Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Favorite Things...Ore-Ida Steam n' Mash

Several weeks ago, I did something that I rarely do...I made mashed potatoes from scratch!

I was making a Shephard's Pie for supper and as soon as the hubby saw the box of instant potatoes on the counter, he kinda freaked.  He cannot stand the texture of instant potatoes.  

I have to admit, I'm not a fan of the texture either.  But man, they really do cut down on how much time you have to spend in the kitchen and in early August, you don't run the risk of turning your kitchen into a sauna by boiling hot water for an eternity. For me, those two benefits are enough to get me past my sensory issues.

Regardless of the "benefits" associated with instant taters, I decided to be a nice wife and make REAL mashed potatoes instead.  It was definately going to throw our evening schedule off but whatever--I was kinda looking forward to real potatoes myself :-)

45 minutes later and the tiny cubes of potatoes were ready to be mashed (and YES, it took that long just to cook them!).  Moments later, Justin came into the kitchen and decided I was making the potatoes all wrong...I quickly became quite annoyed as 1) he has NEVER made mashed taters before so any advice he offered was automatically deemed incredible and 2) after nearly 4 years of cohabitation, he should know by now that you do not bother me while I'm cooking!  Just let me do my thing and nobody will get hurt :-)

In response to all of his suggestions, I told him to get out, leave me alone or I was going to stop making supper.  He must have been hungry because shut his mouth and bolted out of the kitchen!  So much for being a nice wife, huh?

I have to admit--the potatoes turned out terrible!  I think it had something to do with the potatoes taking 45 minutes to cook--and still not being cooked all the way.  Justin is still convinced that I should have listened to him...I'm not sure if that would have been a great idea or made any differenece--but at least it would have made him feel important!  lol...

Anyhow, since then I decided to try the Ore-Ida Steam n' Mash potatoes from the frozen aisle.

They're a bit on the pricey side at $3.99 a bag but they are worth every single penny (unless you're feeding an army on a budget)!  The bag contains chunks of potatoes that you microwave for 10 minutes--then you just add milk, butter and mash away.  It's nearly impossible to ruin them!  They also make a variety using new potatoes and the skins are left on--now wouldn't that be a pretty presentation?!

Amazingly enough, the potatoes have the same texture of real mashed potatoes.  Justin LOVED them and said he would be more than happy to make them our "staple" mashed tater...and I'm willing to spend the $4 just to have something edible.  Looks like we have found our newest culinary olive branch!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

What We Ate Last Week

Please forgive me--Week 4 is a bit short on the meals but I'll explain that all later!  Enjoy~

So...what did we eat last week??? 

Monday:  Beef Stroganoff over Mashed Taters with green beans

Tuesday:  Chili Dogs and French Fries*

Wednesday:  --- Left Over Night ---

Thursday:  Grilled Caribbean Bay Chicken Breasts with French Onion Roasted Potatoes and caesar salad

The Learning Curves...
*This isn't news to me, but one of Justin's most favorite all-time meals is a Chili Dog (or 3) with tons of French Fries.  We only have it about once every four or five months but when we do, he's the happiest person EVER!   I, on the otherhand, am more than happy to rummage through the fridge for something else to eat :-)

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Great Deep-Freeze!

Our dream came true!  We are finally proud owners of a deep-freeze :-)

We had been wanting one FOREVER but just never felt it was the right time to spend money on one.  However, as school grew nearer, our freezer in the fridge was busting at the seams--and I hadn't even started freezing meals for the school year yet.  The future of our frozen goods was not looking too hot...catch that?!  hehe...It's been a long week...

Anyhow, after some research, we discovered that Sears was having a sale on freezers that particular week....on top of that, their after-hours Friends and Family special was running that very evening so we would get an additional 15% off the sale price.  We could get a new one for the price of a used one off of Craigslist--score!  Amazingly enough, there wasn't a price difference between a chest freezer and upright freezer in the size range we were wanting so guess what...I was able to talk Justin into getting the upright one :-) 

Check out our new baby:

Justin's pumped.  He now has room for unlimited ice cream, french fries and frozen pizzas.  It's his junk food haven!  I'm excited because we finally have plenty of room for frozen casseroles, vegetables, tv dinners, BOGO cuts of meat AND there's even a drawer in the bottom for all the random stuff :-)  Hopefully it will also save us money in the long run--I've already been able to freeze a bunch of odds and ends for an "Everything But The Kitchen Sink" soup later this winter.  Before hand, they would have gotten thrown out to make room for the basic necessities each week.  Needless to say, our excitement over a crazy deep freeze makes it pretty obvious that we're getting old and practical!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Fall"-ing for Flowers

Who's ready for Fall?!  This girl is! 

I have noticed that about every 30 days or so, I get a super creative urge that just can't be controlled very well.  Last month, I made pillows for our Master bedroom and the front porch swing to satisfy the craving.  This month, I headed to Jo-Ann's in hopes of making something "fall-ish."  I keep hoping that if I prepare for Fall, it will hurry up and get here :-)

Our front porch is finally coming together.  On the north end is the porch swing--the south end, the wicker rocking chairs.  But smack dab in the middle is our door, that is actually thrown a bit off-center, and nothing else...it always made me feel "off-balance" so I decided that I would find a neat wreath to hang on the wall.

I went to the store and I didn't come home with a wreath.  Instead, I found an oversized wall basket that I stuffed with flowers.  I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to arranging flowers so I filled the basket and then Mom stopped by Friday afternoon and loosened up the flowers a bit (what would I do without her?!)...then I went back to Jo-Ann's to buy some "stuff" to hang over the edge and give a more free-flowing form to the basket.

This is what I ended up with:

And now, this is what greets you when you walk up our front porch!

I finally feel like our porch is balanced.  Now I just have to wait and see if the presence of my fall flowers is enough to usher in cooler weather and and maybe even some days of Indian Summer.  However, I'm not sure what I'll do once the ferns are done and come down for the season, leaving the very ends of the porch abandoned...My hope is that I can change out the flowers as the seasons/holidays come and go.  What I'll do to keep the porch balanced once the ferns are down: I'll just have to figure that out during one of my upcoming bursts of creativity!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What We Ate Last Week

Hey, hey, hey (in my best Fat Albert voice)!!!  It's week 3 of our meal plan sharing!

So...what did we eat last week???

Monday: Five Spice Stir-Fry with Sirloin and Snow Peas over steamed rice with marinated cucumbers and egg rolls
Tuesday:  Barbequed Chicken* with fumi salad, grilled corn on the cob and Italian-herb potatoes
Wednesday:  --Left Over Night--
Thursday:  Indian Butter Chicken with jasmine rice and green peas
Friday:  Supper with friends at their house...the wife is from Malaysia and prepared grilled steak and chicken, Malaysian style, with a peanut dipping sauce and mango chutney.  Yummy!  Dessert was ice cream with--hold on for this--creamed corn.*
Saturday:  Snack-Out Night...the hubby's crew got called out to the storms in Iowa so no cooking for me :-)
Sunday: Slow Cooked Shredded Chipotle Beef Burritos* with Queso Fresco, dirty rice and seasoned black beans

The Learning Curve(s):

*Earlier this summer I posted about a marinade I stumbled across for chicken.  If you haven't tried the Stubbs brand marinade, you are missing out!  Because of it, we are now BBQ Chicken snobs!  By the way, mixing the leftover chicken with the fumi salad led to a killer "cold salad" for lunch the next day :-)
*Creamed corn over vanilla ice cream???  "You's for real?!" was what I really wanted to ask, in my best ever gangsta voice.  But rather I maintained my white girl identity and decided to try it.  Heck, I like food and seriously doubted it would kill me.  Turns out, it's delicious!  Joyce said that a real delicacy in Malaysia is ice cream with creamed corn IN the mix as it's made...just like you would do with peaches, strawberries, whatever fresh "fruit" you have on hand.  All y'all out in cyberspace will have to let me know if you ever decide to try it sometime.  I won't hold my breath!   ;-) 
*This recipe can be found over on my Pinterest board.  The directions had you rub the meat with a spice mixture, sear the meat in a skillet and then remove the meat and drippings to the slow cooker before adding the remaining ingredients.  Well, I skipped this part out of laziness.  I just added the meat and seasonings straight to my stoneware.  The meat had a really good flavor but I think it would have been out-of-the-ball-park awesome had I followed the directions!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Our Neighborhood

When living in a college town, you don't need a calendar to tell you when the University resumes classes...almost overnight, the community comes abuzz with life. 

You know there are certain parts of town, and even stores for that matter, that you avoid for the coming weeks until everyone settles into the groove of things.  The other thing that becomes quite obvious, very  quickly, is all the student drivers.  Yes, I realize I was one of those drivers back in the day--and of all things, I was let loose in a Mustang in Omaha traffic!  Hehe, that was FUN!  But these kids--half of them don't know how to work a roundabout, others don't know about yielding to vehicles with the right-of-way, some act like they've never experienced a stoplight (and maybe they haven't!  It is an agricultural university after all), some try to text while talking to a buddy and trying to shift gears.  But after a few weeks, they seem to figure the driving out and things are back to normal.

Fortunately, we don't have many college students in our neighborhood.  With being downtown, it always surprises us when leases renew and it's either a young couple or a family moving into a newly vacated rental.  Trust me, I'm not complaining!

I realize that downtown living is not for everyone.  When living here, you definately live "with the people."  One neighbor may be a well established professional while the neighbor on the other side of you may be a bit off their rocker.  There's also plenty of foot traffic downtown--some residents walk for enjoyment whereas others walk out of necessity.

I love the diversity that comes with living downtown...our newest neighbors hardly speak a lick of English and that's just fine with me.  We still exchange friendly greetings and we manage to "talk" with them while they work in the yard.  The conversation doesn't get very far, but we've definately achieved the feeling of being neighborly towards one another.

I could go on and on about why I love living in the heart of the community...but the best part of living downtown is the homes.

There are some seriously awesome homes in our neighborhood....central Manhattan has TONS of great houses but I decided to show you some properties that are within a 3-4 block radius.  Most of them are scattered along the route we take when walking the dog.  The eye candy makes the steamy hot walks worth it!

My absolute favorite house is just two doors down from us.  It's the old historic Runyan house.  What the history is, I'm not sure--I could always read the sign someday...but I do know that it's just plain awesome.  I semi-seriously tell Justin that whenever the owners sell, we're buying it (after winning the lottery, of course)!  How easy of a move would that be?!

This 4-plex sits next to the Runyan house and is owned by the same people.  For some reason, it always makes me think of Southern California in the 1940s!

The historic Wolf House museum is about 2 blocks from us. They are currently remodeling the interior and it will reopen this fall for public tours.  One of these days I want to go over and tour the interior!

 This old Craftsman sits across from the Wolf House on Juliette Ave.
On Leavenworth, just off of Juliette, sits a row of Victorians.  How cool are they?!
Across from the Victorians is this place...I love, love, love it!  I would also move into this house given the opportunity :-)
Also on Juliette is what I call "the mansion."  This place is HUGE!  I can't get enough of the front porch and balcony...and the house still has a bunch of the original *and fabulous* leaded glass windows.  I would also take this house if given to me :-)
This apartment complex is around the corner from us. I love the taupe stucco with pops of red.  Plus, the awning and Lion Heads are too cool!  Based on the lines of this building, I would almost guess that it was a single-family residence once upon a time???
And another apartment complex, also around the corner from us, that I love.  A lady who goes to our church lived here when she went to K-State...and she's almost 90 years old.  She was thrilled to hear that it was still up and running!
The porches and balconies off of each unit of the Wil-Mar...
This "house" is around the corner from us, too.  It's actually a therapist's office!  There's a big addition and second porch on the back that I forgot to photograph.  But on those days when I'm finally convinced I have fallen off the rocker, I would be more than happy to visit this charming little place!
A section of new brownstones just one block from us. The apartments were "filled" before construction was even completed and they continue to build more of them!
In addition to having some cool houses in the neighborhood, there's some cool old churches...

Such as the Presbyterian Church's tower on Leavenworth:
And this little church--it's also around the corner from us.  Remember our church friend I mentioned earlier?  She and her husband got married here over 60 years ago (for the life of me, I can't remember what church she said it was).  It's now Vintage Faith, a non-denominational church, and the congregation has poured their heart and soul into restoring it.

Finally, this church I'm partial to.  It's our church!  St. Paul's Episcopal on Poyntz.  I love that it takes us about 8 minutes to walk there from our house :-)
The "left side" of the church where the nave and offices are...

The "right side" of the church where one of our outreach programs, The Encore (thrift) Shop, is housed.  I absolutely love the stone arches!

So there you have it!  Our nice, usually quiet, mostly-student-free neighborhood.  And before I forget, welcome back to all the students!  And that smile will only last as long as you avoid smashing into me with your car :-)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Floating Down the River

Last month, my brother called and told me that Justin and I were going on a float trip the weekend of August 13.  Oh really, we were???

My brother had just finished his first-ever float trip and the group was already making plans for a follow-up trip...thus, he and everyone else had already decided that we were joining them!

I grew up on the Republican River and I have to say, we never once floated it so I was curious to see what the almighty Republican was like.  On occassion, we'd fish the river but aside from that, I never really "experienced" it.  My major memory of the river was the battle between Kansas and Nebraska when Nebraska violated the Republican River Compact.  Being the daughter of a farmer who's land is heavily irrigated, this was a big issue in our household!

A more recent issue--If you have been following the problem involving bodies of water in Kansas this summer, you'll know most of them have been plagued with Blue Green Algae.  The presence of the algae has forced many area lakes to shut down until the problem was solved.

So when we found out the Republican was plagued with the algae, did it stop us from floating down the river?!  Not at all!  Are we stupid?  Maybe :-)  But really, it was kinda like going to Mexico--just don't drink the water!!!!

Yeah, check out that lovely green water!  And that's in the "clear" area...there were sections that were bright green and STUNK to high heaven!  So what did we do?  Hung around for a good 45 minutes so that the guys could carve initials into a huge "cliff" of rock banking.  Once again, are we stupid?  Maybe!

All in all, it was a blast...and super relaxing!  There were about 30 of us, ranging in age from 55 to 5.  We put the rafts in just outside of Clyde and got out just south of Clifton--I would guess the float was about 6-7 miles long.  Most of the water was only knee-deep so we were able to float without getting "high-centered" too often.  Russ, the ringleader, had fine tuned all the plans...there were flat bottom boats equipped with umbrellas to carry ice, adult beverages, food, shoes, clothes, you name it.  They even managed to hang a boom-box from the umbrella so we had tunes for our ride!

Unfortunately, I am an idiot and only applied sunscreen to my shoulders...and I didn't even apply it very well, at that.  After 6 hours in the water, I was a bit red!  Even my fair-skinned husband (haha!) got a bit of sun on his back...and yes, black people do "sunburn" and yes, they do get tan lines!   I'm counting down the days until my legs and chest start peeling--nothing better than looking like a lizard when I report back to school, right?!

It's been a while since I included a music video, so I thought the Doobie Brother's "Black Water" might be an appropriate choice (even though our water was green--wink wink).  And yes, I realize it's about the mighty Mississippi and not the Republican, but play along folks :-)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What We Ate Last Week

Check it out--week 2 of our meal plan sharing!

So...what did we eat last week???

Monday:  Red Beans & Rice with Corn Pudding*

Tuesday:  Homemade (and baked!) Beef Taquitos* with Guacamole, dirty rice and seasoned black beans

Wednesday:  BBQ at our friends' house!  It was the first of the farewell activities for a friend/former coworker that moves away this week :-(

Thursday:  So-Long-Saloon Style Tacos with spicy slaw and pico de gallo, leftover dirty rice and black beans

Friday:  Asian Lettuce Wraps* with steamed vegetable "fried" rice and egg rolls

Saturday:  Fish Fry following our float trip down the Republican River

Sunday:  Grilled Flat Iron Steak with guacamole-topped polenta rounds and caesar salad

The Learning Curve(s):
*I lucked out and found a corn pudding recipe that did not require any baking mix, Jiffy or flour--totally wheat free--and it ROCKED!  Even my husband who is reluctant to try "new" foods loved the corn pudding. 
*We had never before made taquitos and our only suggestion for the original recipe would have been the addition of tomatoes to the beef mixture for a bit of extra moisture & texture.  The taquitos were great smothered in Velveeta's Queso cheese sauce!
*Who knew it would be so hard to track down ground chicken?!  Apparently the turkey recall forced many of its consumers to switch to eating the other bird.  It took me 5 days of stalking 3 grocery stores to get my hands on ground chicken!  Ummm, we wait to make these again until after the recall is long gone.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Summer To-Do List...in Review!

As school came to an end back in May, I created a list of my Summer Top 10 things to do.  It's crazy to think that I only have a week left of NO SCHOOL and then I'm back to a 60-hr work week...eeeek!  Once that happens, anything left undone will most likely remain that way :-)  
Summer always goes so fast and I always feel like I got nothing done.  However, when reviewing my list we did manage to accomplish a few things!

1.  Finish staining the fence...I was able to get a large section done before it got too hot to be outdoors.  As of late, we have been battling high humidity on my days off (85% on Tuesday, 70% today) and rain in the forecast so there's no way I'm wasting my time and money just to have the stain not absorb!  Looks like we'll be spending some autumn weekends finishing up the fence.

2. Paint the back porch to match the front porch...Mission accomplished! 

3.  Install shelving in the kitchen "cubby" and maybe go ahead and paint the kitchen...The kitchen has been painted but we haven't gotten the shelves installed yet.  However, we did get the tile tattoos done on the backsplash and we weren't counting on doing that!

4. See George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic in concert...We saw him, BeauSoleil, The Two Man Gentleman Band and a bunch of jazz musicians (namely Stephen Richard) in concert this summer.

5.  Roadtrip for a meal at Gate's BBQ in Kansas City...Not only did we eat there, but we ate our next meal at Oklahoma Joe's BBQ as well!

6. Clean out the basement and our closets, then have a garage sale...The closets have been cleaned out and we did get rid of some stuff from the basement after one whole day of re-organzing the dungeon.  The remnants aren't enough for a garage sale so we'll probably run everything down to our church's Re-Sale store.

7.  Read...I read 4 books, a few cookbooks and have started two other books.  I think that's a personal record!

8.  Learn to knit...I may have forgotten to sign up for the class--ooops!  But there's another one offered in September that I'll try attending.  The same community education center offered a Vegan Cooking class in July that I did remember to sign up for and it was super interesting!

9.  Learn to can...Last year's garden produced so much fruit that we couldn't keep up.  This year has been a different story as our tomatoes aren't doing too great.  I'm still holding out hope for our tomatillos that are doing really well so far!

10.  And finally, relax...Thankfully, I was able to do some of this!  I went to the pool some, went to Kansas City for a girls' weekend, had a few days where no alarm clock was necessary, got caught up on things (is that really "relaxing"???), etc.  Last summer, I was busy with all the last-minute planning of our wedding and I have to say, this summer was far more relaxing!

We did manage to do a few other things as well--I'm not always one to stick to a plan!  Justin played on his company's team in the city softball league...I made a bunch (okay, 6) decorative pillows for our bed and 2 for the porch swing...planted 7 hostas and a fern around the Mulberry tree in the front yard...hung some new blinds for the house...made new curtains for the kitchen...went to Kansas City for Justin's birthday weekend...went to Lawrence for a Girls' Day Out...

I'm sure there are a few other highlights that I'm missing but all in all, it's been a good summer!  After all the crazy heat and high humidity we've had, it's safe to say that I'm beyond ready for fall weather and football season to get here :-)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Party in Your Mouth!!!

I have found my new crack.  Probably a good thing I've started working out again, otherwise I could sit around eating these things ALL day long.  I'm not kidding!

Blue Diamond has introduced a line of "Nut-Thin" crackers.  I picked some up earlier this Spring just for the helluvit but to be safe, I went with the plain-jane "salt" flavor.  Ehhhh, they were okay.

Then, this summer at our vegan cooking case, the instructor was showcasing the BBQ flavor.  I have no clue if they're vegan but I do know they're a great substitute for people who can't have wheat or gluten.  I politely accepted a few BBQ nut thins, while fully expecting them to be ho-hum just like their salted counterparts.

I popped the first one in my mouth and thought I was going to fall off of my chair--it was like a party in my mouth.  Had I not been in a class full of proper adults, I would have let loose a long line of excited expletives.  But...I try to keep up appearances and keep my potty-mouth to a minimum so I politely said, "Wow, these things are great!"  How can one find the words to describe how uh-mazing these things are?!  Seriously, they're better than any bbq potato chip I've ever had.  Better than anything bbq'd that I have ever had.  The texture rocks and there's a lot of depth to the flavor.  You HAVE to try them.

The other awesome thing about them (or, maybe not so awesome): if you're trying to keep the vampires away, they will definately make sure that happens!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Weekly Meal Plan

Earlier this week I was putting together our grocery list/weekly meal plan and let me tell you, I was really struggling to come up with meal ideas.  If my husband had things his way, we'd eat fried pork chops and french fries every night of the week.  When I first met him, he would put the entire pork chop in the fry daddy, cook it until done and dig in!  Needless to say, that cooking method was nipped in the bud a long time ago.

I've been toying with elimination diets lately.  I was gently reminded earlier this summer that yes, I am lactose intolerant.  I'd prefer to think that I'm not, but my stomach definately says otherwise.  Once I cut out foods high in lactose, my stomach started to feel 10x better.  However, my stupid sinuses were still horrible.  I'm congested on a daily basis so I end up developing sinus infections that antibiotics just can't fight.  After being run through the gamut of allergy testing, we found I was not allergic to anything in the air.  I started to suspect a food allergy/intolerance and I think I have found it.  WHEAT.  Not gluten, but wheat.  My mom is intolerant to wheat and my great-aunt has celiac (I was tested for it a long time ago but thankfully it came back negative!).  A few months ago I cut out wheat for several weeks, ate pizza for lunch and broke out in a rash before the meal was even over.  Earlier this week, I hadn't had wheat for several days when I ate a sandwich and almost immediately, my sinuses went from empty to overloaded and throbbing.  There ya have it, folks!

So when I say I was having a hard time making a grocery list, do you understand why?  I have to please a soul-food, grease-laden loving husband while making sure the food is relatively healthy, wheat-free and low in lactose.  That's easy to do, right?!

I eventually came up with some meals to get us through the week and realized that I'm probably not the only person out there who has this problem.  It's easy to get in a rut and eat the same thing week after week.  Thus, I decided to share our weekly meal plans for as long as my attention span allows!  If you see a meal that you want to incorporate into your own rotation, go for it!  And if you want the recipe for anything, just let me know.  The cool thing about the blogosphere is that we can all learn and be inspired by each other :-)  The only word of caution--I have only included our evening meal (supper, dinner, whatever ya call it!) as we don't cook lunch during the week and weekend breakfasts...well, they usually turn into lunch if we're home!

So...what did we eat this week?!

Monday:  Southwestern Shepherd's Pie + green salad
Tuesday:  Pork Pot Roast in Au Jus + saffron rice + steamed edemame
Wednesday:  LEFT-OVER Night!
Thursday:  Roasted Corn Enchiladas from The Merc's deli + black beans
Friday: Paula Deen's Chicken & Rice casserole + green beans
Saturday: Pioneer Woman's Grilled Pork Chops + loaded baked potato + brocolli & cheese
Sunday:  Chicken Milanese + couscous + Green Giant 'sauced' frozen veggies

Friday, August 5, 2011

30 Day Challenge--A Place I've Traveled To...

Is anyone else having problems with Blogger today???  I had this post almost completely done and NONE of it was saved.  And I'm not a fan of starting things all over!  Grrrrrrr....

I'll try to cheer up for the sake of Day 8's post about a place I've traveled to.  Hmmm....I've traveled within the continental US, Mexico, Europe and the Caribbean.  They're all great places but I think I'll write about a place I traveled to recently.

Recently, as in just yesterday, recently.  It was our annual Girls'-Day-Out trip to Lawrence.  My sister lives there so it's an easy pick for me, my mom and sister-in-law to travel to!

The day started out on the amazing Mass Street.  I love that place!  It's so fun to people watch and you never know what you might see!

The first store we went to was Sarah's Fabric.  If you've never been and you ever have a need for fabric, YOU HAVE TO GO!  Hobby Lobby and Jo-Ann's don't even come close to competing with this place.  Oh, and did I mention they have an online store so you can shop from home?!  Oh so dangerous but oh so fun!

After we loaded up on fabric, we headed one block east of Massachussets to eat at Pachamama's.  The food was de-lish.  I had smoked porkchops over stoneground cheesy grits with purple (yes, purple!) green beans and a cranberry chutney.  Fabulous!  If you're ever in Lawrence, give it a try--you'll be glad you did.

After lunch, we wandered around Mass Street some more but then ultimately decided to head out west to do some shopping.  I realize one of the draws to Mass Street is the Ma & Pa shops but Lawrence has some great big box stores.  When I say they have an awesome buyer at TJMaxx, I'm not kidding.  It's one of the best I've ever been to!  When in Lawrence, we always make a stop at World Market and Kohl's as well...you never know what they might have!

We also made a stop at The Merc...it's Lawrence's natural food store and we can't go through town without loading up on a bunch of stuff.  It's like the Wal-Mart of the organic/natural food world!  Okay, it may have been wrong to compare a locally-owned store to Wal-Mart but hopefully you understand what I was getting at :-)

Finally, we headed back downtown to swing by Sylas & Maddy's ice cream parlor. I chose "Margarita" sherbert and it was a good pick.  Not super margarita-ish but definately had some lime flavor bursting through!

After our ice cream stop, we called it a day and headed back home.  It was fun to have the four of us girls together and I look forward to doing it again next summer!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Our Kitchen "Re-Do"

Since this winter, we have been trying to slowly update the kitchen.  Our justification was that since bungalows naturally have small kitchens, it wouldn't cost as much as a large scale make-over.  Then we realized that regardless of how quickly or slowly you update things, the final price tag remains the same.  I know, a genius moment, huh?  Lol.

In fact, I shared some pictures of what we were wanting our kitchen to eventually look like a few weeks ago.  Do these pictures ring a bell???

The pictures showed the use of white cabinets, black counters, green glass tile and oak floors.  That's what we wanted but it wasn't the same "style" we were hoping to achieve.

Then, I stumbled across THIS picture.  It's a much more accurate representation of what we were hoping to create...A more modern space with touches of vintage charm.

As much as I love the kitchen above ^, the $8,000 estimate to update the kitchen just wasn't sitting well with us.  We weren't trying to change the layout, cabinets or anything like that.  We just wanted to replace the floor, countertops and tile.  After all, this isn't our "forever" home and it didn't make sense to spend that kind of money.  There had to be a way to fix up the kitchen without breaking the bank!

Back to the drawing board we went.  A few weeks ago, I decided to paint the kitchen an Antique Silver just so we'd have some change from the bright orange walls.  It only cost $10--yes, $10--to paint the entire kitchen! Turns out, my buddy at the paint shop mixes up "sample sized" quarts of paint for a little bit of nothing :-)

As it turned out, I actually liked the countertops with the grey walls (the hubs was indifferent) so we're keeping them.  Nothing beats a "Free-Dollar" countertop when the replacement counter was going to run $3,000 :-) 

And as a huge ego boost to myself, I found a picture where someone had the same countertop as ours!  Maybe our counters aren't so gawd-awful anyhow????  I just wish my pictures had such good lighting.  If I would stop taking pictures at night, that would make a big difference...

Back to the story...With the use of grey walls and a khaki countertop, it became apparent that we were heading far, far away from our dream kitchen of black granite and green glass tiles.  But hey, it allows us to save big money and surely I could find some affordable alternatives that would still give our kitchen some personality!

First things first--I found some awesome tile tattoos that allowed us to update our backsplash for just $54.  The original quote was close to $1,800 just to have the existing stuff ripped out and new tile installed. I think the tattoos already look great and heck, it's nearly impossible to tell they're not real tile.  Check out the stock photo of the tattoos:

After a trip to Sarah's Fabric in Lawrence, I am the proud owner of 5 yards of fabric for which I will make curtains for the windows.  Hopefully the round medallion print will help soften all the hard lines in the kitchen and add a nice pop of color.

While in Lawrence, I also scored an awesome deal on a LONG, black gel pro mat for the kitchen.  I've been wanting one forever and I'm not sure who's more excited to use it--me, or my feet?!  But I do know it looks great in front of our sink and dishwasher :-)

At some point, we need to order this sconce for over the sink...it's much more proportional than the existing sconce and I love the schoolhouse design!
And a matching ceiling light to go with the sconce--our current fixture is OUTdated for sure!

For almost six months now, we have had a range hood sitting in our basement. It's not really doing a good job of venting the air from its' box!  Our kitchen was never wired for a hood but we have an electrician friend willing to help run the electrical for it here in the next few weeks.  It always helps to know people!

We're working on having some built-in floating shelves installed in the awkward space under the counter.  I'm hoping they can look original to the kitchen and give us some much desired extra storage!  We had been storing our trashcan and recycling in the cubby but who wants to look at our rubbish?!  Oh, and I apologize for the quality of this photo--I busted the camera lense on my phone earlier this Spring.  Oooops.

Finally, we need to finish up the accessorizing! I would love to get new hardware for the cabinets but I just haven't found the right pulls yet. In the meantime, I am displaying a bunch of my yellow enamelware that we received as wedding gifts above the cupboards. I also saw some super cute plates and canisters at Pier 1 that would look great mixed in with all the enamelware!

The kitchen currently has some Multiple Personalities Disorder going on right now--you can see bits of the "old" kitchen peeking out just when you see hints of the new style emerging.  With school starting soon, I'm not sure when we will get everything done and when "the after" pictures will be ready to post.  Regardless of when it's finished, it will be nice to have a "new" kitchen that didn't cost us an arm and a leg!