Dresser Makeover

Last week I finished my favorite home project to date, my dresser makeover. You see for the last 6 years of marriage, Eric and I have shared an Ikea dresser that Eric purchased back when he was single and living alone. The dresser worked great for a while but then, as most Ikea furniture, it started to fall apart. The drawers had the thick cardboard bottoms and one by one the bottoms began to break. One was help up with duct tape and one of my drawers even lived on the floor for about a year because neither of us cared enough to take the time to fix it properly. I’ve always wanted a long, low dresser for us to share, one with more drawers and whose height allowed for a nice lamp and some accessories to be placed on it. About 6 months ago, I began trolling Craig’s list for inexpensive dressers that fit the style I was hoping for. Last month, I succeeded in landing this baby:

This dresser was almost all solid wood, the top was coated in laminate strips which was strange, but the drawers and sides were all wood, it was long and low and had 9 drawers, that means 3 more drawers that our old dresser! I loved the simplicity of it and knew immediately I wanted to sand and re-stain it and I wanted to paint the top white (since I couldn’t re-stain laminate).

I got to work and over the course of last week, sanded all the drawer fronts  and then I started on the sides and all the smaller areas of the dresser. I found that the way the dresser was designed, I was having a really hard time getting some of the places sanded at all. I went back to the drawing board and decided to paint the entire frame and top of the dresser white. Next, I stained the drawer fronts a pretty red mahogany. After waiting 24 hours for the stain and paint to dry, I coated everything with 3 coats of water based polyacrylic and then let everything dry for 3 days before touching it.

In the end I was left with this beautiful dresser:

The picture doesn’t do it justice, but you can see the subtle wood grain in on the drawers and they hand a bit more red tint in them in person. You may also notice that the walls in this picture are blue, we did re-paint the room 2 weeks ago as well. I keep going into the room just to look at it and then I’ll run my hand over it to feel how smooth it is. It’s amazing to me how much more you like a piece of furniture or a room when you put hard work into making it look good. I’m still amazed at myself for finishing this project, this is the first piece of furniture I have ever stained!

Yesterday, we went through all of our clothes and filled 3 bags to donate and then put all the keepers into the new dresser. The old shabby dresser is now living in the garage until we decide what to do with it.

What have you all been up to lately? Any furniture makeovers? Rooms painted? I’d love to hear about it!

Let There Be Light!

Our newly found motivation with household projects continues, which means my cooking has been made up of quick and easy meals and lots of leftovers. It’s a little sad for our bellies these past few weeks but so many things are getting accomplished in the house that I can hardly be upset. I promise to get back to cooking and sharing my recipes with you all soon but for now, let me show you our latest project and by our I really mean Eric’s because he did all the work while I handed him thing he asked for and paced around the kitchen.

Here’s the back story to this project. When we moved into our house four years ago, I liked the kitchen a lot. I was large, had a big island work space , a decent stove/oven with a flat top and a huge beautiful pantry, what more could a girl ask for? Unfortunately, my tastes were not the same as the previous owners and I quickly got to work painting the walls and trim. A few years later, painting the cabinets white followed and for the last year we’ve been searching for a new light fixture. I wanted something that would open the space up and something that emulated the style of the kitchen I was hoping for and not the previous owners’ kitchen. We found a really nice glass jar chandelier from West Elm around Christmas time and I began stalking West Elm for it to go on sale. Of course when you’re waiting for a sale, it seems to take forever and I think every other category on their website went on sale except for lighting. Finally, in May I got the email that they were offering 20% off all lighting and made my move. I ordered one chandelier for the kitchen and one pedant light for over the sink.

The chandelier was back ordered and didn’t arrive until the end of June. Eric was traveling for work for 3 weeks and we finally got some time 2 weeks ago to put up the large chandelier. It ended up being a pretty simple switcheroo, the old light fixture for the new one. After some aggravated words, turning on and off the power several times and a trip to the hardware store, things were looking nice and bright in our kitchen. We went from this:

Don’t you feel like that one is really heavy and large for the space? I also feel like it should be over a pool table, not a kitchen island. Here is the new light:

I love it so much more! It makes the whole kitchen feel lighter and brighter.

Next, Eric started on the area above the sink, you can see it in the above photo with the wood over top of the curtain. Eric took down the wood, went into the wall, moved the electrical wiring and the light box into the ceiling, installed the new light, re-hung the trim on the cabinets, patched the wall and then painted everything. Now it looks like this:

Didn’t he do an amazing job? It looks like it was always like this. Here’s the full effect in the kitchen with both new lights:

And just for fun, lets take a look at the kitchen when we moved in:

And now:

We keep hanging out in the kitchen now because we love it so much and I just go and and flick the lights on an off sometimes to gaze upon their beauty. What do you guys think, is this an improvement? Have you replaced lighting in your house and loved the results?

While the Cat is Away, the Mice will Play

What have you all been up to this week? I can tell you one thing I haven’t been doing…cooking. I know, I know quel horreur! But, Eric is out of town on business for the whole week and this is the 3rd week in a row. When its just me and Bailey, I don’t cook a lot. The desire to fill my days with baking is strong but then I think to myself, who will eat all those baked goods? The answer is me, I will eat them all. So its best not to make them at all for fear of turning into a cupcake (you are what you eat, right?).

Instead of cooking, I’ve adjusted to this new state of unemployment by going over every square inch of my house and making To-Do lists. I currently have 4 lists compiled. One of cleaning tasks to be completed this week. One of deep cleaning tasks that will be spread out. One of smaller/cheaper projects that require less time and finally, one of major projects to be completely that require planning and saving.

I figure, this house is now my job, I’m going to make sure it looks great! Plus, projects make me happy and keep my occupied. Eric works really hard and his job takes him away from home a lot. This means that when he is home, he isn’t all that excited about helping me paint the spare bedroom or hanging a light fixture. He’ll usually give in to me and do it, if asked, but I like accomplishing things while he’s away that he can come home to and relax with.

Here is my run-down on projects. Last week I gave an old night stand a makeover. This was an old IKEA night stand that Eric purchased for his apartment before we got married. I was keeping it in the living room, purely because I didn’t have anywhere else to put it. You can see it in between the two chairs with picture frames on it.

I was also searching for a new night table for our office/guest room. While walking through the house last week it occurred to me that I could simply paint that night stand white and use it in the guest room. So I primed and painted that bad boy, purchased some cute new knobs and voila!

 

 

Also note the lamp on the night stand. That used to be painted with blue and gold flowers, not my style. So I took a can of glossy white spray paint to it last week and then covered the lampshade with some sale fabric I picked up at the fabric store. Bam! New lamp! I love how it turned out.

While I was spray painting, I had a bunch of different color picture frames that I couldn’t really use anymore, those also got a fresh coat of white spray paint and now I’ve got 4 new white frames that I can fill and hang!

The next project was also simple and cheap. I’d seen images on Pinterest of china hutches with the backs painted or stenciled in neat patterns. I knew I wanted to do something to spruce mine up, but mine is an antique so I needed whatever I did to be removable and temporary.

 

 

I found some textured wallpaper at Lowes and used some poster putty to attach it to the back of my cabinet. I reloaded the cabinet (in a more organized fashion) and the end result was this:

 I like its subtlety and the way the white backing really shows off my glassware and brightens up the whole china hutch.

These all happened last week. This week, I’ve given an old desk a makeover and painted our spare bedroom. They’re not fully complete yet, so I’ll wait to show you those photos next week.

What about you guys, any DIY projects going on at your houses? Do you get into mischief when your spouse is away? Spill it.

Becoming a statistic and other “fun” life experiences

I’ve been in the weeds, as they say, these past few weeks and I apologize for my absence. I promised all these fun posts and then vanished but it wasn’t for no reason at all. Two weeks ago, I joined the ranks of many unfortunate Americans today and acquired a new label, I became unemployed. I know I’m not alone in this, especially among my age group, in fact I think I’ve lasted longer than most of my friends from college; I’ve seen them all take this label on for months at a time over the last 5 years since graduation. Yes, we all had the unfortunate luck to graduate into a floundering economy in which jobs are scarce, let alone good jobs, those are almost non-existent. Gone are the days when employers take care of those people who work so hard to keep them in business, the sad truth is that the American economy now puts the almighty dollar first in each and ever scenario, hence the enormous unemployment numbers.

I was one of these people 2 weeks ago. Blindsided by the fact that my position had been eliminated and not even given the chance to make my case.  As I sat in the very short meeting, where I was told that I no longer had a job, my first thoughts were, well sheer panic, then disbelief, then anger that this had apparently been discussed weeks beforehand by the board of directors and no one thought it would be a good idea to mention to me that my position was being evaluated, and then finally came the hurt. My pride and ego were bruised and battered, I wasn’t given the chance to say good-bye to the co-workers I had spent 35 hours a week with for almost 2 years, I just packed up my stuff and vanished.

Why is it that HR departments always think its most human to treat people like they are not in fact human at all? That is one point I’ll never understand. Sure, we expect you to make this work place a priority in your life and spend most of your time here for the duration of your working here but when it comes down to dismissing you, lets not treat you like a human, instead lets treat you like we would a computer. Shout all the policies in your face, make you sign forms as you quietly cry in their office and then ask you if you have any questions. In my head I wanted to scream, “Questions? Um, you just ruined my life 5 minutes ago I haven’t heard a word you said after, “your position has been eliminated.”"

So now what? That was the place I found myself last week. Depressed, unmotivated, confused and lost. Family and friends have been so supportive and this week, after taking time to be sad, I’m looking forward. I’ve been given a chance to re-evaluate things and make a choice to do something I’m passionate about. Was I passionate about my job? Nope. It was a good job so I stayed safe and worked there dreaming of what else I might dare to do someday but now I’ve been given a second chance to go out and do it. Follow those dreams and maybe, end up back in the kitchen where I’ve always felt the most at home and at peace.

No longer and I allowed to wallow, but instead I’m weighing my options and making the hard choices. In the end, I think I’ll look back on this time and be grateful for it. Not everyone gets a push into a second chance. But here’s to mine!

The best news in all this is for you guys. No job = Lots of time to blog! You’ll be hearing from me more and I’ll keep you posted on what’s going on with me.

As always, thanks for reading! (Oh, and if you’re hiring, let me know!)

It’s Going to be a Hot One

How are you guys today? It’s going to be insanely hot here and I’m not sure I’m ready for it. This morning I woke up at 5am to get in a nice run before the heat index went off the charts and the air quality became to poor to run outside, and even at that early hour the humid stickiness had already set it. All I want to do is sit in front of of my air conditioner eating ice cream; what I don’t want to do, is use my stove. At all.

As you got to see back in March in my house tour post, I live in an old house. A house built in 1880, very old for the USA. It’s a wonderful house but like all houses, there are things I’d love to add, air conditioning is one of the things I’d love to have in our home. But at $10K and up, we can live with window units for a while. The problem however lies with the kitchen. There is but one kitchen window and its directly over the sink, where I stand more than anywhere else in the kitchen.

Putting a A/C unit there would not be a good idea, I’d probably catch pneumonia standing in front of it with wet hands for hours a day. The kitchen is cut off from the rest of the first floor and noticeably hotter, turn on the stove or the oven and forget it, it becomes a sauna.

This Summer, I will attempt to cook inside as little as possible on these hot days, this means some major grilling will occur or we’ll be eating something cold. Ice cream really isn’t a completely bad dinner or better yet, frozen yogurt… How will you guys be beating the heat the next few days? Are you like me and don’t have central air?

I have some great posts in my queue that need to be finished for you guys but stay tuned. I’ll be recapping our trip up to Vermont this past weekend as well as giving you some great new recipes.

Lastly, don’t forget to check your local orchards for their fruit ripening dates. I just saw that tart/pie cherries are just coming in season and they only last about a week around here. You don’t want to miss that fresh cherry pie!

Have You Missed Me?

It’s been about a month since my last blog post and I hope I haven’t lost all my readers with this break! What happened? You ask. I think the best explanation is that I got the blog blues. Somewhere along my first year of blogging I burnt myself out. My goal to post 3-4 posts a week and keep on top of things was a good one but, having never blogged before, I didn’t realize the time and commitment that amount of writing, photos, edits and of course, cooking that 3-4 posts per week takes. After my first blogiversary, I looked at my web stats and my survey results and allowed negativity to creep in. I’ll be honest, only 4 people took my survey and one of them was my husband, another one was likely my mom and maybe even my dad. I took the turn to negative town and felt like I was writing to no one and all this time I had spent, over a long year, was for nothing. I allowed my dreams of “making it” in the blogosphere to get the better of me and somewhere in my year of blogging my focus had shifted from enjoying the writing, pictures and cooking, to making sure my blog stats were growing and focusing on gaining readership.

Finally, amidst a short and very negative rant about all the work I’d put in, Eric gently reminded me “I thought you weren’t doing it to be successful, I thought you just enjoyed it. Who cares if no one reads it, you like cooking and writing, remember?” I love it and hate it when he’s right about me.

And so, after some time “off” to have a crazy work event (that was held on Monday) I finally have some time again to get back to basics. I do love cooking. I do love writing about it. I do love having a log of my successful and unsuccessful recipes. But most of all, I love my tiny readership. Considering about 95% of my blog comments are spam, that one gem that I get every month or so really makes my day week month.  I want to get back to basics, back to the cooking and living I love and I can’t wait to share it with you all again.

This weekend is the unofficial start of Summer and it’s so nice to welcome warm weather, grilling season, fresh fruits and veggies. Not to mention baseball, time at the beach and warm Summer nights. We’re hoping to soak up as much Summer as we can this year.

Thanks for reading my blog. Stay tuned, more is in store this week!

Sweet Surprises

Yesterday, after a long day at the office I came home to find this on my kitchen island:

I opened the pretty pink box to find these babies:

Here’s a close up:

Eric had been away on business since Tuesday, working in Washington DC and decided to bring me/us home a special treat; cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcakes! In case you’re not up on cupcake news, Georgetown Cupcakes is the shop that is featured on the TLC show, DC Cupcakes. How thoughtful is my husband?! Pretty treats like these make the fact that he was away for a few days, a bit more bearable.

I know what you’re all thinking. Didn’t she just get up on her soapbox about eating less sugar earlier this week? Yes, its true. However, I never said I was going completely sugar free, I’m just making a conscious effort to cut back and until last night have been eating very small amounts of sugar all week. Every diet deserves a cheat day and last night was mine!

Now, on to the cupcakes themselves:

Eric and I split 2 cupcakes last night so we could try them both and I’m looking forward to doing the same tonight (and being sugar free all day long until that moment, it makes it so much…sweeter? terrible pun, I know). We tried the one with the chocolate icing and it was on white cake and the one with the pink flower was called the cherry blossom cupcake. The chocolate iced one was pretty standard, nice fudgey icing but the cake lacked a bit of flavor, in my opinion. Then, the cherry blossom one was AMAZING, the cake itself had chunks of cherry in it with hint of almond and was topped with cream cheese icing, a combination I never would have put together but was dynamite! YUM!

The other flavors left in the box are pumpkin spice, the one with the maple leaf on top, I think it also has maple icing, I can smell the maple syrup in the box. The one with sprinkles is the classic white cake, vanilla buttercream icing. The one with the lime wedge is a key lime cupcake, I’m very excited to try that one and in the back is a red velvet, of course!

Just writing this post is giving me a sugar craving, I can’t wait until tonight! And after inhaling consuming my cupcakes last night, I felt a definite sugar rush. Something that I’ve never noticed before.

Hope everyone has a sweet weekend!

Workin’ It

I’m sure you’re wondering what’s up and where I’ve been lately, one post a week is not the norm for me but lately life has just gotten really busy. I find myself stretched and have not been able to put in the time for blogging like I usually do. I am trying to make more time for it now but this is what happens some times, especially when blogging is purely a fun thing for you and you still have a full time job, family and friends, etc.

Life hasn’t been too busy to cook, in fact I’ve been making a bunch of new and delicious recipes lately and they’re all still in my camera waiting for me to have time to write about them. I promise to give you some good new recipes this week! One thing that has been taking more of my attention is that I am paying more attention to myself and my own health.

I’ve always been an active person participating in sports for most of my childhood. My parents have always been great examples to me, feeding us vegetables with our dinner each night and packing fruit in our lunches along with making time to work out themselves. My mom is a big walker, I can remember her waking up super early for most of my life to get out and walk for an hour or so before her day started and recently she’s been jogging, something that she never really did, she even ran a 5K last year, and I couldn’t be prouder of her! My dad has always been in great shape, running, lifting weights in our basement and now he’s started swimming regularly. Besides signing my brother and I up for sports, my parents always encouraged us to get outside and be active and many times spent as a family were riding bikes together, swimming and even taking walks. I grew up thinking it was important and quite normal to be this physically active.

I realize now, what a great gift my parents gave me. Today, I see kids who aren’t active like that and adults who fill their stomachs with pre-made foods loaded with preservatives and the dreaded fast food. I’m not immune, I love Wendy’s and Burger King but the way that I feel after stuffing my face with a spicy chicken sandwich or a double cheeseburger is pretty telling; I feel disgusting. All I want to do it lay down and nap and it stays with me for a few hours after.

Overall, I think I eat pretty healthy, I go by the everything in moderation mentality and have been known to overindulge (especially with sweets). But I don’t really like soda and I do like drinking lots of water plus I make most of our food from scratch. That alone knocks out so many chemicals and preservatives that weigh down our metabolism. Since going through infertility (read about that here) and filling my body with chemicals and not being allowed to work out I feel like I’ve taken a new interest in my own health. I want to be informed and I want to get my body back.

I started reading about sugar this week and was shocked. I’ve always eaten lots of it, I love it and I’m thin and try to make healthy choices so I never thought it was an issue for me to have my lunch dessert and my afternoon chocolate and my dessert in the evening, oh and my morning tea with raw sugar and my chocolate chip oatmeal. Well, long story short, I really need to reduce the amount of sugar I consume. I am not currently living the “everything in moderation” diet when it comes to sugar.

And so, to wrap up this post which I’ve successfully rambled on with, I’m making conscious decision to go without sugar. It’s been really hard to cut out. I still allow myself one sweet treat a day but have been drinking tea without sugar (its gross but its getting easier) and have cut out my afternoon sweet snack as well as one of my desserts. I read that it will get easier but right now, it sucks. In combination with my lower-sugar diet, I’ve been running a few days a week and have been taking a weight lifting class at the gym for the last 2 months. **Small Plug** The weightlifting has been a new and amazing addition for me; it has really started to transform my body and its becoming something I’m actually proud of! Plus, bonus, my pants fit better! I’m not longer sucking in to get them buttoned in the morning.

It does take time to make yourself healthier and some research, everyone’s body is different but its true what people say, I do feel much better (aside from the sugar cravings, I did get a little mean yesterday afternoon). I have more energy and I just feel happier with myself in general. I hope I keep this up, I’m really going to try this time.

So how about you guys, any new health realizations lately? Tried a workout routine that you really like? How about healthy recipes? Or are you, like me, trying to get away from so much sugar, any sweet substitutes you can recommend? I tried Stevia and pretty much hate it. I’d love to hear what you’re up to!

Getting to Know You

After a week filled with lots of posts about me, its time to turn the tables and find out a little bit more about all of you! Take a minute and fill out the short quiz I have put together here. The link will take you to my Facebook page for the quiz and while you’re there, do me a favor and “Like” my page if you haven’t already. Thanks in advance, I’m excited to get to know you all better!

Click here for the quiz!

Finally, I’d just like to give all of you a big thanks. Readers are the reason that I write this blog and without people who stop by to check out what’s cooking, I’d only be writing to myself. I truly appreciate the fact that you take a few minutes each week to stop by to see what I’ve got going on. I hope I continue to inspire you in the kitchen; here’s to another year!

Blogiversary Q & A

In honor of my 1 year blogiversary, I thought I’d do a little Q & A for you all to get to know me better. If you have additional questions, please leave them in a comment and I’ll gladly answer.

Q: What is the best meal you’ve ever had?

A: When Eric and I were dating, we were fortunate enough to eat at Mario Batali’s restaurant Babbo in New York City. We had to wait in line for the restaurant to open and were one of the last people to get a walk-in table. One of the wait staff took extra special care of us and over the next 4 hours we ate the best meal of our lives. It was not a cheap night, but one we still remember fondly and I think one of the key steps to our transitions into Foodies.

Q: Would you rather order in pizza or Chinese food?

A: Chinese, definitely, give me some steamed dumplings and an egg roll and I’m a happy girl.

Q: Are there any foods that intimidate you?

A: Fish, pretty much any kind. I’m not sure why but it truly scares me to try and cook. I can do shellfish, but “regular” fish is not something I’ve mastered yet.

Q: If you were only allowed to have one cookbook for the rest of your life, which one would it be?

A: Julie Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It may not have pictures, but the information packed into each page is truly amazing.

Q: What is your favorite kitchen tool?

A: My Kitchenaid Mixer, its like a vortex of spinning power.

Q: I remember your dog had surgery, how is she now?

A: Bailey is doing great! Her leg is almost completely healed and she seems to be in less pain and discomfort than she was after her first surgery when we thought she was completely healed about a year ago. She is back to running around the yard, taking daily walks and getting lots of extra treats and love with her cute face. She is such a great addition to our family!

Q: Where is your favorite place you’ve traveled?

A: We’ve traveled to many amazing places and I’ve loved them all. Seeing new places and cultures is a passion for me but I think Paris always has and always will have a special place in my heart. I could go there over and over again and never get tired of it; the food, the people, the architecture and of course the language all make it such a magical place.

Q: What TV shows are you watching?

A: I love TV. Sitting down and watching it is one of my favorite relaxing activities, I have alot of shows that I watch. Here are a few: Modern Family, Parks & Recreation, 30 Rock, The New Girl, Once Upon a Time, Worst Cooks in America, No Reservations, Army Wives, Top Chef, Bethany Ever After, Real Housewives of NYC, Flipping Out, and many more!

Q: How often do you really cook each week?

A: I’d say I cook a full dinner that takes about an hour give or take, 3-4 nights a week and typically I make at least one dessert or sweet dish a week, I also make about 1 larger dinner on the weekends and at least one full breakfast. I don’t cook any more than I did before I started this blog, which is why I actually began logging all these meals, friends kept asking my what I was making for dinner! Spending an entire day in the kitchen on a Saturday is fun for me even though I usually end up with a sore back.

Q: It’s Easter time, do you have a favorite Easter candy?

A: I sure do, Peeps are one of my favorite things to eat, preferably in pink or purple. I like stale Peeps so after buying them, I immediately open the package and allow them to sit for a day or so, 2 days stale and they’re perfect. I also love the chocolate marshmallow eggs that Hershey makes. Yes, I realize my favorite Easter candies are the grossest kinds.

Q: Do you have other hobbies besides cooking and traveling?

A: I like to read, when I have time, I love entertaining, I’ve recently taken up golf with Eric and have started lessons which I enjoy more than I thought, and I love taking walks with Bailey and Eric, its a great time for Eric and I to talk and share ideas.

Q: Any kitchen tasks you dislike?

A: Dishes. I hate doing dishes and I have a pet peeve in which I can’t stand to touch wet food in the sink so I always have to wear rubber gloves when I do dishes.

Q:Where do you like to shop for dishes and serving accessories?

A: Crate and Barrel, Anthropologie, Sur la Table

 

I hope this little Q & A has given you a small snapshot into who I am! And if you have any other questions just put it in the comments, I’m happy to answer!