Thursday, February 23, 2012

Our "Outdoor Living Room"--The Final Touches

We're anxiously awaiting the arrival of Spring in our house.  The turn of the season means plenty of yardwork (yay!) and time to enjoy our "Outdoor Living Room."

When we first bought our house, we really liked the front porch.  But I don't think we knew just quite HOW MUCH we would use it!  From March until October, we spend many evenings on the porch...we also spend quite a few weekend mornings drinking coffee, watching people walk to the Farmer's Market and reading the newspaper on our front porch.  It is literally our outdoor living room!

However, we have a few projects we want to tackle in order to make it a "complete" room!  But...we can't make a final decision so we're soliciting your input!

For starters, we need to put in some decent lighting.  I'm too embarassed to even show what we currently have as a light fixture!  It's a flood light screwed into a remnant of a ceiling-mount fixture that is covered in dead bugs...yuck!

We would prefer to hang an outdoor ceiling fan to help circulate the air during muggy months--but I'm not sure if that would look right???  Reason being, the wiring is smack-dab in the middle of the porch.  And our front door is slightly cocked to the left.  Thus, any light fixture will be about even with the right side of the door frame.

And for those of you who don't have our porch memorized yet *sarcasm*, this is what it looks like from various angles and during different seasons.

And this is the color of our fence (that's not in any of the pictures)...we want to make sure whatever we end up with coordinates with the house AND fence.

Anywho, as far as fans go--we're down to 2 options that we like.  What are your thoughts???

If a ceiling fan isn't a good fit, we'll just go with a hanging lantern. 

Here are just a FEW (hehehe) that I like...again, any thoughts/suggestions???  Do I need to go with a completely different style, maybe something more traditional?

 Aside from the lighting, we have just one more thing we want to change...the porch swing!  We love our current swing but unfortunately, it's falling a part and the paint is peeling.  I'd love to repair it, but you'd end up with a new porch swing if you tried it.  So with that, we are just going to replace it! 

This is the swing we have decided on.  Luckily, it comes unfinished so now we just have to make one last BIG we paint it white (like the one we have now)--or do we stain it to match the fence (and our dark wicker rocking chair set)???   Regardless of whatever color it ends up being, I can't wait to enjoy the ergonomic, rounded design on a beautiful Spring night ;-)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Recipe of The Week: Chicken Chimichangas with Green Sauce

I've said it before and I'll say it again...I LOVE Mexican food!

One of my favorites is a good ol' cheesy, deep-fried Chimichanga...they rock my socks off!

I'm always up for a culinary adventure but really, making chimi's at home has always sounded like a lot of work.  If a recipe is very time consuming, it automatically gets put in the "weekends only" file and based on how busy our weekends are, the recipe may never be used.

Just the other day, I ran across a Chimichanga recipe on that looked pretty good, had positive reviews and seemed like something I could modify to make a heck of a lot easier/quicker...which I did! 

I finally made it the other night and it was DELICIOUS!  They also fried up pretty easily and without making a huge, greasy mess--another plus!  The recipe makes a significant amount of filling--we had enough for at least 2 meals.  The first time around, we did just the chicken and cheese--then the second time, we added sauteed onions, peppers and tomatoes to the mixture.  We're pretty sure they were even better the second time around ;-)

For those of you who also appreciate a good Chimichanga (and maybe need a last minute meal for Valentine's Day!), here's my version of the recipe:

Photo Courtesy of
Chicken Chimichangas with Green Sauce
1 (10.5 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chiles
2-3 pitted green olives (I skipped these)
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 T. fresh lime juice
1" cube of pepperjack cheese
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
1 (8 oz) package shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 (1 oz) package taco seasoning (I used Mrs. Dash's Fiesta Blend)
3 chicken breasts
8 (10 inch) flour tortillas
Vegetable Oil
Various toppings: guacamole, sour cream, shredded cheese, etc

Place chicken breasts in crock pot and add taco seasoning/Mrs. Dash,1 tablespoon of lime juice and 3 tablespoons of water.  Cook on high for 3.5 hours or until chicken is done.  Remove chicken breasts from crock pot and shred.  In a separate bowl, stir together the cream cheese and Monterey Jack cheese until well blended.  Fold in chicken and add several spoonfuls of chicken juice, if you wish.  Pour the cream of chicken soup, Pepperjack cheese, green chiles, olives, jalapeno and remaining 1 tablespoon of lime juice into a saucepan; warm over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. 

Evenly divide the chicken mixture among the tortillas.  Fold each tortilla into a rectangular packet around the filling. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place 2 chimichangas at a time in the oil, seam-side down (this keeps them from coming open), and fry until golden brown.  Remove from oil and drawn on paper towels.  Ladle warm sauce over the chimichanga and add any toppings of your liking.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Our Newest Adventure--A Career Change!

I think I have finally lost my mind.

I decided to quit my jobs.

I am going from 60-hours a week of salaried work to...who-knows-how-many-hours of COMMISSIONED work.  With no side job for extra income...for somebody who has never had just ONE job, it's scary.

From a financial perspective, the first few months (at least!) will be tight as we will be living on Justin's income only.  Heck, even the first year or two will be tight.  If I make it to Year 3, things should start looking up at that point.  If Justin ever wanted to bask in the glory of being the breadwinner, this is his chance!  lol...

So, what am I switching careers to???


Yes, you can laugh!  And yes, you probably agree that I'm crazy for quitting my salaried jobs to work in such a poor industry! 

However, and I stress HOWEVER--things are a little different where we are.

The Little Apple's market has been flat the past couple of years--meaning, we haven't had any losses...or gains in homes sales.  On an encouraging note, the firm I'm going in with experienced an 8% increase in sales during the flat market of 2011. 

As my witty friend Erin put it, "Well, either you're a genius for getting in the game now--or, setting yourself up nicely to become a stay at home mom."

We're hoping that as the market recovers and industry continues to relocate to our community, that I will already be settled in my career as a Realtor before things really  recover.  And then, I'll be the go-to-gal for all of your housing and real estate needs!

It's fair to say that Justin is very anxious about this career move.  He has been extremely supportive about my decision but the unknown is always scary.  Same as I fear, he has that worry about what if I suck???  And I end up as a stay-at-home-Mom?!  Especially, since we don't have any kids?!  That would be humiliating!  I really don't want to prove to everyone that I was crazy! 

For those of you who want to know everything there is to know, here are the details:
--I'm going in with Coldwell Banker.  They're a franchise brokerage so you've probably seen them where you live!  In any given year, they're the #1 or #2 real estate leader in our community.
--Ironically enough, we bought our house from the Broker at Coldwell Banker.  Long story short, Kelly asked me to join their firm and after much deliberation, I decided to go for it.  I hope that's a sign that he believes I will do well!
--I'm leaving my job coordinating the Supervised Visitation program at the end of March.  I'm not one to cry, but I'm pretty sure I'll be in tears after my last day at the office.  But on a positive note, I'm sure I'll find a way to keep giving back to CASA!
--I'll stick with my school job until the end of the semester.  I'll miss my kiddos like crazy but I won't miss dealing with ornery houligans!
--I'm looking forward to the flexible schedule that comes with being a Realtor.  I can be out-and-about during the day to network...I can start making an appearance at the gym again...if and when kids come I can design my schedule to allow for family time and time to be at the kids' activities...

There are tons of other positives that will come with this career change--some of which I can't even fathom at this point in time.  As nervous as I am, I'm equally excited.  It's always fun to start out on a new adventure and see where it leads you!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

One Month of No Grocery Shopping! And a Cool New Website!

On New Year's Day, I found myself digging through our pantry and freezer trying to find a few necessary ingredients for our Black Eyed Peas.  And as you can imagine, I found TONS of stuff that I wasn't looking for, but nothing that was on my list!

While digging through everything, I was shocked at how much food we had accumulated.  Our upstairs pantry was busting at the seems, our basement pantry shelf was full and both our upstairs freezer and basement deep-freeze were completely loaded.

As always, I'm trying to find ways to cut expenses--and honestly, food is kind of a hard expense to cut!  That night, I warned Justin that I was going to try to use up EVERYTHING we had in our house and best be ready for some odd meals.  Based on what we had on hand, I figured I could go at least an entire month without grocery shopping!

Well, reality struck and avoiding the grocery shopping--or lack thereof--didn't go quite as I had expected.  Hello, a person needs some fresh fruits and vegetables from time-to-time!!!  But really, I did pretty well.  We had all the meat and dry ingredients on hand (yes, you can call me a hoarder) and most of the seasonings.  Keep in mind we still had to run to the store for breakfast, lunch and snack items so it was easy to pick up a few fresh ingredients to add to our meals.  However, over all, we had some pretty normal meals based on what we already had!

To be honest, the only reason I did fairly well was because I discovered a new website called  I have no idea if it's one of those sites that EVERYBODY already knows about, or if it's a best-kept secret.  Anyhow, I loved it!  You just type in the ingredients you already have in your pantry/fridge/freezer and it pulls up recipes from literally all over the Internet.  It also sorts the recipes based on things you could make without going to the store--and recipes that you would add a few extra things to.  It rocks!

Overall, I only found two downfalls of  1--It's not always available.  For some reason, every couple of days or so, the site decides not to cooperate.  But I remain patient and keep checking back!  And 2--if you don't register with the site, they give you a limited selection of results.  It's worth the extra two-seconds it takes to register with their site! 

If you're really bored and curious to see what we came up with for meals, I tried to tally up all the suppers we made during the month of January.  Of course, we had our weekly left-over nights, two nights of eating out and a weekend we weren't in town.  But for cooking 20+ meals with stuff we already had on hand, I'd say we didn't do too bad!  Oh, and guess what???  After a month of trying to use up everything, we still have a decent amount of odds-and-ends on hand! 

Our No-Grocery-Shopping-Necessary Suppers:
1.  Buffalo Chicken Strips with Homemade Shells & Cheese and Cucumber Slices
2.  Black-Eyed Peas with Saffron Rice AND Cucumber Slices
3.  4-Meat Lasagna with Garlic Bread and Green Beans 
4.  Pigs-In-a-Blanket with Spicy Coleslaw
5.  Chicken & Rice Soup with Dinner Rolls
6.  Pot Roast with Mushroom Risotto and Roasted Carrots
7.  Swedish Meatballs with Rice and Steamed Broccoli
8.  Homemade "Chipotle" Burritos/Burrito Bowls with Black Beans
9.  Taco Soup
10.  Sloppy Joes with Cucumber Slices
11.  Campbell's Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole
12.  Pork Chops with Couscous and Broccoli
13.  Beef Tips with Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Carrots
14.  Indian Butter Chicken over Rice with Green Peas
15.  5-Spice Beef Stir Fry with Snow Peas
16.  Brisket Quesadillas with Black Beans
17.  Chicken Satay with Chickpeas Masala
18.  Sweet & Tangy Meatballs with Stir-Fried Green Beans
19.  Meatball Sliders with Spicy Ranchero Sauce and Pepperjack Cheese
20.  Velveeta Taco Bake with Green Beans
21.  Chicken, Corn and Cheesy Rice Casserole
22.  Twice Baked Potatoes with Broccoli and Chicken Tenders (I admit, that meal did get a little weird!)