Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spring Break to-do list

Only three more days until Brad and I enjoy a week of Spring Break. I think we are more excited about it than our students! I already have a long list of projects I hope to tackle. If the weather cooperates, I just might get most of them done, if not, I'll roll them over to my summer break to-do list.

1. Spring Cleaning
I do a little cleaning every weekend, but it's time for a major overhaul. Cleaning out the fridge, removing every trace of mildew from the bathroom, and really scrubbing (not just swiffering) the floors would be a good start. Real Simple has a cool room-by-room guide to cleaning your house with natural ingredients that I'm going to use.

2. Paint the kitchen table and chairs
If It doesn't rain too much, I really want to paint our kitchen set white. We got the oak table and two chairs at Goodwill about two years ago, and found two almost matching chairs at Garden Ridge to go with them. They are not quite the same color or style, and the table has a few fairly deep scratches in the finish that make it necessary for me to always use a table cloth. I've been thinking about it for awhile now, and a good sanding and a few coats of white paint will make a big difference. I'll post before and after pics if all goes well.

3. Garden Prep
Our raised garden boxes are in serious need of some TLC. I need to clean out all the old weeds, mix in some new soil and generally prep everything for some plants. I'm too afraid to plant anything yet (we had frost last night!) but I want to get the boxes ready to go.

4. Make a new purse
I am tired of my winter purse = it's time to make a new one. I'm gonna get out the duct tape and go to town. I'm thinking of making a yellow one again, as I'm really loving it this spring.

I'll be sure to update with pictures as I complete some/all of these tasks!

You know you're officially a homebody when spring break means home improvement not surf and sun! What are your spring plans?


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Better Biscuits

I really love a hot biscuit with dinner, but I don’t love the time it takes to make them from scratch, or how unhealthy they can be.

Fortunately, I discovered Bisquick heart smart baking mix.

All you need is the mix and milk, a few minutes in the oven, and presto- hot biscuits. Of course I can’t leave anything alone and just follow the package directions, so I have a few favorite things to add to the mix to give the biscuits a little extra yum factor.

For 4 big garlic cheese biscuits

Preheat the oven to 375 (you can fudge a little on this. If you need it at 350 or 400 to cook something else, that’s fine, just adjust the baking time).

In a bowl combine ¾ cup baking mix, a large handful shredded light cheddar cheese, a dash of season salt, a dash of garlic powder or fresh minced garlic, and a few dashes of dried parsley, or a handful of chopped fresh. Stir in ¼ to ½ cup milk (I use 1%) starting with ¼ cup and adding until the mixture forms a goopy dough. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil and spray with Pam (I like the organic olive oil Pam).

Drop dough by the heaping tablespoonful – use an actual serving spoon, not a measuring spoon - about four biscuits. Spray tops of biscuits with a little extra Pam. Bake for 8 -10 minutes.

Don't they look yummy?

Variations – You can change pretty much any of this to suit your personal tastes. I think shredded mozzarella, basil, and garlic would also be good. The plain batter is mild enough that you could also make these more like scones. Golden raisins, a little brown sugar and a milk and powder sugar glaze would probably be yummy!



Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Paint by Numbers Love

I love paint-by-numbers. I mean I really, really love them. Before you think I have no taste whatsoever, let me clarify. I do not love creepy pictures of crying clowns. I do love campy paint-by-numbers landscapes. I seem to be really attracted to water scenes. I've managed to accumulate three legitimate paintings (all at $15.00 or less!) as well as several other water and boat pictures. Once I had several paintings, I started scouting around for a way to display them.
I found the solution at one of my all time favorite junk/thrift stores, Class and Trash in Ashland, VA.

This curtain valance had my name on it. The funny thing is that I really dislike wooden valances over windows, but I love this as a shelf. It was even already painted this great sea blue color. It's hard to tell in the photo, but the plaid in the sofa has some of the same color running through it. Side note: I'm actually keeping my eye out for a white slip cover for the sofa. Here's a close up of the valance/shelf

The jar has shells we've collected over the last few years.

The mill picture as well as the cottage scene below both came from a junk shop in Madison, VA. I can't remember the name, but it was one of those great hole-in-the-wall shops with sagging floors, a layer of dust, and piles and piles of stuff.
I think the cottage painting is my favorite. Can I please have a little white beach or lake house with a red roof and a row boat docked right outside the door? A girl can always dream!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spring Spruce Up

In honor of spring (and because I wasn't a huge fan of the blogger default settings) I decided to spruce up the blog with a new page header. I made this using a great free program called scrapblog. This highly addictive site allows users to create professional looking digital scrapbooks. Of course, they would also love to sell you printed versions of your creations, which do look very nice. The cool thing about scrapblog, it that they also allow you to save your pages to your computer as JPEGs, meaning you can use your creations in anyway you would any digital photo. This makes scrapblog my go-to site for adding a little pizazz to a website. When I first discovered the program I used it to make the "about us" page for my library. I also used it to create our Christmas cards this year. Take a peak below. You could use this same concept for more springy events like save the date cards or graduation announcements.

I got a little carried aways and made three different versions, but I think this is my favorite.

But I really like this one because of the snowman!

Thanks to my amazingly talented friend, Tracy for taking the photos of Brad and I!

Happy scrapblogging!



Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Yellow Take 2

Since flowers don’t last forever, I wanted to add a more permanent yellow accessory to the house. I kept seeing really cute things in the stores (I could honestly stand and gawk at the windows of Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn for a good 20 minutes) but I’m much too cheap to shell out the money for something that is bound to be a fad. I took a look at what I had around the house and settled on making a wreath.

I started by wrapping a foam wreath form from the Dollar Tree with twine from the dollar section at Target. There is no way to screw this part up; all you need to do is wrap the form as tightly with twine as you can. It takes awhile to cover the whole thing, but I wrapped steadily while watching Lost and had it finished by the end of the show.

Next, I let the form sit for almost a week because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it. I knew I wanted to incorporate yellow, but I didn’t want to do anything that would turn out too country cutesy. While looking through my ribbon drawer (yes, I have an entire drawer of ribbon) I stumbled on a vintage belt buckle in the exact shade of yellow I had in mind. The buckle reminded me that I also had a ball of crochet thread in the same shade. Inspiration!

To keep things clean and simple, I just crisscrossed the crochet thread around the wreath to add a little color to the natural twine. I love how the crisscrosses ended up looking a little like petals.

To hang the wreath I slipped tan grosgrain ribbon through the belt buckle and thumb tacked it on the other side of the door – Martha, I am not!

The whole thing was super easy and could be tweaked in a million ways for a slightly different look. But the best part is that I didn’t spend a dime!


They call Me Mellow Yellow

I’m sure you’ve heard by now that Mimosa is the color of the year. When I told Brad, he was not surprised. “Of course it is; yellow is my favorite color.” For some reason he has the uncanny ability of liking things right before they become incredibly popular. For instance, Brad wanted a sweater vest for Christmas a few years ago. I had to search everywhere to find one – but this year they were in every store. He wanted a Mr. Rodger’s style sweater, and suddenly men’s v-neck cardigans are hip again. By this logic, bow ties are bound to be the fashion accessory of next year.

Anyway, this shade of yellow really does appeal to me and I have been craving some pops of spring color.

I broke down on Saturday and bought some of the amazing tulips I’d been eyeing at Trader Joe’s.

I put most of them in this white pitcher, and I love they way they look against the vintage table cloth.

A few more went into this tiny spice jar in the hallway. My friend Stephanie parked her cute new yellow shoes under this table on Sunday. I wished I had snapped a picture because the shoes were the exact shade of the tulips, and the whole scene looked like one of those purposefully casual photos in magazines.

My Mom gave me these jonquils on Tuesday. They don’t last for long, but there is something so adorable and perky about them.

What’s your favorite way to add a dash of yellow?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Snow Days

Tomorrow will be our third day in a row off from work due to snow. The Richmond area panics over an inch or two, so the 8-10 we have on the ground at the moment have shut down most all of the schools. I took a few pictures yesterday before we mucked the yard up with sleds and such.

I think my potted ivy is done for!

The trees are gorgeous!

Off to the right we have a huge hill we use for sledding. We packed a few good runs today, and tomorrow they should be nice and icy for sledding! I was so ready for spring, but these few extra days of winter have been nice. Still, I’m looking forward to the upper 60’s forecast for this weekend.


This Chicken is hot!

I love dinners that are fast and easy to prepare, don’t break the bank, and are on the healthy side. I recently came up with a chicken dish that fits the bill. I spotted a new to me baja lime marinade by Annie’s Organics at Wal-Mart a month or so ago, and decided to give it a whirl. I hardly ever plan dinner far enough a head of time to actually marinate anything overnight, so I simply basted chicken breasts as they cooked. The results were pretty good, but I wanted more punch. To add a little “wow” I added garlic powder (or freshly minced garlic), cumin, and cilantro (I used dried, but fresh would be awesome).

Here’s the process:
- Heat a grill pan over medium to medium high heat.
- Add chicken breasts and brush both sides with marinade
- Sprinkle cumin, garlic powder, and cilantro over each side to taste. I go pretty heavy on the cilantro because I love it so much.
- Baste frequently with extra marinade until chicken is cooked through. I haven’t timed this, but it’s around 15-20 minutes depending on thickness.

This is great with rice and a salad. I think next time I’m going to make extra and use it the next day for burritos. Shredded chicken, rice, black beans, salsa, sour cream, and an extra squeeze of lime juice or marinade – I’m thinking, YES!