Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Getting into the Spring of Things

It looks like spring has officially sprung up here in the great white north.  And by that I mean there are no patches of white anywhere *I* can see.  We even have a few patches of "brown trying really hard to turn green" grass.  OH, I'm not holding my breath about not getting another snow because, this is MN and a Final Four snow is almost guaranteed.  BUT, I am attempting to enjoy the weather that is in the 35-70 range, instead of the same 35 degree swing in temperature that is -20 to 15 degrees.  Same change in temp, but I like this one immeasurably more.

For those interested in our Whole30 experiment and the end results...well, I'm gong to say  it was mixed.  Now remember, the point of Whole30 is NOT to lose weight (yeah...right) but to recognize what you put in your body and determine if your body has issues with what might be common "allergens":  wheat, legumes, dairy, sugar, alcohol, etc.  Then you get to decide if you can live with how your body reacts to those "allergens".  Well, I've decided...yes.  I can live with it.  Especially alcohol.  Because...OMG...BEER.  And WINE.  And I went 26 days without either and if you can do math you can see immediately that NO I did not make it the full 30 days.  I'd like to say that "circumstances" conspired against me.  The truth is...I AM WEAK.  And it was Superbowl.  And after making 2 appetizers that completely fit within the rules, I caved at the mention of a gin and tonic with cucumber and lime.  And yet oddly...I felt no regret.  Not even a smidgen. (I think I may have officially deactivated my "Catholic guilt gene").  The mixed results:  personally, I lost about 12-14 lbs (which yes, I DID track daily) and NO I didn't allow my husband to pay me the $10/lb he paid the kids.  I DID start looking at sugar that is in things that I really don't think it needs to be in and have adjusted purchasing some items, even paying a higher price.  I've switched over to higher fat grass fed milk (mostly because we just don't drink that much milk and I think it's worth it).  I'm buying Ezekiel bread (sprouted) for everyday (and really it's not everyday) use.  I'm keeping more fresh fruit and vegetables on hand.  I'm trying to stay away from foods LOADED with preservatives.  I'm attempting to remove canola (highly processed) oil from my cupboard and moving towards less processed oils.  And I think we will probably do this again but not for the 30 (or 26) days but for maybe in 7-9 day increments instead of the full 30, but more frequently (like monthly?).  Because I'll be honest with you...it was (ok, I'm not allowed to use the word "hard") "challenging" (and by "challenging" I don't mean trying to find space in a closet that just isn't big enough...because there are challenges and there are CHALLENGES) and a "challenge" that I simply wan't willing to meet EVERY DAY for 30 (or 26) days.  I actually got TIRED of eggs and bacon (ok...for those who know me, it was really just the eggs...because...BACON), and the banana nut porridge failed to satisfy.  By the end of day 30 (26), I really...no REALLY just wanted pizza.  Like...BAD.  I just haven't figured out when we're going to do it again.  But I can guarantee you my last meal before starting WILL be pizza.

But back to spring.  We have lots to do this spring.  We (and by "we" I mean my husband) are attempting to reorganize our basement and storage area.  We have two work benches, one of which is taking up prime real estate space in our basement and is used to store spare plumbing and electrical thingeys (yes, that IS the technical term) that were used when we finished our basement 12 (TWELVE) years ago.  We also have boxes of college books (guilty) which have quite a bit of mileage, having been transported from Indiana, back to New York, out to California, back to Maryland and finally to Minnesota.  And I can say with 105% certainty that not one of them has been cracked open since the last day that they were used (and NO, I'm not going to say when that was...figure it out yourself).  We have old electrical Christmas decorations that I hesitate using because when I plug them in, they work...but they also get really hot really fast and I suspect are actually a fire hazard.  But they're REALLY neat (like bubblers) and one might think..."surely they can be made safe" without having the electrical background to know where even to start.  Anyway, it's been a slow process but progress is being made.  And the nice part about this is even with so much of the stuff being junk, we actually have a free disposal source available to us.

See...Bloomington has spring clean up.  And depending on how warped you are, you can turn the city event into nightly (usually 2-3 days before the scheduled event) entertainment.  Here is how we do it.  We bring items we wish to dispose of over to the in-laws and place them at the end of the driveway . Then we sit in the lawn chairs just inside the open garage door and take bets on which items will be picked up by "pickers" (people who drive around looking for stuff but not part of the Bloomington pick-up other than they pick up stuff before the Bloomington pick up picks it up) first and fastest.  Bikes?  OH, they go FAST.  Actually, there is rarely anything left from the piles for Bloomington to pick up.  Again, making the adage "one man's trash is another man's treasure" true.  I'm sure other cities do something similar, but the real question is...do people figure out ways to turn the event into nightly entertainment.  The end result, we get our basement cleaned out (or at a minimum, thinned out from excessive hoarding) and someone else becomes the owner/storer of an antique set of Christmas lights.

Lots of "wants/needs" will be happening with all the new space created.  Next on the agenda...prioritize.

And by prioritize of course I mean, I get my way.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

11 Days Down

Today is day 11 for me and I have come to the conclusion that my family paid me lip service.  When I said...COMMITMENT and ALL-IN they all nodded and agreed.  By day 3 the most common response to any question  that started with "why can't I..." was "it's against the rules" followed by, well those are stupid rules. 

Last Sunday, day 5,  we had tickets to see a matinee play with my husband's family and were to meet them for lunch before the play so we had our first (and probably last) foray into eating out.  And it sucked. Our waiter was actually pretty funny, checking with the kitchen on what items (we were at a BBQ place...probably not a good choice) didn't have restricted items (hint: very few).  I ended up with a plate of romaine, a couple cherry tomatoes and two small smoked chicken breasts with some balsamic vinegar and olive oil on the side.  Poor waiter kept coming by saying, Parmesan?   No thank you.  Croutons?  No thank you.  Breadstick?  No thank you.  Just keep bringing the water.  SO.MUCH.FUN. watching everyone around you enjoy their meal (and, if we're baring our soul, beverages) while you "stick to the plan".

Sunday, before we left for the play, I had put a pot of beef vegetable soup on the stove with instructions to my daughter when to add what.  So it was ready when we got home.  That  night I made a frittata for breakfasts, thinking it would be available for the rest of the week, and the husband took the only piece left on Tuesday.  

Monday I made a pork loin roast, balsmaic roasted sweet potatoes, homemade applesauce (I had apples freeze in my garage fridge and this was perfect for using them up) and broccoli.  Tuesday I shredded up the porkloin, added taco (compliant) seasoning and found a recipe for mock taco shell (eggs, coconut milk and a bit of coconut flour.  I believe this may fall into the SWYPO(Sex With Your Pants On) category. Did it work?  Meh...no, not really.  The crepe like shell wasn't nearly robust enough to hold the taco filling.  It ended up being not much different than using a lettuce leaf.  So, what's the point?

Yes, I know...it looks like an omelet.  It's not.  It's a mock(o) taco.

Wednesday I made spaghetti sauce with both zoodles (zucchini noodles) and spaghetti squash, to make a comparison as to which we liked better.  I'm going to go with the zoodles.  The spaghetti squash was a pain to cut (even after microwaving for a couple minutes to soften it), had to be baked for about an hour, then shredded.  After all that it had none of the consistency of noodles.  The zoodles did.  They were long (enough to twirl on a fork) and has some texture.
Thursday I made chicken strips using almond meal, mashed potatoes (with chicken broth) and broccoli.  I was pretty disappointed in the chicken strips.  They were oven baked (and you know where this is going, right?)  and had no crunch.  On a scale of  Ish to Wow, I'd give them a Meh.

Yesterday was the worst yet.  First my husband and I went to the movies (funny side story, we invited friends via a text that read..."going to see American Sniper tonight.  Want to know if you want to join us on our popcorn free, candy free, pop free, water ladened evening" ..They declined although I'm SURE they were tempted.)  He was in a horrible mood and it wasn't helped when we could actually smell the popcorn in the PARKING LOT (that's just wrong).  As we left the movie, whomever was in the end seat left almost a full tub of popcorn.  I had to drag the husband out.  We came home and had a salad.

Today, I made pepper steak and cauliflower rice (without the cilantro and lime but with jalapenos) which was just OK. I'll be honest though...I am sick to death of this.  And I've actually made a different meal each night.  Everyone's sick of eggs.  I'm trying to keep a variety of fruit on hand (not the best, I know) and I'm even sick of that (apples, bananas, pineapple, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries).  I'm full after every meal but I'm not satisfied.  It's simply not what I want.  I'm not necessarily craving anything (well, except Pizza...Pizzzzzaaaaaaaa), just not really satiated with what I've eaten.

More honesty...not sure if I will last the full 30 days.  I've already talked to my kids today about no longer wanting to hear their complaints.  If they want to be done then they are welcome to be done and do what they want.  But when I'm dealing with my own struggles and keeping strong, having to deal with their complaints is close to pushing me over the edge.  And that won't be pretty. (it never is).

For now, I'm still holding strong, hoping it starts to get easier...soon.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Hoppin' on the Bandwagon

About two years ago, in an attempt to shed a few (can you say muffintop?), a select few in the family embarked on an experiment to eliminate gluten from our diet.  In all honesty, I didn't expect to see any drastic results, mostly because I wasn't convinced that gluten was the cause of any ailments we might have.  Or it didn't appear to me to be.  So, I was completely unsurprised when I didn't see drastic results as what we  ended up doing was finding a substitute for gluten:  potatoes, rice, etc.  So, TECHNICALLY we went gluten free but no, we saw no visible effects (AND discovered it was difficult and expensive).  It got me to step outside my box in an attempt to be sneaky which I don't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing (I guess it depends on what your goal was...so for me...bad...very BAAADD).  For example, I made chicken strips but used masa harina (corn flour) instead and cooked them in peanut oil (in for a penny in for a pound) and they were DELICIOUS:
So, being as how the weight isn't going to lose itself (would that it could), I was on the look out for something that would get me pointed in the right direction.  Then last year a friend/comrade in arms mentioned doing the Whole30  (in the event you choose not to click the link, what that means is for 30 days you cut out of your diet all of the following: all dairy, grains, legumes (yes, that means peanuts), sugar (even honey), processed oils like canola, corn, vegetable (olive, avocado, nut oils are ok).  Now here is the "funny" part:  I had actually toyed with going Paleo and I'll be honest it probably would have been easier because at least they allow for some naturally occurring sugars (honey).  My reasoning for Whole30 was, selfishly, the timeline.  It's a 30 day commitment and one in which I am requiring the whole family to be "all in".  The purpose, as I understand it, is to reset your body.  Kinda like creating a clean slate.  Or a baseline.  You now know how your body SHOULD act and you can introduce the "forbiddens" gradually to see if they are causes/triggers for issues you may have concerning your health and adjust your diet accordingly.

I started prepping a little before new years by limiting my coffee intake.  That was going to be something the others didn't have to deal with but for me, it was gonna be a biggie.  OH, I get, I CAN have coffee, just nothing in it that makes me WANT it. (aside from caffeine). 

Today is day 4 and even though I'm still in the throws of pizza cravings, I'm going to attempt to describe how the process has gone so far.  For me,  it's been a lot of work.  Mostly because my family can't think outside of what is readily available and therefore whines incessantly about what they can't have instead of seeing what they can.  So if I don't have things packaged up and ready for them, think breakfast that doesn't include yogurt, cereal, toast, bagels, pancakes or waffles...or lunch (have you SEEN school lunches?) then they come close to meltdown.  I'm also feeling my way through this process.  Like how much fresh vegetables will we eat in a week (yeah...EPIC FAIL there...the answer?  a freaking truckload). SSLLLOOOWWWLLLLYYY they're coming on board.  My youngest, who I can rarely get to eat breakfast has been eating monkey salad (bananas, cashews and coconut flakes) almost every morning.  But only if I make it for her.  See where I'm going with this?

Did I mention that there is planning involved?  Yeah, LOTS of planning.  Luckily I was a little prepared.  Not where I should be but a little.  I made mayo.  Yes, you read that right.  Some avocado oil, an egg yolk, some lemon juice a little dry mustard and salt and pepper and VOILA...mayo.  OK, it's not VOILA and my whole arm cramped  in the process but I.MADE.MAYO.  And I made it as part of a dressing for lunches for the week.  I had a bag of broccoli slaw, shredded carrots, sliced red and yellow peppers, red onions and several broiled chicken breasts cubed that I mixed together and tossed with a dressing of homemade mayo and red wine vinegar.  I had romaine leaves they could either use to make "boats" with for lunch or just eat as is. 

So, day one, I made a sausage (made my own seasoning for the pork), spinach, pepper and onion frittata.  It wasn't done before the husband left for work, which was too bad because it was delicious:
 But the nice part was that I was able to cut it into servings and it was available for the next couple days.  The girls, of course, since I had something ready, they didn't want that.  See where this is going? 

Lunch I had all boxed up into little containers:  the above salad and apple slices with almond butter.
 Dinner was a bit of a fail.  I bought rockfish at Whole Paycheck Foods and made roasted potatoes with fresh herbs, broiled rockfish with ghee and almonds, and a salad  with home made Italian dressing (that EVERYONE, to my shock, loved).  I didn't care for the rockfish.  Lesson learned.
Lots of water, tea without sweetener.  I have fruit and veggies and raw nuts available and some Larabars for "emergencies"* and day one is over and I realize...I SO haven't planned this well.

So day 2 starts with yesterday's leftover potatoes with a couple eggs on them and the aforementioned monkey salad.  The husband took the frittata.  Lunch was the same for the girls.  The husband took the leftover salad with chicken (thank God I had the foresight to broil several chicken breasts to have on hand just in case) cut into cubes on top and the dressing (which he left on the counter).  For dinner I made Carnitas with cilantro lime cauliflower rice and a salad of avocados and tomatoes dressed with avocado oil, lime juice and cilantro.  This was FABULOUS (my girls were actually impressed with how good the "rice" was), but my error was in not realizing how little "rice" the cauliflower processed to, having to wait for my oldest daughter to get home and bring a second one.  Loved being able to throw the pork in the crock and just let it go:
Day 3 my oldest daughter was ready to throw in the towel.  She is nannying during jterm and the family is gluten free so you'd think easy-peasy for her right?  No, there were very few things that she could eat so had been coming home starving (which might have been why she loved everything so far).  I was ready for her with the frittata, chicken salad lettuce wrap and apple and almond butter.  The husband took the leftovers from Day 2 for lunch with an apple and almond butter,  the middle daughter I made a salad with power greens (spinach, kale and swiss chard), put peppers, tomatoes, avocado and chicken on top with the left over dressing the husband forgot from Day 2 and the youngest I made a waldorf-ish salad with chicken, apples, grapes, peppers, cashews, mayo and apple cider vinegar and fresh thyme.  We had signed up to do FMSC  at a mobile packing station at our church and knew we'd be getting out late and they'd be starving so I made a slow cooker taco meat with chicken breasts cut into cubes, and when we got home we made taco salads with romaine, chicken, peppers, onions, tomatoes, avocados and black olives (husband).  I had compliant salsa and also made a dressing with avocado oil, lime juice, cilantro, garlic and a jalapeno, which everyone seemed to love as well.
Today starts Day 4 and the girls have requested that I make them a recognizable carb.  By that I believe they mean hash browns,  with eggs and sausage.  And the husband requested steak for dinner which I can work into salads for the week.  So, I'm getting there.  

I have, in preparation, though, made 2 trips each to Walmart and Sams Club, one to Cub, one to Whole Paycheck Foods, and one to Trader Joes.  AND I'M JUST 4 DAYS IN.  We've gone through more food in those 4 days than I can remember with very little being thrown out.  I know the not throwing out part is good...actually it's great. But HOLY HANNAH, it's expensive.  Now I get that I'm not even doing this COMPLETELY right.  OH, I'm reading labels and discarding anything with added "see above list" that is not compliant.  I'm not buying grass fed organic meat.  Have you compared the prices?  And given the number of eggs we have gone through this week, I simply cannot afford to go with the pastured organic eggs that are hand fed by leprechauns.  Sorry, not in our budget.  As it is, just trying to FIND bacon with no sugar or nitrates (there was not ONE at Whole Paycheck Foods) has thrown me into a tizzy.  Flour...pfffttt...I can do with out.  Bacon?  Just shoot me.  And when I do/did find  it (US Wellness Meats), it turns out that they sell it for $17/1.5lb (and are perpetually sold out so SOMEONE is buying it) which puts a major dilemma in my court:  new glasses for the middle daughter or bacon for me?  What to do, what to do? *hears a voice whispering...buy the bacon*

Regardless, I'm only halfway through the first week and I AM committed.  I think a lot of my attitude stems from coming off sugar, flour, some caffeine (I've switched to tea which helps only with caffeine) and, yes, alcohol (although alcohol was another vice that I have already been cutting back on, NYE not withstanding), but I AM optimistic.  I'm hoping once the week is under my belt, I'll be better prepared and feel better.

OH, that's another point.  I also have a plan to start working out but wanted to wait and see what the first week brings, detox wise. My oldest daughter seems to have been hit the hardest and for now I'm going to assume it's the sugar.  She woke up this morning light headed, with the shakes.  She was pretty scared until she ate and I suspect it's her body reacting to the lack of sugar.  I told her to keep a Larabar on hand if she was somewhere and this came upon her but I think once we are through this week this will disappear as her body reaccustomizes itself to the lack of sugar.  While she didn't think she ate that much sugar, I have watched her eat an entire package of Twizzler Pull-n-Peel in one sitting.  This is an exercise for all of us to recognize what foods we are putting in our bodies.

So, I'll be updating what's going on here occasionally.  I'll try and post the fails as well as the successes.  One of the key points to this program is not to weigh yourself during the program.  I struggle with this but I understand how lack of needle movement can frustrate one to quit.  On the other hand movement in the right direction (that would be down) is a motivator.  For now, we're following the rules.

My goals for the next week include adding making my own nut butters because the $13.49 I paid for Nuttzo at Whole Paycheck Foods was, well NUTTZO.  Even if it was a 7 nut and seed butter.  Trader Joes  almond butter is delicious and compliant but it's a haul and I want to see if I can make it cheaper.  That way it's easy to have it on hand if I run out.  I also found a recipe for  zucchini hummus I want to try, because surprisingly, my children eat hummus.  Typical hummus has chickpeas as the base so it is a no-no.  This uses tahini (sesame paste/butter).  If I can find something for the kids to dip veggies into to make them "better", I can hopefully get them turning to it as a quick snack when they get home from school.

I think goals are good to have.  Making small changes, trying new things to see how they work, IF they work, and how you can incorporate them seamlessly into your everyday live is a positive.

Wish me luck.

*emergencies...walking in the door from school and being unwilling or unable (because, obviously your arms are tied behind your back) to cut up an apple, peel a tangerine or a banana.  THOSE kind of emergencies.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The 1990s Called...

...they want their kitchen back.  Yes.  This one:
Take note of the lovely overhang for which there is no room for bar stools (which might or might not have been because we have opened our monster table to accommodate 8 people) and the "beautiful" blue/grey/rose laminate which I obviously LOVED when I chose it in 1996.  Because you are about to see the kitchen transform before your eyes.

My husband is perpetually on me for hyping things too much then losing the full effect because of expectations.  And I probably did it again. *shrug*  It's what I do.

In 2013, almost 2 years ago and after painstakingly going through websites and consumer reports and reviews for new kitchen appliances, and after debating if we should just replace as they actually gave out, we bid farewell to our 16 year old white Whirlpool appliances,  bit the bullet and bought all new appliances (and the husband a pacemaker because I believe his heart stopped several times during the process). Every so painstakingly slowly, we were dragging ourselves into the 21st century.  Yes, for us, major purchases like this is a long drawn out soul shattering process and one in which baby steps are necessary.  And matters are never helped by having a champagne appetite and a beer budget.

So, fast forward  about a year, to around March 2014.  The husband received a bonus and we decided to try and finish the project now that we had a timeline:  daughter's graduation party in early June.  So, we went traipsing through granite show rooms, knowing that we have completely different tastes:  his being a more uniform quartz-ish look, mine being a more eclectic but tastefully unusual granite that wouldn't break our meager budget. Choosing granite...worlds colliding...same-sies.

Looking for granite isn't as simple as choosing something online because it has movement and you really have to see the whole piece.  I think we hit about 5 warehouses and ended up at the first one, putting a hold on 2 pieces of granite:  Cosmic Blue.  Now, don't let the name fool you, it's not REALLY blue.  It's black background with "cosmic" white, cream, tan, gold and copper movement. And randomly through the granite are small white iridescent places where when the light hits it, it takes on a blue fire.  These shots don't really do it justice, mostly because of the lighting, and also because it looks to have green in it.  It doesn't.
Now that the granite is chosen we had to find a fabricator to be able to get it in before the party, because, I wouldn't be me if I didn't procrastinate and wait until a month before before starting to look.  Luckily, I found someone to do it and with PLENTY of time before the party.  Or so I thought.

Yeah, I didn't do a whole lot of real thinking when attempting to get this done while trying to plan a graduation party.  My bad.  At any rate, it went in with about 10 days to spare.  So, you're saying, what's the big deal?  The big deal is that we didn't do a granite back splash, as I wanted to tile from the top of the granite to the bottom of the cabinets but we had a laminate back splash up before and when they removed it it left bare walls,  void of paint and with  plenty of nail holes.  10 days before the party we had progressed to this:


I need to take a moment and talk about that sink.  It's a freaking SINK and new faucet and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it.  My aforementioned champagne appetite had me looking at something like this (for those of you who are brave enough to click the link and follow through until you find the price...yeah, doing JUST a sink and hood would have financed our kitchen reno 2-3 times) and once I grasped that concept, and dialed'er back about 40 notches, I managed to find a granite composite sink and a beautiful aged bronze faucet on Amazon (Amazon was SO my very best friend during this process but it meant I had to take a leap of faith not being able to see it in person).

Luckily, I had been looking for back splash material, I just couldn't decide until the granite was in.  Once in, I hi-tailed it to Home Depot to get a sample and decided yes...this would do.   It is random 1 inch pieces of slate* that pulled together the colors in the granite, the warm tone of the maple cabinetry AND the green on my walls that I happen to adore.  And as an added bonus there are pieces of copper in the tiles that catch the light.  
Which left one small detail remaining...who would install it?  Yeah...that's a pretty "small" detail to overlook, given I now had a partially torn apart kitchen (nail holes exposed IS torn apart...in the business vernacular).  Luckily I found someone who could have it done by Friday.  Party was Saturday.  See?  SEE what procrastinating does?  THIS.

OH, now is probably a good time to add that since the wall I wanted to take down, wasn't in the budget, I decided to move the microwave to its own cabinet (which I didn't have) and replace the cabinet over the stove with a range hood.  Good idea right?  Now, I have to find a pre-made cabinet that will fit the existing microwave and the space I intend to put it.  I started my search in April (thinking I was being oh so proactive and even if I had to do a little refinishing work...no problem...plenty of time right?) and found one in late April on Craigslist.  I had her measure the opening to make sure the microwave would fit and lo and behold it would.  JUST BARELY.  So I went out to purchase, knowing it was white washed and I would need to strip it down and refinish but hey, I had like a month, right?  

So, I got the cabinet (which turns out was an old entertainment cabinet) and began the stripping process to remove the whitewash.  OMG.  Having never done it before, it was WAY more involved than I expected.  There were days when I just wanted to say...screw it.  Well, except that I now had the stainless steel hood (in a box in my dining room) that the microwave was replacing AND the kitchen cabinet that the microwave hung from was now ensconced in the garage, I was committed.  In for a penny, in for a pound.  I failed to get a "pre" picture of the unit, but close your eyes and imagine the entire cabinet white washed (yes, even those little decorative touches at the top center and corners of the unit because getting the white out of those crannies had me near to tears).  And given that it didn't scrape easily, they obviously white washed it correctly.  This was the final product which I know isn't up to professional standards and was intended to look a little "shabby chic".  The emphasis there was supposed to on the chic,  but I think the shabby has the starring role.  But you know what?  I am completely OK with that.
AND while I'm having all these brilliant ideas on how to change my kitchen while not breaking the bank, let's talk about the light over the eat in table.  When we had the house built, we stupidly had the light installed centered on the room instead of centered on where the table would be.  Of course the table would be centered in the space available in the room, not the actual walls, so we had a hook and extended chain hanging the light where it was more properly centered. (popcorn ceilings meant moving the fixture was more work that we wanted to tackle.  And by we I mean me.)   BTW, the old light fixture had already been painted once, from its original tacky brass, famous in the 1990s to a hammered pewter.
Perusing kitchen makeover magazines (which is actually a form of self torture, in case you were wondering), I found something I though would work.  We have high ceilings and I thought what if we put a small drop in the ceiling where we wanted to put the light so that it would cover the old hole and allow for new placement of a new light?  After approaching a friend on how to do this, he made another suggestion that he thought would be easier.  Get a simple table, cut off the legs, turn it upside down attach to the joists in the ceiling and recenter where you want it, covering the old hole.  Believe it or not, this was actually one of the easiest parts of our renovation.  I found a maple butcher block table on craigslist, the husband sanded it down to the grain.  I water popped it to take a stain then stained it to match the armoire for the microwave.  We had the friend install (which MIGHT have been why it was so easy.)  I LOVE...LOVE...LOVE it.
The slate installation was like watching a butterfly emerge from a cocoon; a thing of beauty.  The process took longer than I expected mostly because even though those interlocking edges are SUPPOSED to line up and fit easily, they don't.  And after hearing the installer swear as the first few tiles went up, I was EVER SO GLAD that we (read *I*) had chosen to to inflict this kind of thing on my husband and hired someone to do it.  I was seriously scared but as he became more familiar with the pieces, it went faster and with less frustration(at least on my part ;-) ).  It is beautiful here but once he came back (after the grout set) and sealed it, OMG...it was stunning:

OK, granite installed, tile installed, cabinet refinished...OH, wait...I forgot about the "issue" we had with the cabinet.  Actually, there were two issues.  One, there was a decorative corbel that hung down from the corners.  When it was measured it was measured from the widest parts, not accounting for the corbel.  When we attempted to place the microwave, it wouldn't fit.  ARRRRGGGGGGGGG.  Yeah, there was a blue cloud of profanity lingering over our house that day.  I said words I didn't even know *I* knew.  Until...my husband suggested we take off the back panel and insert it from the back.  VOILA!  Problem one solved.  Problem two...that one almost burned down our house.  We didn't remove the light from the bottom of the microwave and it was on for a full night after we installed it.  We kept smelling something burning and turns out the light was powerful enough to scorch the wood.  We removed the light bulb (in the event that the light was ever inadvertently turned on) and slid a large piece of  thin aluminum between the two to make sure that there wouldn't be any further contact.  The center piece (where the TV would be), I installed cork on the bottom and we use that as a liquor cabinet.  The bottom while it looks like drawers is actually two doors and I use to store my food processor, rice maker and assorted small appliances I don't use too often.

The second to last piece to go up was the stainless hood and while it had been delivered (thanks Amazon) before the party, we were renovated out and didn't think about installing it until later (MUCH later...late August to be precise) It was not an easy process and I thank the good Lord that I have a patient and persistent husband who would figure out a way of making it happen come hell or high water.  And he did.  And it looks...OMG...it looks OUTSTANDING!
The one part of the kitchen that hadn't been completed until December (as you will note in the above picture to the left of the cookbook) was replacing all the outlets and switches with black ones and then replacing the covers with antique bronze with copper accent covers which  now makes them fade into the background.  

Drum roll please for the finished product:


Words simply cannot express how much I love it.  So I won't even try.

*edit-the back splash is slate, not granite

Monday, December 8, 2014

Fall Ball 2014

Well, it's been a couple weeks and I've been busy stealing pictures off of everyone's timeline but now, I think I have an accurate representation of *drum roll* :

LIVE...from NEW YORK...It's Saturday Night!

So, yeah, that was this year's theme.  And you know what?  I think NBC had someone watching my timeline because AFTER we hosted our party, they revealed their theme and...*shock*, it too, was SNL.  We, however, NAILED IT.

The husband and I came as Wayne and Garth:
Then we had Mary Katherine Gallagher:
And Liquorville:

And Matt Foley, Motivational speaker, and Coffee Talk with Linda Richman:
Fr Guido Sarducci with It's Pat:
More Cow Bell:
Baby Hands Janice:
Spartan Cheerleaders 1:
Matt Foley and Donatella:
The Ambiguously Gay Duo, Ace and Gary:
Fr Guido Sarducci and Samurai:
Gilly and Da Bears:
OK, given we don't have a major network budget or costume designers, we TOTALLY NAILED IT. And beyond that, everyone got the little details right on target.  Janice was so creepy it was borderline appropriateness (Ok...she overshot borderline by a wide margin...but still hilarous).  Gilly's facial expressions were ON.POINT. MKG had all the Super Star moves down.  Both Matts were perfect.  Ace and Gary showed us several positions I'm not sure were actually possible (I stand corrected).  Liquorville characters were all hilarious.  It was so much fun to see people stretch their creativity and really embrace their characters (some, maybe, a little too much).

Of course I made my soups, Cuban Black Bean and Chicken Tortilla, some beer bread.  I had meat candy and a hot onion dip, snacky stuff and carmelitas.  Since the men usually partake in jaeg bombs:
(and I can't stand the smell of the stuff), I made a few (boxes) of jellow shots (60 if you're counting) and because GMTA, someone else brought jello shots as well, for a total of about 100.  
Lest anyone be under the mistaken impression that we had a Halloween party and my husband did NOT exchange wigs, please let me set your mind at ease:
Of course there was a last man standing picture for those who made it past the witching hour:
And finally, you can see what the Today Show did here.  Yeah, it was OK, but even if you remove the budget issue, we still ROCKED IT!  

Because that's how we roll.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Self Serve...I don't think it means what you think it means

I managed to get my outdoor fall decorating done with plenty of time to enjoy it while the weather is...well...fall like (this is MN and that could change in a NY second and it cite the Halloween Blizzard of 1991 as evidence).  And it has been an absolutely gorgeous fall here.  The temperature must have hit on the exact combination of warm days and cool nights for peak color.  OR God just decided to show off his handiwork. (my money is on "option B").  The colors this year have just been SO vivid, actually still are pretty vivid.  And I frequently have to remind myself...you're DRIVING. *blush*

So, here is the front of the house:
The hay bale and corn stalks this year this year came from Jim's Apple Farm...also known as Minnesota's Largest Candy Store AND, I know, you be like there's MORE?, they have in stock somewhere around 6000 jigsaw puzzles, because...MINNESOTA) and the stalks were full of dried corn ears (as they should be).  




So, it's all good right?  UNTIL...I get this brilliant idea yesterday.  We were putzing around getting ready to send our youngest two off for Fall Retreat with their church group and as I was watering my pots I  thought, HEY, Fr Dick always gave his dog Erin dried corn cobs.  So, I found an unobtrusive cob down near the base of the left hand stalk and pulled it off, stripped what was left of the husk and gave it to Remy.  Who promptly ran off into the yard to eat the corn off the cob.  She was actually pretty funny with it.  You'd have thought it was a bone from Von Hansons by the way if you approached her she would pick it up in her mouth and want to show you what she has. (in case you're wondering she has NEVER shown aggressive tendencies with anything and will drop anything in her mouth on command). 

We got the girls loaded up and dropped off and I came home alone as the husband was helping a friend.  I came in through the garage, as did the dog.  OH, about an hour later she went to the door to be let out and THAT is when her activities became apparent.

Apparently, Remy interpreted my off the cuff gesture as "help yourself" and while we were gone ripped the entire left corn stalk off the front post (it was tied in 2 places with twine...broke through the twine), dragged it onto the front walk and then, given her lack of opposable thumbs, proceeded to rip off an ear of corn AND pull the husk off of it enough to get to the corn:
Of course, THEN, after all that 

20/20 hindsight.  Amirite?

Of course, I failed to get a full pictorial accounting of her activities until this morning, AFTER I had rectified the damage.  But maybe a side by side before/after pic?

And the front walk:

  

But, she's so freaking cute.  Even when she's been dog shamed.