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Aug. 14th, 2014

Empty House Tour, Pt. 1

I am back! We closed on the house & moved almost 3 weeks ago. We still have a little to bring over from the old house, some cleaning to do there, and a few unpacked boxes here, but overall we are pretty well moved in. And we never want to do it again!

Orson started Pre-K last week & it has been a *really* good thing for all of us. I still have Pandora at home with me during the day, so it hasn't bought me a lot of extra time, but stress levels are down all around.

Of course we have a million plans for the new house, so I thought I'd start out with a nice tour. I took a ton of pictures before we moved in & will update as we make progress.

Welcome! Let's get moving...

New house, 1

Cutting through the bushes on the left, we are walking around the side of the house.

New house, 2

To the right is the door to the basement. The yard is fenced only on the sides for now.

New house, 3

Looking back at the house you can see the deck & sunroom ~

New house, 4

And the backyard! Past that archway is a wooded area leading down to a creek. (Needs to be cleared out before we can walk all the way down)

New house, 5

From the arch ~

New house, 6

And now we're heading around the other side. We just set the trampoline up here ~

New house, 7

Door to the dining room ~

New house, 8

And we are back around to the front door! There is a coat closet to the left, living room straight ahead, and to the right...

New house, 9

Is the 'formal' living room and dining room, which have become one big playroom!

New house, 10

Walking through to the 2nd room. I should note that most of the walls are painted off-white, but my camera wanted to make them bright yellow & orange. I edited the colors, but they are still a little off!

New house, 11

Looping through the playrooms, you've got the kitchen & dining room straight ahead.

New house, 12


New house, 13

New house, 14

Let's stop for a moment to check out this bizarre stove. The burners are all operated with pushbuttons (Hi-2-3-Lo-Wm-Off) which are right at the front of the stove. The previous resident was in a wheelchair, so this gave her easy access, but it's a little too easy for kids to reach.

New house, 15

On the opposite side. To the left there are three doors ~ the garage, laundry room, and...

New house, 16

The pantry!! This seems crazy luxurious to me because we've never had a pantry before. (OK, *technically* we had a few that got turned into game closets.)

New house, 17

Walking towards the dining room there is a niche that ended up being the perfect spot for my desk! I was worried we'd have to cram it in one of the playrooms, but now I get a great view of the kitchen, dining room, and living room!

New house, 18

The kitchen is a little small, but the double row of cabinets in the dining room totally make up for it! So far we haven't had to stick any kitchen stuff in there, but it's an awesome spot for coloring books & craft supplies & all of the random stuff that was taking over my desk before.

New house, 19

This little nook is off of the dining room & the brick was the original back of the house. Bathroom to the left, another door to the laundry on the right, and the door you saw earlier outside.

New house, 20

I'm going to stop there because we are about halfway through the pictures now, but next time we'll explore the bedrooms, basement, and more!


Jul. 19th, 2014

Update on the Move

Things are getting interesting here! Thursday we will be closing on the house and then doing the big move on Saturday. (We'll probably take a few things over between then) Justin's school starts pre-planning the next Tuesday and Orson starts Pre-K the week after that. There are so many big life changes coming up *really soon* & it's a bit surreal.

I have been obsessively stalking Pinterest lately, searching for all sorts of Home Dec & painting things, and planning out details for each room. We've lived with white walls and no decorating budget for so long, this is like a whole new world for me! Once we get settled I have so many things I want to share on the blog, and hopefully I'll have lots of upcoming room makeovers to post about too. Though I've definitely been enjoying the break too! ;)

Jun. 22nd, 2014

Summer Fun

I'm currently taking a bit of a blog hiatus while we enjoy our busy summer break. We have been house hunting this last month, put in an offer, & might be moving by the end of July! But first we want to see the potential house a few more times to make sure (we're visiting with the inspector on Monday.) In about a week things will be final either way & we'll know if we'll be spending most of our free time packing or not!

Between scouring house listings, extra work orders, planning Orson's birthday, and trying to squeeze in some fun summer activities, I am wiped! And I thought I was going to have extra time with Justin home, haha. I may drop by with a post or two, but for now I'm definitely not pushing myself to post every week.

May. 29th, 2014

Roasted Potato, Chicken, & Corn Chowder

One of my favorite recipes from the Japanese recipe blog Just One Cookbook isn't Japanese at all! Occasionally she'll share other recipes, and the Chicken & Corn Chowder with Roasted Potato looked too good to pass up!

Roasted Potato, Chicken, & Corn Chowder

We've made this one many times & it is definitely a winner! If you follow the recipe exactly there is way too much broth though, so now we use 3 cups less (5 cups water, 4 tsp./cubes bouillon). When I checked the recipe she based it on they used about the same. Not sure why she added more broth and photographed it with hardly any, but it's delicious either way!

Last time I made it I threw the potatoes & onion in the oven earlier in the day to roast, and dinner went together in about 15 minutes! (We garnished with 'real bacon bits' instead of cooking bacon) After that I had some extra potatoes and onion, so I went ahead and roasted another batch to store in the freezer for next time. The whole thing would work well as a freezer meal, and you could even add the canned corn later to save room. Yummy!


May. 17th, 2014


Thursday I went in for a major haircut. It was down to my butt before (Sorry for the crappy pics. I had to aim at the mirror & shoot until I caught myself in a pic!) ~

5-14 Haircut, before

And then I chopped it all off in the back ~

5-14 Haircut, after2

Then it angles down & is longer in the front ~

5-14 Haircut, after

It was *supposed to* angle down smoothly (here is the picture I brought in, minus the bangs) but the lady cut it straight across the back & then dropped it down from there. The right side isn't bad, but the left side is embarrassing & I'll have to to keep it tucked behind my ear until it grows out. I'm still glad I had it done though!

May. 15th, 2014

1st Birthday Party, the food

Here you can see a closer shot of the food table. I don't feel like I made that much food, but somehow I was cooking from 7:00am until 2:00pm with no break!

p5-14 Party food

In the back we've got a crockpot with (frozen) meatballs & a sauce that is half grape jelly, half Heinz chili sauce. My husband's family makes something similar with grape jelly & yellow mustard, and I think I like that one even better (as long as I don't think about what went into it!). Our crockpot has 3 different inserts (2, 4, and 6 quarts) and I used the extra two for the white bowls on the right!

In front of the crockpot is the veggies & dip ~ one packet of Knorr's Vegetable soup mix + 16 oz. sour cream + a heavy dose of Parmesan cheese.

To the right is Jell-o Popcorn!. I used grape for purple and cherry for pink, but that one turned out more red. This was the recipe I almost decided to scrap last minute because I was throwing it together as the guests arrived. I'm glad I didn't! I was munching on it all night and it's a new family favorite. (There are also some cupcakes my mom brought from a bake sale off to the side of that.)

In the center is the cake!

p5-14 Birthday cake

I scanned the box mixes, trying to come up with something fun I could do, and was pleased to find a bright teal "Blue Velvet" cake mix. I topped it with neon pink (canned) icing, a #1 candle, and a few colorful circle sprinkles. The teal center was fun, unexpected, and went perfectly with our colors!

Finding a plate for the cake was the most difficult because I couldn't use our red plates or the napkin covered plates. We did have one dark blue plate I kept from our last dinner set, and it didn't look too bad (but was a little small). Once I decided to use that, I pulled out a large serving bowl that matched, planning to use it for chips or something similar. But the cake sat so low on the counter, I ended up flipping the bowl over & putting the plate on top for an impromptu cake stand!

Pandora, like her brother before her, had no interest in eating any of her 1st birthday cake. She popped a piece in her mouth and promptly spit it out.

p5-14 Bite of Cake

To the right of the cake is a favorite ~ Hot Bacon & Swiss Dip served with tortilla chips. Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to eat it warm this time, but it was still good.

And to the left are the cookies that occupied a lot of my cooking time!

Has anyone else seen the photo where they roll a ball of cookie dough in colored sugar, snip it with scissors & open it to make a lovely flower shaped cookie? Yeah, that didn't go so well! Luckily I tested a few before baking a whole batch. I flipped mine so the sugar was on the top, but they were way too fragile & didn't even make it off the pan without breaking apart.

p5-14 Flower cookies, broken

So then I decided to snip the petals all the way through and lay out the flower myself, overlapping the center & pressing it together. I thought 8 petals looked better than 6, so I made about nine flowers & added a sprinkle of pink or purple sugar to the center of each. Before baking ~

p5-14 Flower cookies, pan

After that tray I was tired of forming flowers, so I rolled balls of dough and pressed them flat with the bottom of a glass. Then I used two of my flower shaped vegetable cutters and pressed a flower in the center of each cookie, topping each with a light sprinkle of pink or purple sugar. Not as pretty, but so much quicker!

p5-14 Flower cookies, plate

And at the very front are the paper goods. I saved a lot by using clear utensils (white is also good) and a pack of 45 plates with a purple & white print. That big pack of plates was the same price as an 8 count of the colored 'party' plates! It looks like our son's upcoming party will involve some license character, but buying the character plates + napkins + cups + decorations can really add up! I plan on keeping the cost down by using only character plates or napkins, then filling in the rest with color coordinated stuff.

Behind the utensils you can see a star shaped dish peeking out, which was filled with some cheap butter-mints I found in the birthday supply aisle in our colors. To finish things off I scattered around a few of the pink & teal mini chocolate bars from a bag of closeout Easter candy I had on hand!

We ended up with *way* too much food, partly because we were originally expecting more people. Next time I will definitely tone things down a bit and make or buy more ahead of time!


May. 9th, 2014

1st Birthday Party, decorations

Last weekend was Pandora's 1st birthday party and all week I was busting my butt prepping & cleaning. Too often we just shut our bedroom door when we clean for visitors, but this time there were guests who hadn't seen the house before, so I wanted to tackle all of those long-neglected areas. After all of that work, I was so busy finishing up the food when the guests arrived that I totally forget to give them a house tour and no one even went upstairs! Uggh. (Of course I'm glad it's done, but it really could have waited until summer break!)

I'm generally pretty cheap & was not eager to spend a lot of money on things that were going to be used for just one day. With some thrifty-ness I was able to get the invitations, decorations, paper products, and food for about $100, so I wanted to share a few things I figured out along the way!

I'd originally planned on doing a cat themed party because that is one thing I know our little girl loves. Other than "Hello Kitty" I couldn't find much, so I just went with a pink, purple, & teal color scheme. These 1st Birthday cupcake invitations were perfect & much cheaper than the cat options. (For their true color see my pic below)

I was eyeing this party hat, but decided to make my own. I used a blank party hat, cut a "1" out of construction paper and taped it on the front. The invitations came with lots of cupcake stickers (seals), and I dotted the rest of the hat with the extras.

I could have left it there, but I wanted some kind of pompom on top. I grabbed the crepe streamers and cut 8 pieces about 3" wide, stacking them up. I cut lots of small strips from the sides, keeping the center intact, then twisted the center together tight with a twist tie (if you've ever made a yarn pompom you can probably picture this!). I stuck the twist tie through the top of the hat & taped it in place inside. Along the bottom I used some double sided tape and lightly twisted the streamer, taping it down as I went.

Panda's party, hats

When my son saw me working on the hat he wanted to make his own. I wrote on the front with a Sharpie & he went to town with a sheet of stickers. (And of course he wanted a pompom!) At his next party I think I'll set out blank hats & stickers as an activity for the kids. The hats + stickers probably cost the same as the licensed character hats, but it's a lot more fun to let them personalize them!

Soon I realized I couldn't put out food on my normal red rimmed plates. They would not work with the girly color scheme, and I didn't find any disposable options at the grocery store. I started racking my brain and realized I could cover a few plates to make do. Luckily the cute cupcake napkins I bought were extra large, so I sacrificed two of them, folded the edges around the back & taped them in place. Not too bad!

Party, napkin covered plate

Next I needed something to put dip in. I had a large white mug that would work, but it had writing on one side. I realized the invitations were wide enough to cover that up, so I cut the bottom off of an extra and taped it to the front.

Party veggie tray, front

I set the mug on top of a small white ramekin to lift it up a little so it wouldn't be buried in veggies. This also let me store the plate & mug separate without messing up the veggie arrangement.

Party veggie tray, back

For the food area I bought two $1 tablecloths and used this idea to create some ruffles along our counter. I cut the tablecloths in half longways to give me lots of length. I started with half of the purple cloth, taping one end to the left edge and the other edge halfway along the counter. Then I taped the center of the cloth to the center of those two points, just eyeballing it, and kept dividing the sections in half & taping until I had some nice gathers. I finished up the right side with the other half of the purple then added a teal layer over that.

Party, gathered tablecloth

The teal was going to cover too much of the purple on its own, so I flipped the top edge down a little and taped it in place the same way. I decided not to cover the countertop, so to make the teal cloth look a little nicer I folded each section to the side to make a pleat. (See the gathers on the left, pleates on the right) This all took some time and a lot of tape, but it was definitely worth it!

And here you can see it all finished. So pretty!

Panda's party, table

A lot of the hanging decorations I found came in a 12 pack of one color & size, but I wanted a little more variety. So I was thrilled to find this pack of 6 fans with all of my colors in various sizes. (I was prepared to cover those princess centers if needed, but they were optional!) The poofy balls were from here, and I fully intend to hang them in her room afterward! Maybe all of it.

Some more hung in the other corner along with some bunting along the doorway ~

Panda's party, corner

In the next post I'll show you a closer view of the food table & talk about the recipes I made. I cooked way too much food! I've got a few more tips on cheap paper products and food set-up, so check back!


May. 1st, 2014

Hot Pink, Purple, & Teal

This week we are madly cleaning, shopping, & decorating to set up for our little girl's 1st birthday party on Saturday. It's about to look like an 80's Barbie aisle exploded in my kitchen! Pictures to come...

Apr. 26th, 2014

Alphabet Puzzle Fix

With the two little ones to take care of, it seems like the only time I 'craft' is when something is broken. One of the letters from Orson's alphabet puzzle was missing for months before we discovered it in one of his pants cargo pockets! It had run through the wash several times and the paper had completely come off, leaving the letter blank.

I pulled out my paints and meticulously worked to match the other lettering. I spent way too much time tweaking colors and shading, but it was a fun little project. Can you tell which one is the re-painted letter?

ABC Puzzle Fix, far

Here's a close-up...

ABC Puzzle Fix, close

It was the letter F! In person the paint job doesn't match the glossy smoothness of the other letters up close, but you'd have to investigate it pretty closely to notice any difference. Maybe this summer I'll get around to bigger things, like making a painting for each kid's room, but for now I'll celebrate the little victories!


Apr. 22nd, 2014

Just One Cookbook

Last year I discovered the Japanese food blog Just One Cookbook and now we are constantly trying new dishes from there. I've shared Chikuzenni, Green Bean Shira-ae, Tsukemen, and there have been many more. I've got three more to share with you today!

The first two are both recipes for spinach side dishes. I don't mind spinach mixed in something if it's not overpowering, but in general I'm not a huge fan. Both of these recipes were very tasty, with strong flavors that help mask that 'spinach' flavor. I enjoyed both, as long as I didn't think too hard about the fact I was eating boiled spinach, and they definitely gave me hope for future recipes.

Spinach Ohitashi & Spinach Goma-ae

I was using up some leftover spinach, so in order to try both of these recipes I only used 55 grams of spinach for each and made one serving (1/4 of the recipe). I halved the rest of the ingredients. On the left we have Spinach Ohitashi, which is soaked in a savory dashi broth & topped with fish flakes. Doubling the broth was unnecessary here and I drained off a lot of it before serving. On the right is Spinach Goma-ae, which is tossed with ground sesame seeds and a sweet soy sauce. Doubling the sauce worked well on this one, and I bet it would be tasty with some miso added in!

I also tried making some homemade Mitarashi Dango, which Orson had spied in another cookbook and begged to make. The balls are made with two kinds of rice flour and coated with a sweet, sticky sauce.

Japanese Dango

I kind of flubbed this one ~ I was trying to halve the recipe but mixed up the amount of water & had to keep adding flour back in to get the right consistency. Then my amounts were all off and I made them too large, which was not very enjoyable to eat. I didn't even bother putting them on skewers & trying to grill them. I kept the leftovers in water, but I think I was supposed to keep the uncooked balls in water, and I ended up having to toss them.

Of course the recipe is not to blame for any of this, and I'd be willing to give them another shot in the future. I'll probably try the half recipe again though, because this makes a lot!

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