Monday, February 28, 2011

Project Curb Appeal

Curb appeal is very important.  You don't want folks to drive by and think "what a dump."  Sadly, when we first moved in, we had some big challenges with how our house looked. When our house first went on the market, it was really, really bad.  How bad you ask?  This bad...
I know you're thinking, really, Katie, stop being dramatic, really that's not too bad...  So I give you this...
Notice how you can't even see the damn house through the mess that is the front yard.  And yes, I did just steel these images from google maps using my snipping tools.

When we bought it, it didn't look  much different, except that the house was painted yellow and the driveway was paved.  I know what you're thinking, we must be crazy and we are.

So we've done a ton of work, and as of a couple week ago, this is what our yard looked like...

Yes, these are the same pictures from when the driver crashed into our yard, but they were the only ones I could find.  But you can see the improvements- we added that lovely fence and have mulched in the front, so that it doesn't look so desolate.

Last Monday brought some BIG changes and our yard now looks like this...
Notice the lack of ugly scrub pines?  I am so happy with this.  We still have a long way to go in achieving curb appeal nirvana, but we're getting closer!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Stuffed Mushrooms

It's no secret that I love a good 'shroom and these babies are fabulous!  We decided that they taste like creamed spinach with sausage.  Yum.  So without further ado...

Start with some nice big portobellos, give em a good clean and scrap the gills out of the inside
Brown and crumble some spicy italian sausage
Defrost a package of spinach
Add sour cream and cream cheese to the spinach and mix it up good
Then add the sausage
And some Parmesan
Mix it well and then fill them mushrooms up and sprinkle some bread crumbs on top
Stick em in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes and enjoy!

4 portobello mushrooms, washed and gills removed
1 lb. hot italian sausage
10 oz. frozen spinach, defrosted
4 oz. low fat cream cheese
1/2 cup of low fat sour cream
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
1/2 cup of bread crumbs

Preheat over to 350 degrees

Brown and crumble sausage.

Meanwhile, add cream cheese and sour cream to spinach and mix well.  Once the sausage is cooked, add to the spinach mixture and mix well.  Add the parmesan cheese and mix well.  Fill the mushrooms with the spinach mixture and top with bread crumbs.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the mushrooms are cooked and the bread crumbs are slightly brown.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How Does Your Garden Grow? Part 1

I have a confession to make.  I am a total and utter failure at growing vegetables.  Every spring, I have such high hopes for my vegetable garden.  And somehow, I always end up disappointed.  Take last year for instance.  I planted 8 tomato plants.  Guess how many homegrown tomatoes I enjoyed?  Zero.  Yes, that's right, not a single one.  Damn blossom end root.  And what about those big, beautiful, heavily flowering squash plants I lovingly tended last year?  Not a single one actually grew a squash.  In all fairness, that one has more to do with a lack of honeybees and pollination than failure on my part.  But still, utter disappointment.  So this year, I am taking a break from vegetable growing (luckily, we have lovely farmers markets, so we'll have access to lots of fresh produce) and embracing flowering growing!

We have several garden areas planned including the pergola, a hummingbird garden, a cutting garden and window baskets.  As to not over do, this post will focus on dressing up the pergola.

The pergola that Seth and I built last spring and were married under last September, will be hosting...
Key Lime Cup and Saucer Vine
Each leg of the pergola will also get a big pot that will hold...
White Angelonia Serena
Petunia Dolcissima Flambe
I just love that name.  It sounds so fancy!

But I just love the combination of cool green and flashy pink.  I am very excited about this!

What garden plans do you have for this summer?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Blackbean Soup

This recipe comes from Dave Lieberman, which means that not only is it delicious, the ingredients are easy on the wallet.

Step 1:  Cut you up some bacon
Step 2:  Cook up your bacon
Step 3:  Add some onions and garlic
Step 4:  Add some more tasty stuff (chicken broth, chopped maters, ketchup, worcestershire sauce, and chili powder)
Step 5:  Add your beans
Step 6:  Season and add cilantro and lime juice
Step 7: Garnish and Enjoy!

YUM!  And in case you didn't follow those super stellar directions, the recipe is below or you can find it here.

10 slices bacon, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
6 garlic gloves, pressed
1 can reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups canned chopped tomates
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
4 cans black beans, drained
salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch cilantro
juice of 1/2 lime
sliced scallions, for garnish
sour cream, for garnish

Put the bacon into a large heavy pot and place it over medium heat.  Cook until it starts to give up its fat, about 4 minutes.  Stir in the onions and cook, stirring, until they start to turn translucent, about 4 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook until you can smell it, about 1 minute.  Add the broth, tomatoes, ketchup, worcestershire, and chili powder.  Stir in the beans, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil.  Adjust the heat so the soup is bubbling gently and cook 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, pick off the thick stems from the cilantro.  Wash it and shake dry.  Chop the cilantro coarsely and stir it into the soup when it has been simmering 10 minutes.  Cook until the soup is thickened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the lime juice.  Serve with the garnishes.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Simple Saturday Projects

You know all of those little things you want to do, but never get to because you are so busy doing all the big projects...  Well this weekend, I tackled a few small, simple projects.

For the last 8 months, Seth and I have been living with a very dark hallway.  So, a quick trip to Lowes and we now have this...
A lit hallway!  We can finally find coats, hats, and toilet paper with much less hassle.

Also, one of our storm doors used to look like this...
And now looks like this...

By simply removing that silly metal piece, the door looks so much better.  And we can now properly clean the door (no more puppy smears!).  We do plan on replacing the storm doors at some point, but this alone is a big improvement.

We also picked up a big mirror at Target, so that this...
Now looks like this...
I am so in love with this.  Its big!  And Silver!  And Centered!  Just lovely...

And now that I had an extra mirror to work with, this corner of the living room, went from this...
To this...

So much better!

None of these projects were expensive or time consuming and it felt so good just to have them done.  Its so wonderful when a little, easy change makes such a big impact.

And speaking of impact, there is a big impact project going on in my front yard RIGHT NOW that I can't wait to share!!

What projects have you been putting off?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Man Dinner

So far, Seth's favorite thing about me doing this South Beach thing is the amount of meat we've been eating.  Wednesday's dinner was this:
That would be a wonderfully delicious eye of round roast, prepared using this recipe and a huge side of kale.  I know lots of folks are a bit kale skeptical, but its delicious, I promise.  I suggest preparing it this way.

Start with some nice fresh kale.  Give it a good wash and tear it into smaller pieces, making sure to remove the stem.  While you're doing that get a pan nice and hot.  Drizzle the pan with oil and toss the kale in.  It will pop almost like popcorn.  Cook the kale until its wilted and bright green (make sure to move it around a lot so it doesn't burn).  Give it a toss with a squeeze of lemon and a dash of salt and you have pure nutritional heaven.


Thursday, February 17, 2011


Back when I was an engaged lady, I read lots of statistics claiming that most women gain an average of 10 pounds after marriage.  As Seth and I had already been living together for 2 years, I dismissed these studies, thinking that since we already had our eating and workout habits well established, we would be immune. Boy, was I wrong.

First, there was the absolute joy of being finished with wedding planning.  No more stressing over details, no more trying to looking fabulous in my dress!  Top that with the even greater joy of being married to my wonderful partner and what do you get?  Weight Gain.

Added to that, the wedding occurred 6 weeks into my first semester of grad school.  The remainder of the semester royally kicked my butt and any semblance of a workout plan went right out the window.

So here we are, 5 months post wedding and I am 10 pounds heavier.  Stupid statistics.  And not being one to sit around and complain, I have embarked on the South Beach Journey.

With the back story now told, I must confess that I don't really like eggs.  I feel that the best way to eat an egg is in cake or brownies or ice cream or cookies.  And yes, I will eat an occasional omelet, fried egg or scrambled egg.  But eggs are not something I will touch on a weekly basis.  This does cause a bit of a problem for South Beach, especially at breakfast time.  But I have found a solution!

Enter the mini-frittata!

There are many different ways you could make these, but here's how I did it.

1 can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 package of frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
4 turkey sausage patties, cooked and diced
1 cup of mushrooms, sauteed
1/2 cup of feta cheese
1 tsp oregano
12 eggs


Preheat oven to 375

Mix together the tomatoes, spinach, sausage, mushroom, feta and oregano.  In a separate bowl, scramble the eggs.  Add the eggs to the tomato and spinach mixture (let this mixture cool a bit before adding the eggs).

Line a muffin tray with cupcake liners.  Fill liners with mixture about 3/4 of the way full.  For me this made 18 mini-frittatas.  I even had enough mixture left over to fill two individual souffle cups.

Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the eggs are set and slightly brown on top.

Some really great things about these eggs:
  • Because there is so much other stuff in them, I can barely taste the egg
  • They reheat really fast.  I pop two in the microwave for 45 seconds and am ready to go.
  • They taste great with a cup of spicy V8 juice.
  • They're totally versatile- you could do really any mixture of veggies, low fat cheese and lean protein and get a great breakfast.  
Anyone else done South Beach?  Any fun recipe ideas?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wood Palette Project

This is another one of those easy projects that I just love!  The original idea came from some design magazine I picked up at Lowe's years ago (you know, one of those 100 design ideas under $100).

How to create this lovely display-

Start by finding yourself a wood palette.  This may seem tricky, but once you start looking, you'll see them everywhere.  If you know anyone in the construction, plumbing, heating and air, etc business, check with them.  Chances are good they have wood palettes lying all over the place.  If that doesn't work, try sweet talking your favorite home improvement store employee.  Really, these things are EVERYWHERE!

To hang your palette, start with good quality hooks.  Most hooks will tell you how much weight they will support, and I vote go high cause theses bad boys are heavy.  Also, make sure to follow the directions on attaching and hanging your hooks. 

When you actually hang the palette, the top of the palette (the solid wood part) should be hung against the wall with the bottom of the palette sticking out.  This will give you these nice little display shelves.  And you're done.  It's just that easy.

I do recommend popping some nails in if you plan on displaying breakables like plates (don't want them slipping and breaking).  There are tons of things you could display here, so don't feel limited.

Happy decorating!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Roasted Root Veggies with Couscous

Oh, how I love roasted veggies, so delicious, sweet and carby.  And this is one of my favorite ways to prepare them...

Preheat oven to 350ish (if you're short on time, you can up the temp to as high as 450 to speed up the cooking time)

Cut up a selection of root vegetables.  We tend to use a mixture of carrots, potatoes, beets and onions.  Toss your veggies with olive oil, pepper and salt.  Dump in a oven safe dish with a lid (this is the perfect time to use cast iron.  Oh how I love cast iron cookware).  Pop in the oven for 45ish minutes.  They're done when they're fork tender.

When the veggies are about 5 minutes away from being done, cook your couscous following the directions on the box.

To serve: spread a layer of couscous on the plate, top with veggies and sprinkle with feta.

This is absolutely one of my favorite dinners.  As my husband tends to be a bit more carnivorous, we generally add some chicken to his plate.


Monday, February 14, 2011

For My Valentine

First, a quick note on Valentine's Day- I know a lot of people dismiss this holiday as rubbish, calling it a capitalist, Hallmark holiday.  True enough, but Valentine's Day was celebrated for many years before Hallmark came about, and really, there is something lovely about taking a day out of the year to celebrate love.  I'm not talking about just romantic love, but all love (familial, friendship, etc).  So, with that said, I wish you all a very happy Valentine Day and hope that you find a reason to celebrate love today.

And now, for the mushy.  I have a pretty great husband and he deserves a lot of credit for putting up with me.  I tend to be a bit on the messy side, so three cheers for my husband for this...
Yes, thats right- yesterday Seth changed the sheets and made up the bed, and...
and washed and folded my laundry.  Wonderful, practical husband.  But, there's also this...
My dad gave up this now lovely piece of furniture (it belonged to my Great Grandmother Stokes).  However, when it was dropped off, it wasn't in such good shape.  Seth lovingly put it back together and restored it.  So lovely.  But there's more...
He always makes sure I have fresh flowers sitting on the sideboard.  So sweet.

So again, I say, Happy Valentine's Day to all, especially my sweet husband!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Valentine's Day

In the past, Valentine's Day has tended to follow one of two specific patterns.  Option 1: I spend all day in the kitchen, planning and executing some elaborate meal. At some point, I get pissy because I have been on my feet in the kitchen all day.  Option 2: We go out to dinner, eat way too much, come home, put on sweat pants and veg in front of the TV.  Neither outcome is ideal.

This year we are trying something new!  Instead of an elaborate meal, we'll be cooking at home together, but keeping it simple.

For starters, we're trying this:
Pink Parsley: Recipe and Image
What are those you ask?  Nothing other than pimento cheese fritters.  Yes, I went there.  Cheese and mayo mixed together, rolled in panko and fried.  I have died and gone to Paula Dean heaven.  But to keep it light (ha!), we're only planning on making a few.

Our main course will be crab cakes from the Fresh Market, along with a salad.  And dessert will be fruit and chocolate.  Easy Peasy.

And what to drink you might ask?

We're staring with one of our favorite, light wine- vinho verde.  If you haven't tried a vinho verde, get yourself to a Total Wine stat!  They're light, bubbly and have a fairly low alcohol content, so no worries about getting smashed too early. 

Dessert will be accompanied by a very special Pinot Noir.  For Christmas, Seth's brother and his wife gifted us with a 2006 Pahlmeyer Pinot Noir.  The reviews are glowing and the description is to die for (The 2006 Pahlmeyer Pinot Noir has a deep dark garnet color. In the glass the aromas open immediately, revealing layers of rich dense fruit, earth and sweet spices. The palate also offers layers upon layers of concentrated small berries, black raspberry and cherries, balanced with nicely integrated oak. This full bodied wine finishes with finesse and long lingering flavors.” – Erin Green, Winemaker).  I can't wait to try this lovely bottle!

And lastly, to really set the tone for a very special day, Seth has promised to take me to see Gnomeo and Juliet.  I can't WAIT!

What kinds of Valentine's Day plans do you have?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Simple Project: Calendar Art

Even before becoming a disciple of Young House Love, I have always been a big fan of using what you got.  That was certainly the case when it came to decorating the guest bedroom.

The guest bedroom has been fully functional for a while now (paint on walls, bed, bedside tables, dresser), but has lacked pizazz.  I am a big believer in pizazz.  Luckily, pizazz has been achieved. But first let me back up a step...

I love having a calendar in the kitchen and for 2010 we enjoyed this lovely-
image source
Not wanting to simply toss this beauty out and recognizing that the guest bedroom needed a lift, I came up with an easy solution.  I framed each month and hung them.  Easy peasy, right?  Want to see?
Fun right?
Directions on how to make your own fabulous calendar art
1- Start by measuring your calendar, pick up frames that are the same size or slightly smaller.  These frames came from Michaels and we're around $8.00 for a two pack.  Cheap and Easy= LOVE
2- If you picked out smaller frames, cut your pictures down to size.  I find it helpful to place a ruler or long level on the page you are cutting so that your knife (I use a box cutter) can follow the line more easily
3- frame 'em
4- hang 'em.  In order to hang them, first measure and draw out (in pencil) a nice grid pattern.  Pop your nails in and erase your pencil lines (magic erasers work great for this).

In total, this project was less than $50.00 and took less than 2 hours to fully complete.  And I totally love the results.  Happy projecting!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Hazards of Pet Ownership

We love our pets to an almost ridiculous level.  However, occasionally there are moments when we want to hang them up by their little toe nails (something we would never ever do).  Lately, Seth and Matilda have been having some of these moments.

Really, it started late last week.  Seth made himself a lovely sandwich and popcorn for lunch and set it down (big mistake).  Recognizing an opportunity, Matilda picked a fight with her brother.  Once Seth got them separated, Ava joined the fun, enticing Oliver to chase her.  By the time Seth had stopped the madness, Matilda had managed to devour the entire sandwich and all the popcorn.  Bad Matilda.

And then Sunday morning happened.  While trying to get out of the house to check on the driver, Matilda dashed under Seth and tripped him.  It wasn't until much later that I realized how badly Seth was hurt.  I left work early on Monday and lovingly (ha) forced Seth to go to the doctor.  3 hours and 2 sets of X-rays later, it was determined that he only had a severe sprain.  Poor boy is now on anti-inflammatories, pain killers and will be strapped into a boot for the next 3 weeks.

Want to see the damage?
Poor Seth.  Bad Matilda.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Special Day

February 5 was a very special day, and not just because it was the night before the drunk driver crashed into our yard- it was the day that sister #2 (I have 3 younger sisters who will be identified by number) turned 19.  We threw a nice little party for her, including brinner, champagne cocktails and chocolate cake.

Seth and I tasted some pomegranate wine a couple weeks ago at the Fresh Market.  It was recommended that we mix the pomegranate wine with champagne.  After a couple trials, we found that a one to one ratio worked best.  Those sure were tasty!

The cake was a chocolate chambord cake from the fresh market (sadly, no time to bake #2 a cake).  Luckily, this cake is divine!  And she got the candles out in one blow.

And a few pictures of the party goers...
#2 and her sweet boyfriend
#3, #2 and me
Overall, a very successful gathering and a wonderful way to celebrate such a great sister!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Not Your Typical Sunday Morning

Grab a cup coffee and get comfy because I have a story for you.

At 7:00am this morning, Seth and I were awakened by the sound of a crash, followed by the dogs barking. 

Seth asked "Did you hear that?"

I responded "It sounded like a car crash."

Seth got up to investigate.  Next thing I know, Seth yelled for me to call 911, which I did, as there was a car lodged in our front yard.  The car was still running, Seth couldn't get the driver side door open and the driver was slumped over in the passenger side seat.

The police quickly arrived, followed by a firetruck and ambulance.  The driver side door was removed using the jaws of life and the driver was loaded onto a gurney and taken to the hospital.  Fortunately, the driver did regain consciousness and appeared to be in pretty good shape with only a broken nose and gash on his face. 

During all of this, a young women showed up and provided a bit of a back story.  It seems that the driver was her ex-boyfriend.  He was intoxicated and they got into a fight, at which point he told her he was going back to his dorm and took off (the young woman lives two houses down from us).  He must have picked up a bit of speed quickly to do the damage that he did.

We didn't take any pictures until the car was towed away (we felt it was disrespectful), but I do have some of the aftermath to share.
The car ended up resting against the pine tree, with the noise of the car pointing towards the front of our house.  Based on the direction he was traveling, he spun around at some point before ramming into our yard.
When the driver crashed, he knocked over one of our dogwoods, which came through the fence.  Other than losing the tree and two camellias, this was the only real damage done to our property.  The passenger side window was shattered, which I imagine happened when he hit the tree.  There is a lot of glass, but fortunately most of it is on the outside of the fence.
Ever seen the base of a fire hydrant?  Now you have!  We had a fire hydrant in our front yard, which the driver hit.  Fun Fact:  fire hydrants (or at least ours) have a safety valve on them, so that when something like this happens, water doesn't come gushing out, meaning no geyser in our yard. 
And lastly, the resting place of the fire hydrant.  This location is a good 15 feet away from where its supposed to me and let me tell you, those things are heavy!

So there you have it folks, our very exciting Sunday morning.  It really happened so fast, the car was towed away and the last of the police officers were gone by 8:30.

I hope everyone else has a less eventful day and enjoys the Super Bowl tonight!!