Sunday, December 8, 2013

We’re Back!

Here’s a sneak peek at this year’s Christmas card.

So… I’m breaking the several month hiatus because I think I’m ready to start writing again! The last few months have been busy to say the least. Here is a quick recap of the events of August through December:

1. Hyvee Triathlon


Mike biked and his brother ran and his cousin swam. It was a fun time and the pup got to come with us and have some fun at the grandparents’ house.

2. Back to School

This is probably my primary reason for the blogging hiatus. I started back to school full time at University of Northern Iowa. I’m giving it my all in attempts to graduate in 5.5 semesters. December 2015 can’t come soon enough.

Since we don’t live in Cedar Falls, Iowa, I have been dividing my time between our house in Dubuque and my parents’ place near the university. This semester it worked out that I could be home Friday through Monday and go to school Tuesday through Thursday. Next semester I won’t be so lucky, but I’ll touch on that later.

3. Chicken Prep

Mike worked hard on getting the chickens ready for winter and also for being lower maintenance. He created a heated watering system and a food tube that can theoretically keep them fed and watered for a week without us having to do anything. They are amazingly still laying 2-3 eggs a day so we are still checking on them daily, but it is nice to know that if we are gone for a weekend or something that they will be fine on their own for a couple of days.

4. We’re adding to our family.

I know, again, right? A dog in 2012, chickens in 2013, and now we’re actually adding a human to the mix. The baby is due at the end of May, which will be perfect for school. I plan on taking the summer off completely and in the fall, we will commute daily to Cedar Falls with my mom hopefully watching the baby while I go to school. As we’re learning, things happen and we just have to go with the flow, so obviously these are just plans.

You can probably expect this to turn into a baby blog, since that is pretty much consuming our lives at this point Smile

5. Side Projects

These include:

The kitchen that will never be finished

Michael’s quest to find thousands of Mountain Dew bottle caps to win Xbox Ones for him and everyone he knows. Digging through recycling bins, peddling candy bars for bags of caps at the redemption center, hounding relatives and friends to text us their codes, we really have no shame. It was probably worth it because he successfully won three!

Planning a nursery – the Fantastic Mr. Fox theme is full go. Expect adorable foxes everywhere along with their forest friends, way too many stuffed animals and no painting because I am way too lazy for that nonsense. We painted the room gray back in 2012 and I think that will work just fine for our gender-neutral nursery.

So that is basically what we've been up to! Stay tuned for pregnancy talk, kitchen work, and most likely adorable pictures of our furbabies.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Garden in August

This has been a banner year for me in gardening, but that doesn't really mean much since I have only really been at it for two summers. In the past, I have tried in vain to grow indoors or on a deck, and those times never went well. I can't keep anything alive inside. Ask Mike, he'll let you know that the only plants that stay alive are the ones he cares for.


Some things aren't doing so well, like the herb garden I have in a large pot. The picture you see above is from when it was planted. Everything did really well for June and July. The plants were huge! Now they look like they’re ready to die. It’s so depressing I refuse to take a photo of it. I've been using it all summer for pesto, mojitos, and caprese salad and it looks like I might not be getting anymore out of this. I refuse to water my garden, but a small planter like this probably needs more frequent waterings since it can’t hold as much moisture. I’d say there’s a lesson learned here, but my guess is that I will probably not water it next year either. I’m stubborn and lazy, a terrible combination.

Banana Peppers Aug 8 Tall Green Pepper Aug 8

Those are our banana peppers! We have three ready to pick. It’s mild salsa time, everyone! The rest of our peppers, including the much desired sweet mini peppers, are progressing at a painfully slow rate. There are a couple of pathetic little guys, like that adorable jalapeno pepper below, and a few flowers as well, so not all hope is lost yet.

Little Jalapeno Aug 8

Basil Aug 8

The basil in the garden bed is doing fantastic. We luckily still have plenty of that for more margherita pizza and pasta sauce. I <3 basil.

Beet Greens Aug 8

Beet Aug 8

I think I mentioned that I packed the beets way too close together. They are maturing now and I have gathered 4-5 so far. All of them are radish sized. I've been saving them up to roast a bunch all together for salads and just to eat by themselves. I’m a sucker for roasted beets, especially when paired with some chevre.

Carrot Aug 8

The other thing that was packed to closely together was the carrots. Not ready yet.

Eggplant Aug 8 Brussels Sprouts Aug 8

Lots of eggplant now! Since learning of my husband’s hate of eggplant (after six years of eating lots of eggplant), I get to enjoy these bad boys all by myself. Our brussels sprouts plants are starting to develop the little buds that grow into brussels sprouts. We're both getting excited about this. Mike, who is turning into a picky eater before my very eyes, still loves brussels sprouts.

Corn Aug 8 Corn Ears Aug 8

The corn seems to be doing okay. We have cobs formed in the stalks and a couple of them look ready to go. We haven’t harvested anything from them though.

Wild Cucumbers Aug 8

Cucumber Aug 8

The cucumber plants continue to produce lots of cucumbers. We are starting to get to the point where I should learn how to can them so they don't end up going back into the compost.

Squash Aug 8

I just planted this butternut squash about six weeks ago, but it looks like it might work out. There are a couple of flowers forming already, so I’m a happy girl.

Potatoes Aug 8

Potatoes. They look as if they are wilting and ready to harvest. I’m going to wait another week or so before pulling one out and seeing if they're ready. I don't want to pull them out too early since last year’s came out the size of gumballs.

Wild Tomatoes Aug 8

Cherry Tomatoes Aug 8

The tomatoes are still fantastic. A handful of cherry tomatoes are ready for picking every day and the roma tomatoes are just starting to redden. I've decided to freeze tomato sauce when I get to the point of too many tomatoes to deal with. I'll let you know how that goes when it happens.

Some other things that did not get photographed:

Beans and peas. Seriously slowing down on production, and I didn't get much to begin with! I’m pretty disappointed by this.

Lettuce and spinach. Not doing great. Pretty lackluster year for these guys.

Wild Garden Aug 8

Berry bushes and vines. They are covered with a bunch of the stuff in the photo above. I haven't seen them in a while! I've been working on clearing this area out to finish the fence, so hopefully I will be able to tell how everything is doing soon.

Pumpkins. The pumpkin plant is also buried in this prairie. I was able to look at it the other day and it didn't look very good. I’m not sure if it is just getting crowded in by the grasses or if it hasn't gotten enough water or if the soil on that hill is crap or what. It’s a mystery. Mike has been most excited about this plant, so he will be one sad kid come Halloween. I’ll have to take him to a pumpkin patch :)

That's what our plants are up to this month! How are your plants/gardens doing so far this summer?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Let’s Talk Chickens

Today was time to clean out the coop. It gets kind of messy and the husband was thinking it was getting smelly. Hot summer days will do that. Our girls are broody and messy. They frequently poop into their food bowl and they love digging around on the floor of their yard. I try and keep the water and food bowls clean by changing them out every other day. We need to come up with a better method because most people talk about changing theirs every few days to a week.

Gizmo in the Garden

I brought Gizmo with me because she’s cute and adorable and was begging me to take her outside. She loves to spend time out in the sun. She also thought it was pretty fun to watch me wrangle the chickens and scoop poop.

Clean Coop 1

Clean Coop 2

I armed myself with some rubber gloves and scooped the old pine bedding into a bucket then dumped it into the compost. I started a new compost pile for the chicken stuff. Then I filled it back up with fresh pine shavings. The chickens were really happy about this. They ran around in the coop while I clean up the yard a bit. I added more mulch and sprinkled this compost granule stuff. It’s supposed to keep everything clean and non-smelly. I think it works pretty well. They also got their first bit of grit. They have dirt and mulch to pick at in their yard, so I think they've been getting sufficient grit, but I added the real stuff (bits of granite) just to make sure they were getting it.

Chickens 18 Weeks 3

Chickens 18 Weeks 4

The girls are still on chick crumbles. I have been patiently waiting for eggs/their food to run out so I can switch them over to layer feed. We also have oyster shells on standby. We've been telling people for a while now that eggs are supposed to be coming, so it’s been a long wait. They are 18.5 weeks old now, making them right around the age at which they lay eggs. Of course I will let you all know when it happens!

Chickens 13 Weeks 1

Chickens 18 Weeks 2

Chickens 18 Weeks

These girls sure are purdy. The photos don't show it well, but they are shiny beauties with silken feathers. I can't say enough good things about having the chickens. They are so much fun to have around the garden. If only we could keep their names straight!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Painting the Cabinets

At this point we're thinking, “Can't we be done already?” After two coats of primer, I put two coats of paint on the cabinet bases. I used Olympic Icon because this was the only paint I could get in Flat and in Ultrawhite. It’s a primer and paint in one and also zero VOC which was nice, because it was super hot and humid outside at the time of painting. This paint went on pretty well, although after the second coat I noticed a couple of drips like this:

Paint Drip

I was majorly frustrated after seeing this appear after the paint had dried. I applied the paint in patient, long strokes. I tried not to put too much paint on my brush. I still got drips.

Sand Paper

So I did something I had not planned to do. I went out and bought sandpaper. 320 super fine sandpaper that I carefully brushed on affected areas. Then I put on a third coat of paint.

Paint Done

Much better.

Primer First CoatPaint Done 2

Let’s compare and contrast, shall we? I'm liking the new look. Shiny white cabinets make me happy. We're making progress! Over the weekend I took off all of the painter’s tape and moved everything back in the cabinets, so I’ll be sharing that soon.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Phase One Under Way

Welcome back to our kitchen remodel. As I mentioned on Monday, work on the kitchen started last week. I started by taking off all of the cabinet doors and drawer fronts. This was super fun. Not.

Kitchen without doors 2

This was probably the most time consuming prep I have ever done. Most of the screws were in odd angles and needed to be unscrewed by hand. I was able to use my cordless drill for a bit, but the battery pack is so bulky that it got in the way a lot.

Handles, Hinges and Screws

I bagged the hinges in one bag, the hardware in another, and the screws for things like the spice rack add on in a small bag. I bought some polished nickel spray paint for the hinges, but I think we are going to buy new drawer and door handles if we can find something affordable. We have a tight budget so this is only an optional thing at this point. I also figure if need be we can live without these for a while until we can save a bit more $.


Then I started cleaning everything. I mostly emptied out the cabinets, cleaned the cabinets out of all the dust, and used this TSP substitute deglosser. It’s supposed to be green. I don’t really know. Probably a rip off. Anyway, I sprayed this on the cabinet frames and all the doors, wiping it after letting it sit for a while. I also put some painter's tape around the bases of the cabinets. This makes things easier. Then it was time to paint!

It has been highly recommended around the blog world to use Zinsser’s Bullseye 1-2-3 primer. It’s water-based and it is supposed to stick to any surface. We'll see how this works out. Most pros recommend that you sand first, but I was just too lazy to do this. With a dog running around and an open kitchen, it seemed hard to have dust flying everywhere and it sounded like a long, time-consuming process. I might be kicking myself later for this, but I’m going forward with this anyway.

First Coat of Primer

After the first coat of primer, I was a little scared. Was this going to turn out okay? I texted Mike (who was at work) and told him I was nervous about how this would turn out. He told me that even if it ended badly, we could always change it. He’s right. While it would be a giant pain to change it, we could always go back and sand. So I kept going.

Two Coats of Primer

After two coats, we both agreed that it looked much better than the dark cabinets. Our kitchen is in the middle of the house with no windows. White cabinets brighten up the room so much.

Drawers Primed

For the first few days, I did minimal work on the drawers and doors. I prepped them with the de-glosser and then started to prime the backs. I stopped there to focus on the cabinet bases. I figure if I can get those done, our kitchen will become much more functional and then I can go back to the drawers and doors. So they are just taking up space in the garage right now, but will soon be tended to. I just noticed putting up this picture (the only picture I took of the drawers and doors for some reason) that there is a smudge on one of the drawers. That must have been fixed right after I took this because the smudge isn't there anymore.

So that’s the progress so far. What do you think? Better or worse? We’re thinking better.

Monday, July 29, 2013

It’s Happening

I tore apart the kitchen last week. Took all of the doors off of the cabinet bases, removed the drawer fronts, started painting.

Kitchen before painting cabinets

I’m a glutton for punishment. I haven't finished the garden, I started working on cleaning up the basement, and now I’m remodeling the kitchen. But I have to work while I have the momentum. Once it stops, I stop. My motivation has been seriously dragging lately so it’s kind of good to get working on something again. This kitchen remodel is going to be done in three phases.

First Coat of Primer

Phase One: Paint the kitchen cabinets. I chose ultra white and we're going the controversial route of not sanding. Check out some of these posts I went to for inspiration:

We are also going to install beadboard around the peninsula where the carpet used to be. I'm excited about this.

Carpeted Peninsula

Phase Two: Cover the countertops with concrete. This is even crazier than Phase One, but we're gonna try. Mike and I are still discussing whether or not to cut the countertops (the peninsula thingy is way too big) and getting rid of the laminate “backsplash”, so we still have a bit before this gets started (like maybe a few weeks?)


Phase Three: Put in a backsplash. Mike’s taking care of this project, so I have no idea when it will get done. He wants small tiles and I might just let him do that. We also have been talking about changing out the flooring. The ceramic tiles are super uncomfortable to stand on all day and they show everything (like dog hair and dust). We are looking into laminate or vinyl tiles to replace it; both good options for where we live. Phase three will probably be a fall project.

The main thing we're trying to remember is that while we want things to look nice, we also don't want to be investing a ton of money into our kitchen. Since we don't plan on this being our forever home, we will have to sell it at some point, and our house is one of the bigger, pricier homes in the neighborhood where we live. Adding things like granite and hardwood won’t pay off. So we're taking small steps. And crossing our fingers that this DIY type approach will pan out for a beautiful kitchen!

Yikes! We have some work to do.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Same Age

The husband and I are just about the same age. Seven weeks separates us in birthdays. Mine was last month and for a few weeks, I was a year old than him. Over the weekend, Mike turned 27 and now we are the same age again! 
We've been trying to eat healthier lately and Mike has been doing a great job of sticking to no junk food and very limited sweets. For his birthday though, I told him I’d make him breakfast. He could pick anything in my repertoire – French Toast, Waffles, Pancakes, Eggs and Toast, you name it – and he chose waffles. I whipped up a couple and put some chocolate chips in his (his favorite!). I also made a little bit of blackberry syrup. So so good. 
Chocolate Chip Blackberry Waffles
Mike made it look pretty and told me I needed to put it up on the blog.

Bike Workstation
Also, he got some cool presents from his parents. Mike will be doing the biking portion of the Hy-Vee Triathlon next month and was in need of a new computer for his bike. He also wanted to do work while he biked, so they bought him a workstation that clips to your bike handlebars. Pretty neat!
I’m a pretty terrible wife. I didn't get him anything. On Saturday, I took him out for dinner and a movie (RED 2) and told him to buy something for himself off of amazon (he has a list). I’m sure he will be able to find something to buy.
Watch Cat
We also did some work on the garden this weekend (with Gizmo’s supervision, of course)! Slowly but surely, folks. This lil’ project sure is taking FOREVER to finish! Most of the work to be done is reinforcing the lattice and laying down mulch. It wouldn’t take very long, but we don’t seem to have a chance to work down there for long stretches of time. It is more like two hours here, an hour there… I am serious about being finished with it before school starts back up though!