Since I’ve been MIA for a while, let me back a few things up and share one of the projects I did start this summer. Right around the time I turned 28 I realized I haven’t been entirely productive in my 20s. My 20s started off with me recovering from surgery to have a port-a-cath installed so I could begin chemo 2 weeks later. By the time I was 23 I had survived cancer, graduated college early, started 2 jobs, gotten married, gotten a dog, and a house. That sounds like a lot but I feel like the momentum slowed a bit after that for some projects.
Now that I’m approaching 30, I realize my 20s are missing 4 key things:
- I haven’t been everywhere in the world. Heaven forbid! But the thing about having health issues so early in my life means I know I don’t have forever so I want to go everywhere while I know I can.
- I still have some growing up to do. It’s easy to see I grew up fast in my early 20s but I’ve had a hard time envisioning a future at times because I was so caught up on the past. I want to push myself to new levels and challenge myself in ways I’ve been slacking at.
- I haven’t finished all those loose ends. I’m the queen of starting but not finishing. Just once I’d like to clear out some of those incomplete projects.
- I need to have some fun. I am constantly the serious one. I have no ability to be spontaneous or overanalyze things. I need to enjoy my 20s before they are gone.
I’ve written down 30 big items I want to do before my deadline of July 29, 2015. I’ll be tracking my progess on the tag #30before30 here on my site and on this post. If you know me in real life and want to volunteer yourself to accomplish a task with me or hold me accountable, I’d owe you forever.
1. Hike Machu Picchu
2. Finish the Missouri 100 Miles Challenge
3. Visit a new state
4. Make a map of my travels
12. Finish my advent calendar
13. Make my wedding shadow box
14. Make a yearbook for each year of marriage
15. Get back to my pre-cancer weight
16. Finish a cross-stitch piece
17. Make my T-shirt quilt
18. Find my MSA list and do an item on it
19. “Finish” the house
20. Redo my websites
21. Go to the City Museum
22. Make a family tree
23. Make a piece of furniture for my home
24. Go skydiving
25. Have a live Christmas tree
26. Go on a monthly date night for all of 2014
27. Host a themed party
28. Make a paella
29. Buy a new car
30. Get a family photo
My coworker Rachel believes in me. I know this because she supported me when I was just an intern, she supported me when I wanted to come back to work for the place I’m at now and she supported this blog. She gets me and she knew I needed a push to start posting again and sharing my loves. She submitted today’s recipe to me in an effort to help me get my butt in gear and post. I needed this push. This past year has been full of changes: my husband and I each started new jobs, I took up weightlifting, and apparently I became the kind of person who tries insane recipes for the internet’s enjoyment. Let me tell you internet, when Rachel supports you it might mean making something horrifying just to see her reaction.
Today, I became the kind of person who makes stuffing cookies.
The cookies start off kind of normal. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs. Add your dry ingredients. I stared down the stuffing. “It’s just like oatmeal,” I told myself.
It was only as I poured in the hard dried chunks of stuffing ingredients that I began to really wonder if Rachel was angry about all those meetings where I brought up mundane issues I doubt she cared about. Or maybe she wants tomorrow’s potluck to be one of those events where you don’t know if someone’s food has poisoned you. Life is never boring at our workplace.
Once I got the dried cranberries in there it seemed more like oatmeal cookies would be right on target. The recipe says it makes about 15 but it easily made 2 dozen for me.
Alright, so moment of truth- how did they taste?
I have no clue. I was too afraid to try the cookie dough and now that they are baked I plan to enjoy them with all my lovely coworkers in the spirit of sharing and teamwork, just like Rachel taught me. I’ll update you when I know if they are “complex, subtle and completely surprising (in a great way)” like HuffPo says or if I need to update my resume soon.Pin It
I’ve talked just a little bit on here about how last year I went on a trip to Europe. My husband and I started our trip in Barcelona before embarking on a week long cruise. The entire trip was a blast and I still am reminded of it daily. I’ve been trying to incorporate some of the foods I enjoyed on our trip into our meals here at home. Today’s meal is inspired by one I had in Barcelona. It’s not paella (this time) but it was a twist on a classic.
My husband and I each had a pizza while we were there. Mine was covered in seafood while my husband’s was topped with an egg and prosciutto. He loved his pizza and I wanted to try to make it when we got home. I started with my usual pizza dough and prebaked it for 15 full minutes. When I pulled it out of the oven, I topped it with about 1/3 cup of pizza sauce and some cheese. Then I sprinkled on a heaping amount of prosciutto. Right before I put it back into the oven, I cracked 3 eggs over the top.
I put the pie back into the oven and baked it for another 12 minutes. You’ll want to wait until the egg just barely jiggles upon moving the pan. The egg will keep cooking for a minute or so after you pull it from the oven so don’t keep it in too long.
You might be a little afraid of an egg on a pizza but you can think of it as just one delicious breakfast pizza. We ate ours for dinner but no one has to know.
Barcelona as a whole was such a wonderful city. I’m just sad to say I only really spent about 2 1/4 days there. I’d go back in a heartbeat.
The architecture is beautiful, there are mountains and beaches, forts and concerts, parks and markets. You get the beauty of a coastal city and the excitement of a city that never sleeps (except during a siesta).
You can read about my Barcelona experiences on my travel blog.Pin It
When we last left off, my planters looked like this:
I was making these planters for my mom and my husband’s mom and I wanted each planter to reflect a gift I was giving them with the planter. For my mother-in-law, I had found a ceramic piece highlighting her Irish heritage I wanted to hang from the planter. My husband had some ideas on how to make the planter look perfect for his mom.
We attached spindles to the planter and placed finials on top for a decorative accent. I cut down the edges of a cedar picket with a jigsaw the give the plaque a more decorative look. You can see that I attached the spindles to the base I installed to hold the plants inside.
I then painted the planter white (do not use spray paint, trust me on this) and added a stenciled phrase and a hook. Here’s the final look of the planter we delivered to my mother-in-law:
For my mom, I know she loves hummingbirds and I had luck finding a beautiful garden piece at one of my favorite local shops (The White Hare) with some hummingbirds on it. I wanted to mount it to the planter. I used a deck post and finial and screwed them into the planter base. I found a gorgeous hook at Lowe’s that could support the weight of the feature piece.
Now you might be wondering how these planters can hold plants. You’ll want to have something more than just your 17″ 1x2s in each planter holding them up. I used some garden fabric and a staple gun to make a nice base. Once attached, you can pour your potting soil right in and plant some flowers in the nice sturdy base you’ve just made.
My brother bought my mom the flowers for this planter. Once we had it all together, my mom’s planter looked like this:
These two planters were my first real woodworking project. It was great to know I could build one of the many Ana White plans and even more exciting to see that I was able to make each planter match the personality and decorating style of my mom and my mother-in-law. I’m a little nervous that they will expect me to top this next year though.Pin It
We’re a month out from Mother’s Day but I wanted to share my Mother’s Day gifts with you all. Like many other people online, I love to follow Ana White. I remember following her when she still called her site Knock Off Wood and just showed plans that copied the look from high-end furniture stores. She has since diversified and has plans ranging from basic to advanced, indoor to outdoor. Her plans were always a bit of a dream for me since I’ve never even used a saw. I do own my own sander from my dining room table makeover but that was about as advanced as my woodshop skills were.
Enter the basic cedar planter. Ana’s plans showed they should cost about $20 and the other people implied they only needed a few hours to build. I had a week, a wallet, and all the tools. I decided to build two planters, one for my mom and one for my mother-in-law. Looking back, I wonder what inspired such confidence but I’m glad I thought so highly of myself.
For the project you need:
- 2 – 1×3 @ 8 feet long @ $1.35/board
- 1 – 1×2 @ 8 feet long @ $3.24/board
- 3 – 5 1/2″ wide x 72″ long cedar fence pickets @ $1.97/picket
- 2 – 2×2 @ 4 feet long @ $2.87/post (Ana used 1 2×2 @ 8 feet but these weren’t as easy to find at my store)
- 2 1/2″ exterior pocket hole screws (I had these as part of a kit but they can add cost!)
- 1 1/4″ exterior screws or galvanized nails @ $8.47/box (I used decking screws and had plenty leftover)
- exterior wood glue (Had some leftover from another project)
My supplies ran me about $30/planter but my prices varied from the ones Ana listed so price it out in your area. My supply list also included a bunch of usual tools that you can find listed out on Ana’s site but the key ones you might not have include a Kreg jig and a circular saw.
You’ll want to follow Ana’s cutlist as well. One note, the cedar pickets will have a dog-eared edge used in your planter. This is fine, when assembling just keep the dog-ears pointed towards the ground. Once you have cut everything, make the decision if you want to stain or paint these planters. Staining after the cuts will make it so much easier while you can save painting until it is fully assembled.
Lay down two of your 17″ 1×3 pieces parallel to each other. Space them out the length of your cut fence pickets (17 3/4″). You will want some gaps between the pickets, about a nail’s width wide. When you space everything out the way you like, clamp down the arrangement.
At this point I pre-drilled two holes in each plank, just deep enough that they’d go in the base board to mark their place. Then I’d pull the plank off, glue up the board, and pre-screw each screw into the plank. Then you line the board back into place and fully screw it in. That’s a little wordy so let the pictures below do some more explaining.
Here’s a look at a finished side of the planter. You need to make sure you have 4 of these per planter.
Next up- using a Kreg Jig. This tool allows you to make clean corners when building projects. The depths and screw length are basically determined by the size of wood you are using and a handy chart Kreg provides you. Then you clamp your drill guide to your wood and drill into the drill guide holes.
They leave holes that remind me of deer tracks. Then you drill your Kreg screws into those holes and through the board you are connecting it to. In this case, you’ll be doing the 4′ 2x2s posts.
At this point you want to make one more duplicate side with the 4′ 2×2 posts on the end. You’ll then be left with 2 assembled plank walls and 2 walls with posts attached. Now you need to square up your walls and assemble them so there’s a plank in each corner. This step works best if you have a helper handy. One person keeps the planter square and one person screws in the Kreg screws.
When you finally get that finished you’ll have what looks like an assembled planter. The taste of victory is so close but you still need to make a base for all the pretty plants that will fill the planter. You will want to take your 2 remaining 17″ 1x3s and place them several inches down from the top. I used my square to measure the distance and make sure they were level. Then I attached them in with screws but if you have nails handy those are fine too.
Then to finish the basic planter you’ll take your remaining 17″ 1x2s and lay them across the planks, evenly spaced. I failed to do that because I can’t just follow instructions. Instead of making a basic planter, I wanted each planter customized to each mom. So at the end of phase one, I had two planters that looked like this:
By the end of the next post, you’ll see how I was able to customize them to look like this:Pin It
After a top-secret project, I had about a dozen lemons leftover in my kitchen. What to do?
Enter Taylor Swift and my love of a local spice shop. Olde Town Spice Shoppe in St. Charles, Missouri always has your basic spices and some blends of its own. They also have local Missouri products. Sadly they do not pay me to pitch for them but I used them for wedding favors and for today’s secret ingredient- lavender. They had edible lavender (meaning not chemically treated) that I just couldn’t leave the store without. Fate set in and shortly after a Vanity Fair article about Taylor Swift mentioned she sipped on lavender lemonade during the interview. At first I rolled my eyes but then I realized I wanted to know what it tasted like and I had all the ingredients. Fate, right?
Start by squeezing about 10-12 lemons into a measuring cup. Your goal is to have about 1 1/2 cups (more if you like a tarter lemonade). Set that aside and start working on your simple syrup. You want to soak your lavender in some hot water with some sugar. Between this and all the lemon squeezing, your kitchen will smell amazing.
Next up you’ll want to strain all that lavender off. I used a strainer first and then passed it through a cheesecloth the second time for perfection. Now add that lemon juice from before. My simple syrup was a bit cloudy looking and my lemon juice was yellow but when I blended them together, magic happened.
Beautiful. Now add water to taste. I split my lemon mixture evenly between two pitchers and added 2 cups of water to each pitcher for 4 cups total. After chilling I finally had a drink. It tasted like flowers, in a way I think that is probably why Taylor Swift drinks it and why I will have to keep on drinking it. It’s refreshing, sweet, and feels like a spring day upon drinking.
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 Tablespoons lavender
- 6 cups boiling water
- 1 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 4 cups cold water
- Combine sugar and lavender in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over the mixture and steep for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Strain the lavender mixture with a strainer. You may want to run the mixture through a cheesecloth if pieces remain.
- Combine the lavender simple syrup with the lemon juice. The mixture will turn a beautiful rose hue.
- Pour the mix and cold water into a large pitcher and stir. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
This past weekend was a relaxing time. It started with a soccer game at Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis. We got to watch Manchester City beat Chelsea. We aren’t the biggest soccer people living in a town without a pro team but it was great seeing everyone enjoying a game together.
I took Friday off work. It was nice since I haven’t missed work this year with the exception of being sick and that’s never a fun reason. It turned out to be the sunniest day of the weekend so I’m glad I did it. While I waited for my husband to get home, I took advantage of Ancestry.com’s bonus war records. Does anyone else do geneology? I like doing it on a weekend like Memorial Day when I can see all the past relatives who fought bravely. I feel like it can bring me closer to my family, even if I’m not with them all.
Thankfully I do have a great family. Nova, Daniel and I had fun taking a walk in the park. My little doggie was thrilled to finally have nice weather to take a nice walk. She’s used to running 5Ks but if the rain comes she will trot right back inside.
Speaking of reasons to trot back inside…
This guy showed up in our yard this weekend. We’re used to squirrels, rabbits, opossums, racoons and a deer or turkey now and then but this weekend we saw a coyote and a snapping turtle. We live next to some underdeveloped park land that got a little makeover this week so I’m wondering if we’ll get more visitors.
It wasn’t just a yard full of animals though. We had a nice grilling session each night. Just us, the dog, some burgers and some beers. Oh, and of course some dessert.
How do you dress up your burgers? We set up some fun burger creations for ourselves this weekend. Here were our top three:
Chicken Parm Burger
- Ground chicken mixed with breadcrumbs and some seasonings, grilled
- Top with provolone cheese and marinara
- Ground beef mixed with Italian breadcrumbs, onion powder and Italian seasonings
- Top with pepperoni, provolone cheese, marinara and some white cheddar
Western Burger (pictured above right)
- Ground beef mixed with BBQ sauce, Monterrey cheddar cheese mix, seasoning salt, ground black pepper
- Top with American cheese, BBQ sauce, pickle, mustard, and french fried onions
The fabulous strawberry pie pictured below came from The Country Cook. I wasn’t sure if I liked strawberry pie but I ended up loving it so I’m glad I tried some. I’m going to go eat some right now in fact.
Before I run off for the night, I want to give you a tease about a project I started this weekend but will have to wait a couple months till it is ready. Don’t worry, I won’t hold you off that long!
(And no, those aren’t potatoes. They smell much nicer than that, they’re just a little naked right now)
I hope you all had a great weekend!Pin It
My littlest brother is 17 and getting ready to finish his junior year in high school. He’s in the jazz band and wind ensemble where he plays the sax. 13 years ago when I was a freshman in high school the band started a tradition of having a cake auction at the last concert of the year to help raise money for the next year’s band. Every year of high school I made a cake that was auctioned off. This year I helped my own brother make a cake. I chose a recipe from Heather at Sprinkle Bakes because 1) it was full of chocolate and 2) it had basic techniques I thought my brother should know. The recipe sounds complicated, it’s a Chocolate Mousse Cookie Dough Bombe, but if my brother can do it I assure you that you can too.
We started by assembling the brownie layer. We wanted to make sure it had time to cool before we packed it away to rest overnight before we assembled it the evening of the concert. While making this layer my brother started sharing what he called “Legit bro tips” or what he thought were helpful tips about baking and cooking. I’ll share them just as I promised. His first legit bro tip- “oh year we made brownies, I made them when I was 8. I think I know what I’m doing” which I’m sure is his way of saying easy enough.
Next we assembled the cookie dough layer. This layer is made by stirring up the ingredients in a mixer, then pressing the mix into a plastic-wrap-lined bowl. This prepwork will make it easier at the end. You don’t want to leave gaps because this will become your dome when you flip the cake over. My brother’s legit bro tip- “real easy, can’t mess this up.” This layer also leaves some leftover cookie dough which is wonderful because there are no eggs and no baking in this step so it’s safe to munch on.
Next up was making the mousse. This was the most educational portion of our day in the kitchen. I taught my brother how to separate eggs (legit bro tip- Make sure to break that in half) and how to temper eggs. He didn’t believe that the mixture had thickened enough to cover the back of the spoon as instructed so he learned another legit bro tip- don’t be afraid to pull out a spoon and test. Then he was introduced to the Kitchenaid mixer and its ability to whip cream. He saw most of the stages and learned the difference between soft and stiff peaks (legit bro tip- those are the hard ones). We mixed the chocolate and cream together and then the dish started coming together. We poured the mousse into the cookie dough, then covered it in plastic wrap and froze it overnight.
The next day we took off the plastic wrap, placed the brownie layer on top of the mousse, and trimmed the remaining cookie dough. Then we flipped it. It was the moment of truth- would all our hard work pay off?
Now this is where the cake gets its death by chocolate reputation, you cover this massive treat with a chocolate ganache. We quickly whipped that up and my brother poured it on.
We sent the cake off to the cake auction and a lovely buyer bought it (aka our mom- do you think she would let her son’s first homemade cake go to someone else?). She was kind enough to share it with us on Mother’s Day though there was very little left the way the family had devoured it.
Doesn’t that look amazing? It somehow tasted even better than it looked. We’ve come to our final legit bro tip- “It’s bombastic.”
If you’re looking for the recipe, make sure to check Sprinkle Bakes. It’s absolutely worth it.Pin It
I’ve been working on a few projects in the yard. First up, a status check on that front flower bed:
Last year’s drought was tough on this bed so the plants that made it are real survivors. We lost all the dwarf rhododendron early on and both the azaleas and one hydrangea were lost by late summer. We still have the hydrangea on the left and it’s getting a solid leaf base early on. The pink and white rhododendron in the back–are both purple but very alive so we’ll take them. We added six geraniums last year that stayed green all winter and we’ve got a clematis climbing the trellis in the middle. There are some plants to replace but it’s looking alive again.
My corner flower bed has a project going on that’s about 90% complete. I’ll share it soon but here’s a hint:
Last week I saw flurries again. Can you believe it? Last year I was trying not to turn on the AC and this year it is snowing a month past spring. In the same week I saw 90 degree temperatures and two trips to the basement for tornado sirens. And it’s flooding. Welcome to Missouri.
I’ve got another project about 40% complete. One day I came home from work to catch my husband digging in the yard. He’d gotten off work early and decided to start another flower bed. Forget a nap or a beer, he likes working after work. We’ve planted a shipment of hostas, a new jack frost brunnera and my lovely coworker just gave me some elephant ears that are likely to end up in here too. We’ve filled the car up with mulch twice but we’ve only gotten so far. Compared to a photo two summers ago, I think the yard is finally making some progress.
I decided not to finish any of these projects today. Sure I could have but I’ve been running around working like crazy, gardening, cooking meals for the week, and planning my high school reunion. Then I saw this face and realized you have to make time for the important things in life, like playing with a pitbull and her ball.
How could I resist a face like that?
Last post I was still trying to figure out where to start with the colors for my newest piece of furniture.
My bar cart came looking like this. The distressed light blue just wasn’t what I was looking for but I like the bones of the piece. I recently picked up a batch of color samples from the store. The shades on either end were ruled out immediately when I saw them in the room. The green blended into walls too much and the aqua was just too bright. I was down to two reds and two blues.
I did a crude Photoshop of the bar cart with the colors I had left. Nothing perfect, just an idea of what I liked. I think this was the most helpful way to rule out colors. I realized I really liked the idea of a pop of red in the room. Blue was just too safe for me and it will tie in perfectly to the red couch in the next room.
I’m not 100% sure which red I’ll grab when I get to the store but I feel like I’m on the right track.