Part of my front flower bed makeover called for finding a home for my rain barrel. I have 65-gallon rain barrels that I bought from Amazon. The price has since increased but most hardware stores seem to be carrying rain barrels these days. We use rain barrels for 2 reasons, one to prevent water from collecting around the foundation of our house and the other is to water the plants.
From our experience, we discovered that a rain barrel needs to be about a foot off the ground. The barrel uses a gravity based hose system and there’s a bottom spigot that needs to be raised to fit a watering can underneath. We wanted to build a base with pavers that was big enough to support the rain barrel without tipping over when it was full. We needed a bottom base that would hold the watering can without it falling over either.
After we found a setup we liked, we mixed up some concrete and filled in the rain barrel base with it. That base will not be going anywhere. Then we adhered the bricks for the watering can base to the ground with more concrete. Then there was some mortar used to attach a flat surface to the rain barrel base. Finally we used some extra concrete to fill in the watering can base like a grout.
After doing a test run to make sure everything fit, we let the blocks and concrete harden for 48 hours. We put the rain barrel onto its new home and decided to let the rain collect. We had several days of rain after that and the base held up beautifully, with our angled watering can base preventing rain from pooling up around the foundation, just as we’d hoped. Stick around this week and I’ll show you the full front flower bed makeover.Pin It
Do you have a cluttered desktop on your computer? It’s one of those things that can get out of hand quickly. You might save a file to the desktop to look at tomorrow and 3 weeks later it’s still there with all the other items you’ve saved since then. Here’s how I’ve decided to handle the situation.
This is my desktop. You can click it to enlarge it but my method has 3 columns to keep me organized. I tend to work from left to right on my screen so while it might make sense to keep my most frequently used items on the left, I actually put the most urgent items over there. That way when I’m procrastinating and clicking around, I’m more likely to click on something I should be doing instead of a way to waste time.
My first column is labeled “This Week” for tasks I’ve assigned myself to do ASAP. I keep a text file with a basic schedule and meal plan here and usually I leave it open in my task bar. As you can see, this week’s tasks include addressing my finances and working with photos. My Finance Folder is full of links to websites to help me research some financial changes. Over on the right I have shortcuts to all my photo folders on my home computer network and a desktop shortcut to my DVD burner so I’ll finally get around to a much needed photo backup.
Tip: Put shortcuts on the desktop instead of actual folders.
My second column “This Month” focuses on longer-term projects that still need a deadline. In one folder, I’ve put links to all my summer vacation plans in along with copies of forms and confirmations. I also keep a backup meal plan in this area with some meal ideas based on what’s currently in my freezer, as well as plans for the spring and summer. You can see my other ongoing project is to keep checking for updates on the 1940 Census that was just released. I have one text file that logs where I’ve searched for family and what pages I’ve located people on for printing later.
My “Always” folder on the right is where I keep my most frequently used items. On the right you can see where I keep hard copies of my eBooks and the program I use to organize them. I have a small eBook addiction and this helps me manage them. I have desktop shortcuts to each of the image folders for each of my websites along with my website mission statements and organizational charts. After that I have a calendar with a daily task on it, a document where I log the meals I’ve tested with notes on improvements, and my bulk cooking cheat sheets that are slowly being added to the website.
Want to know how you can make your own desktop? I took all my desktop icons and aligned them along the top of the screen. Then I hit the Print Screen button and pasted the screencap of my desktop into Photoshop. I divided the screen into thirds with blocks of color and then labeled the top of each section. After saving the file, I just right clicked on the image and chose “Set as Desktop background”. My resolution is set at 1366 x 768 so if you want this desktop background and you use the same size, just save the image from here.
What does your desktop look like?Pin It
I used a wreath in last month’s centerpiece design and this month I adapted it to be my front door wreath. To do this project you’ll need the supplies I used last month (wreath base, yarn), some spray primer, and some 50 cent wood butterfly cutouts. I found those at Michaels in the woodworking aisles.
I just spray painted the wood pieces with some primer, hot glued them to my yarn wreath and plopped it on my door. For less than $2 I’d repurposed a simple piece. If you ever outgrow a decoration, think of a way to make it work. Sometimes it’s best to cut your losses but I’m loving the spring look on my front door right now.
I’d just washed my door so pardon its streaky look. All the hail from the weekend knocked a bunch of dirt and mulch in every direction. We all survived and even our car survived being outside so I think streaks are the least of our worries. The only casualties were a giant branch (that I cut down myself) and our doormat who will be replaced as part of my big exciting summer porch prettying project.
Step 1 of that project was making some urns over. The urns were cheap and kind of meh looking on the shelves of Walmart but with some primer (see my Instagramed up photo- I’m thehyperhouse on Instagram by the way)
and then I added some textured Krylon spray paint to add some fun (posed in front of the farmland behind the house)
and finally filled with some coleus plants for some drama.
If the weather cooperates I should have some nice progress photos of the front flower bed coming up soon. We finished up the rain barrel base tonight but it needs to cure at least two days before holding the 65 gallons of water in the barrel but all of the plants are in the ground and mulched so I hope to show you a good progress photo next week some time.Pin It
This recipe makes a delicious appetizer. You simply broil bread, brush it with garlic, broil goat cheese in marinara and dig in. You can use your favorite marinara, go bottled, or try Kevin’s Kalamata Olive Marinara. It pairs perfectly with a bowl of pasta and the goat cheese salad from yesterday’s post. Don’t forget a bottle of wine!
Recipe from Kevin at Closet Cooking
- 1 baguette (sliced)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
- 4 ounces goat cheese (sliced)
- Brush the baguette slices with olive oil.
- Broil the slices until golden brown on top. (Note: Watch them carefully as they can burn really quickly on broil.)
- Let the baguette slices cool and then rub them with the garlic.
- Place the marinara sauce in a baking dish and top with the goat cheese.
- Broil until the goat cheese is soft and golden brown, about 4-6 minutes.
My latest obsession is with goat cheese. I’ve never been much of a cheese eater but Aldi has these little 4 ounce packages of goat cheese and I just can’t get enough of them. My favorite way to eat goat cheese right now is to make patties, fry them in panko breading, and plop them right on a salad. They’re the perfect size for 2 people to enjoy with dinner.
To make the goat cheese easier to fry, just pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes before breading them and back into the fridge for another 30 minutes before frying. This way you’ll have soft cheese that stays right inside the breading. I like to top the salad with a vinaigrette dressing. Tomorrow I’ll show you my second favorite way to use these goat cheese packages- and it’s a perfect pairing with this salad.
- 4 ounce goat cheese log
- 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1 dash dried parsley
- 1 dash dried thyme
- 1 dash garlic powder
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/4 cup of flour
- olive oil
- 4 cups salad greens
- Dressing of your choice
- Chill your goat cheese in the freezer an hour ahead of cooking
- While chilling, set up your dredging station. Mix your panko bread crumbs with parsley, thyme and garlic powder. Use one small bowl to hold your beaten egg and use another small bowl to hold your flour. Set up your station with flour first, then egg, then your breadcrumb mix.
- Half an hour before cooking, pull your cheese out of the fridge and cut into four slices, wiping the blade in between each cut.
- Dip your cheese into the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs, coating on both sides.
- Place cheese on a baking sheet covered in waxed paper and chill another half an hour.
- Heat your stovetop to medium heat and warm the olive oil. Fry each side of the goat cheese until golden.
- While cooking, prep your salad greens onto two plates and drizzle with dressing. Top with cheese and serve warm.
This time last year I was on my way to Mexico and instead now I’m back at home working on about 10 projects at once. It’s easy to get caught up on yardwork this time of year and forget about keeping up with all the little things. So once again I’m relying on this month’s Get Organized Now checklist to keep the inside of my house looking as nice as the outside.
I’m mapping out my favorites on the calendar and then scheduling all my other projects around their list. Up for me this month: work on the fireplace makeover on rainy days and work on a second flower bed on sunny days. I also want to keep some balance in my life so I plan on visiting the park and going on a picnic this month.
May seems to be focusing on balance in the checklist and that’s perfect for my life right now. Some of my top tasks for May from the checklist include:
- May 1: I love this suggestion from the list- go on a negative energy scavenger hunt. It’s so open-ended but the gist is to walk your home and find things that give you a negative feeling. This could mean clutter stacks, that burnt out lightbulb you keep ignoring, a spot of paint needing to be touched up or even a spot that could just use an ounce of brightness.
- May 3: Take a new approach when doing tasks. Before starting on a project ask if it brings you closer to the goals for your home. If yes- do it! If no- ask yourself why you are doing it. It’s really easy to get caught up in the idea of having some sort of “perfect” home after seeing staged home on Pinterest, other blogs, or in magazines. Prioritize your energy and happiness.
- May 4: On the opposite end, do a positive scavenger hunt. Find objects that make you happy and feature them. If you love an accessory try to feature it and hide or donate the objects that you don’t need.
- May 13: Do something for Mother’s Day. Some moms want everyone around, some want a day to relax so find what’s best for you.
- May 16: Plan out the meals for the rest of the month. Stock up and avoid the grocery store as much as possible. Try living out of your pantry or fridge to clear your fridge out. That way you’ll have space available right in time for planning a big Memorial Day bash.
- May 24: Organize your car and find a place to store all emergency equipment. Clearing space will mean you have more space to haul items.
- May 28: Enjoy Memorial Day weekend with a picnic in the park, a parade, or spending time with family.
If you’re local to St. Louis, here’s a list of my Top 10 Things to Do in St. Louis for May. There’s so many festivals going on this month you definitely won’t be bored in the city.
What’s your must-do task for May?
I’m in a fondue mood because I keep meaning to try Stone Cellar Fondue in St. Charles, Missouri. I was hoping to get over there this weekend to celebrate a mini-anniversary (my first date with my husband was 9 years ago this weekend) but we have a concert to go to instead (The Black Keys). So instead of going out, I decided to bring the fondue home. I hooked up my mini crockpot and while it warmed I mixed up some chocolate chips and cream on the stovetop. In 5 minutes the chocolate was ready to pop in the crock and for the dipping to start.
The key to a great fondue is choosing the best ingredients to dip. I like to take pound cake and freeze it ahead of time for dipping. I love including cookies like Oreos and graham crackers, though today I decided to go the route of animal crackers and Oreos. Either way, make sure you have a good cookie to scoop out any accidental drops in the chocolate. Fruit is the other most important dipper. I love cherries and bananas but my absolute favorite dipper is the simple strawberry. My best dip today was a strawberry layered between two pieces of pound cake. If only I’d had some brownies laying around it would have been perfect.
- 1/4 cup of cream
- 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chip
- Heat the cream on the stovetop just until bubbles form.
- Remove cream from heat and stir in the chocolate chips.
- When chocolate is smooth, transfer it to a fondue pot or a mini crockpot.
- Serve with cakes, cookies, brownies, and fruits to dip into chocolate.
The hot weather finally calmed down but I don’t trust it will stay away for long so I wanted to make this next recipe before summer really sets in. The hour of baking for this recipe means you do not want to prep this in the heat of summer. Many people think you can’t freeze potatoes. I’ve had a failure where all the potatoes turn black and I’ve had mashed potatoes that did alright but were never quite as good as the original without a little work. This recipe for freezer twice baked potatoes is a standout because they taste incredible after being in the freezer. The secret is that you freeze them after only the single bake and then you cook them in the oven right in their frozen state.
I bought a 10 pound bag of potatoes from my local grocery store for only $2. I had used about 2 1/2 pounds of potatoes for other meals so I used 7 1/2 pounds (or 25 potatoes) for this recipe. I’ll share the full 10 pound recipe for you guys so you can just use a bag and not have to do a lot of guesswork. With so many potatoes, you’ll want to rotate the pans in the oven every half hour. I like to put my potatoes on baking sheets according to size so if the smallest potatoes finish after an hour I can just remove the small potato baking sheet and let the larger potatoes keep cooking until they have some give.
I like to make my potatoes a little healthier so I try to use skim milk, laughing cow cheese (the queso and garlic ones are my favorites), and I leave the shredded cheese off my pieces. When I bake them I add cheese and bacon to my husband’s portions and I top mine with sour cream or Greek yogurt after I’ve baked mine. These also taste incredible with some pesto drizzled on top. The possibilities are endless. If you don’t care about those adjustments, regular milk or even half and half work for your liquid and regular cream cheese works perfectly with this recipe. I’ve done it all.
When you store your items, make sure to let them freeze flat first. Then you can pop them in containers. I found these containers at the Dollar Store and I love the flat tops, they’re perfect for easy stacking. I usually fit between 4 and 8 halves in each container. When reheating I cook the entire package on a cookie sheet and eat any leftovers during the week with my lunch. My favorite way to eat these for lunch is to take some chili and pour it over a potato half. It’s perfection.
- 10 lbs large baking potatoes
- olive oil
- kosher salt
- 1 cup butter, melted
- 2 cups skim milk
- 6 ounces fat free cream cheese or laughing cow cheese
- 4 teaspoons salt (to taste)
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper (to taste)
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Clean potatoes and dry. Place them on baking sheets. 10 pounds of potatoes usually requires 3 baking sheets.
- Drizzle potatoes with olive oil and kosher salt.
- Bake potatoes for 1 to 1/2 hours depending on the size.
- Allow potatoes to cool around 15 minutes. While cooling, mix together butter, cream cheese (or laughing cow), salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl.
- Cut potatoes in half lengthwise taking care not to damage the rest of the skins.
- Use a large spoon to scoop out the inside of the potatoes, leaving a thin layer of potato attached to the skin. Put the middles you scoop out into the mixer with your butter cheese blend.
- Once you've scooped out all the potatoes, place the shells back on the baking sheet with the skin side down.
- Blend potato and butter/cheese mix in your mixer. Add milk as needed until potatoes resemble stiff mashed potatoes.
- Spoon the potato mix back into the shells. If you are adding shredded cheese, sprinkle and press onto potatoes.
- Place pan back into the oven and bake 15-25 minutes.
- Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap and place baking sheet in freezer until potatoes are completely frozen.
- Remove potatoes from baking sheet and place in plastic bags or foil containers with baking instructions written on them.
- Preheat oven to 350°F and place potatoes on baking sheet. Loosely cover with foil.
- Bake about 45 minutes. Uncover foil and bake an additional 15 minutes.
Last week I shared my flower bed plans. I’m happy to say that all of the planned plants are in the ground. We still have a planter to build and one corner to add some height in with plants but those are long-term plans. The only other short-term plan we have going on in the flower bed is hooking up our rain barrel. We wanted to create a nice base for it but first we had to drain out our 65 gallons of rain collected inside it so we took some time doing that and then it rained on us again. Such is life.
We’re making progress on the base this week but within a 6 hour period we usually go from a 0% chance of rain to it actually raining (no love STL weather forecasters). That’s why my husband and I have decided to split our projects into indoor and outdoor projects. A few months back I mentioned we were starting our living room makeover but then the nice weather came and we had to do yardwork. All that got done in the living room was a nice paint job, some new trim, putting up blinds, and some furniture rearranging. If we split our energy doing indoor work on rainy days and outdoor work on nicer days, we won’t waste time yelling at weather forecasters for ruining our lives so often. Maybe.
Here’s the current eyesore of the living room. (Click to enlarge) You can see our paint updates and window updates but with all the decorations removed you can see all the flaws too. The fireplace is very oversized in the room. The mantel is undersized in comparison.
The tiles clash, the brickwork is done in a strange pattern, and there’s a random letter H on the front for the last name of the original owners. Let’s not even get into the inside of the fireplace. Right now it’s non-functional with a board propping up some sort of method the original owners used to close off the chimney. We’ve been too terrified to pull it out and we fully expect some animals may be living in there. Either that or we really do have a ghost. More cleaning will have to be done inside as well.
Here’s a closer look at some of the problems. The old toekick around the fireplace stopped the floors from being finished underneath it so we’ll need to address that. Our tiles are not even close to our taste and don’t look good in the house. The groutline is 3/4″ minimum and almost an inch thick between the tile and the brick of the fireplace. We have our work cut out for us.
For tile we’d love to go with a slab but pricing will probably lead us to use tiles again. We’re favoring some white shades but after we get up our new trim we might end up wanting contrast. If you do know of a (very) affordable place to buy fireplace hearth slabs or remnants in the St. Louis area, please let me know. I’d love to go that route but the $25/sqft pricing I’ve seen does not make me think I’ll be going that route.
As far as trim goes, I find myself drawn to the looks of Sarah of Thrifty Decor Chick’s fireplace
and the fireplace by Julia of Pawleys Island Plush
I’m not sure which route we’ll end up going at our house but we do want to cover up plenty of that brick so our fireplace has a better sense of scale in the living room. I hope you’ll have patience with me as I bounce indoors and outdoors. My husband and I plan to be working in overdrive from now until the first of September when we’ll shift gears to start on another idea. You’ll see when we get there. In the meantime, I’m going to try to update as often as I can (3-4 times a week) and I’ll keep taking photos so I’ll get around to showing off every project eventually.
If you have any tips for working on a fireplace, I’d love to hear them because I’m planning on attacking with my chisel the next day the weather forecasters are wrong about the odds of rain and that’s looking like tomorrow.
I always seem to buy too many bananas. If I buy 6 I eat 3. If I buy 3 I eat 1. I hate letting them go to waste so they always end up in my freezer for a batch of banana bread to be made at some date in the future. This time I wasn’t in the mood to wait for banana bread. Even better, I had some Nilla Wafers in danger of going stale. Still, I didn’t have enough bananas or wafers to make my old school style banana pudding so I decided to work some magic to turn them into a parfait.
You’ll need bananas, Nilla wafers, and french vanilla pudding. It has to be french vanilla because I remember my grandma driving to an extra grocery store because regular vanilla just wasn’t good enough for banana pudding. She’d also demand the pudding be baked and have meringue but I’ve never been a fan or meringue or even whipped cream so I go without. You can do as you wish and maybe you’ll make my grandma happy.
The real secret to making these parfaits taste just like real banana pudding is letting them chill for at least 4 hours. Overnight is even better. That way your vanilla wafers will get that creamy consistency that makes you think you’re in the South, eating nana puddin as I called it as a kid. The wait is long but it’ll be worth it. You can do as you wish and maybe you’ll make my me happy.
- 1 3 oz package instant french vanilla pudding
- 2 cups milk
- 32 Nilla Wafers cookies
- 2 bananas
- Whipped cream or cool whip (optional)
- Use the pudding package and milk to prepare the pudding as directed. Let chill 5 minutes.
- While pudding is chilling, place 8 Nilla Wafers cookies in the bottom of a wine goblet. Repeat with 3 additional goblets.
- Divide half of the pudding between the 4 wine goblets, placing on top of the cookies.
- Cut each banana into 1/2 inch slices. Place half of each banana in each goblet on top of the pudding.
- Spread the second half of the pudding on top of the bananas, dividing evenly.
- Chill for at least 4 hours.
- Top with whipper cream or cool whip and serve.