  How do you use ranch seasoning?


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Victorian Home Tour: Around the "Garden"

We haven't really gotten to the yard yet.  We mow it (usually...most of it...okay, the important parts) but we're in the "tear it out" stage instead of the "plant stuff" stage.  I wanted a full year here to see what would pop up, and we've had some nice variety and color in the backyard!

Behind the garage are lots of rose bushes.  I'd heard that you need to cut them back so much it seems like you're killing them in order for them to grow and be healthy the next year.  I did, and it worked!

We also have several shades of irises coming up:  deep purple, yellow, white, lavender, and my favorite, purple and white striped!

Dingo's a big fan of the irises.  It's his hiding spot:  sitting in the middle of the flowers, under the pecan tree, waiting for hours on end for that bird or squirrel to fall out of the tree and into his mouth!


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Victorian Home Tour: Laundry Room, Supply Closet, and Half Bath

Welcome to the laundry room!

laundry room

It used to look like this

laundry room

laundry room

Not anymore!  We traded the old refrigerator that came with the house for painting this room and one other.

laundry room

Then, we added our own spin on it:  my sweet husband added a drying rack for me (my parents had gotten me an expandable clothes hook for my tall closet, which works great for this!), and then we added the bubble decals around the room!

laundry room

Since we have a full size fridge and freezer in the kitchen there is no need to put another one here, although it is a nice setup for one.  Instead, this became the dog area, where we store their leashes, toys, and food & water.

laundry room

The supply closet is actually a water heater closet that was suddenly opened up when we switched out the old heater for a tankless one.  Now, we have room for our cleaning supplies, vacuum, ironing board, and a ladder!

supply closet

 The half bath was already cool because it has a pocket door--you know, the kind that slides into the wall?  It just needed some help.


The dizzying print on the wallpaper needed to go, and we thought we could do better than the existing light fixture.  I also had other ideas for the mirror.  One thing that had to stay:  that pedestal sink!  This was the perfect place to go all-out Victorian.

guest bath

half bath

The light blue is nice for a little bathroom.  We changed the light fixture to something really frilly and more Victorian.  I also repainted a brass mirror that belonged to my great-grandparents so I love it twice as much for that reason.

half bath

One of the things I loved about the house was the big swan on the master bathtub.  So, one time when I had to go out of town for work, my sweet husband surprised me by installing another swan fixture!  This one has little swan handles, too!

half bath

This house is coming together!


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Victorian Home Tour: Kitchen and Breakfast Nook

The kitchen may just be my favorite part of the house.  It makes me smile every time I walk into the room.  You know, it IS my favorite part of the house.

1950s kitchen

We put in a giant fridge and freezer (my husband was inspired by the one in the X Men movie) that actually turned out to be more affordable than we thought!

1950s kitchen

1950s kitchen

Custom recessed lighting:

1950s kitchen

Moroccan tile backsplash:

1950s kitchen

Painted cabinets:

1950s kitchen

My husband designed the transition for tiles (I liked that it it mimicked the diagonal layout of the tiles).

1950s kitchen

1950s kitchen

It wasn't always this pretty, though.

It was rather cave-like.

The tile was cracked in places and, well, just not pretty.

Is that wallpaper on the light fixture?  And what is this, grocery store florescent lighting?

Oh goody, wallpaper with coordinating border.



It. Had. To. Go.  All of it.
(except the cabinets--the beadboard fronts were so neat!)

After I took down the wallpaper the contractor came in and primed and textured the walls.  It looks a little ghostly but it's all part of the process.

You can see the cabinets over the fridge area were removed?  We ripped out the built in desk area that was there so we could make room for the full size fridge and freezer set.  Our contractor rebuilt the cabinets there so they wouldn't come down into a desk area anymore--they would now go straight across the tops of the fridge and freezer.

Accidents happen, especially when you stand on the island.  Not to worry--they rebuilt it better and stronger than ever!

Instead of coming down and using florescent bulbs, the light fixture would now feature four LED recessed can lights bordered with crown molding.

The black and white checkered floor that I'd wanted since I was a kid!  I wanted the kind I remembered in my great-grandmother's house.  (It turns out hers was brown and white, but in my memory it was black and white!)  It was tough to find true black and white and was a bit of a splurge, but it completes my dream kitchen!

1950s kitchen

The attached breakfast nook needed an overhaul, too.

Here are my before and after pictures from when I attacked the wallpaper!

The contractor prepped the walls...

And this is the end result!  Eventually I'll add mint green accents throughout the kitchen and dining room but I'm in no hurry--I want them to be things I find as I travel or score in antique stores.  The Sputnik light came from Lowe's (so much more affordable than the designer ones and it has just as much impact!).  The diner set came from Craigslist and fits the room perfectly.

1950s kitchen

 I hope you enjoyed the tour of my favorite part of the house!  It's the fifties kitchen of my dreams!