Sunday, June 30, 2013

Buh-Bye Google Reader

Just to quickly remind everyone that Google Reader is donezo as of Monday, July 1st. I waited until the last second and decided to go with Bloglovin to use as a reader. A really nice feature is that they import all of your favorite blogs from Google Reader so setup is super easy. Also, you can now follow me on Bloglovin:

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

So get on out there and find a new favorite place to read your feeds!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Big Winner

Mike likes to think that he’s unlucky. He frequently complains that he never wins anything and he sucks at gambling and that everyone else has an unfair advantage while playing Halo. Yup, he’s pretty optimistic. He should now consider his luck changed.

New Recliner 4

Mike got a text from a coworker on Friday to bring his SUV to work to pick up his recliner before it rained (her vehicle is a truck). Umm, what? Mike thought maybe it was a ploy to get him to bring the new car to work so his co-workers could put truck nuts on the Escape, but after a few minutes realized that he entered a raffle a couple of months ago for a Flexsteel recliner, valued at $1000.

After telling him that no, I wasn't going to switch cars with him (we have a tandem garage, the Escape was parked first), he got to work and told me that he had, in fact, won a recliner and I needed to come pick it up. I tried to put Leela in her crate but she was having none of that so I brought her with me.

New Recliner

Some co-workers loaded the box into the back and we squeezed Leela in there too. Then I had the pleasure of taking the pieces and hauling them up to the family room. Our staircases make a sharp right turn, and boy was that a tight squeeze.

New Recliner 2

Some huffing and puffing and a few choice words later and it was time to assemble. That part didn't take too long.

New Recliner 3

The end result is this beauty, as modeled by my handsome hubby:


So, about the chair. It’s a Flexsteel (the factory is a mere few blocks from our house!) Eclipse in brown with hidden recline function. Not my choice of color or style or anything really. Plus it’s leather, and not the durable kind. It’s the kind that your dog and cat will ruin in a week type of leather. But, marriage is about compromise. Mike is already in love with the recliner. He immediately came home Friday afternoon and re-arranged the furniture to fit the recliner in our family room. Sigh.

New Recliner 5

Since we're youngins and pretty newly married, I suppose I can’t complain about a free (well, $10 if you consider the entry fee) chair, especially when the husband has been complaining for months about our couch and even tried to convince me to buy a new sectional (with a puppy, are you crazy?). So consider this a semi-permanent addition to the family room for now. Despite this thing being an eyesore to me, it’s actually the nicest seating we have in there right now. Check out our dog-destroyed couch and chair. Duct tape has become a decorating staple around here.


So there’s our big win! Maybe this means a curse has lifted on Michael and he will start doing better at the slots! Or maybe we should just not gamble. Hmmm.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Queen of the Jungle

Our gorgeous girl Gizmo doesn’t get a lot of notice on this here blog, mainly because she shies away from the spotlight and hides from the dog; but she’s a member of our family and we do, in fact, take pictures of her. Proof.


Just ignore the fact that this picture is two years old. She’s not the most photogenic cat in the world.

Cat with Lion Cut 4

Told You. Let’s try that again.

Cat with Lion Cut

Our girl just got a haircut. Out of the 6 summers she’s been around, she’s been cut three times. She’s so darn pretty with her long hair that sometimes it’s hard to let go. But we both have terrible seasonal allergies (Mike is actually allergic to cats) and snuggling with this girl in summer is like being suffocated. Hair everywhere. In the eyes. In the nose. In the mouth. It’s agonizing. This year has been particularly bad for cat hair torture. We put it off for a while and then realized we couldn't live like that anymore. We had to cut her hair.


We did it in shifts this year and it took something like five different sessions to finish. She actually really likes it at first. She loves to be groomed and this is like an upgrade, what with a vibrating comb and all. So for the first ten minutes, she’s happy. Walking around, purring, rubbing up against anything she sees. Then she starts to get impatient. The purring stops and she looks annoyed. She doesn't say anything, but we can tell she’s over it. If we go on too much longer, we get meows and growls, hisses and nips. She’s not happy anymore and she wants to leave. That’s why we try to break it into so many grooming sessions. Gizmo is a lot easier to cut if she’s happy. Telling you now that it took over an hour to cut her hair makes me think that we should get new clippers. We're not professionals over here. We use the same trimmer for Mike’s hair on our cat. It was probably $30 at Wal-Mart five years ago, so we might be due for an upgrade.

Cat with Lion Cut 2 - Copy

Cat with Lion Cut 3

Anyway, she’s finished (again, we're not professionals, we're just calling it done). I don't know if the Lion Cut is stylish, but that’s what we do. It’s easy and gets rid of almost all of her hair, but still leaving her some to trick her into thinking that she isn't completely naked.The real benefit of cutting her hair is that she is cuddly again. She loves to snuggle in the winter, but it is much more of a loner in the summer. Now she is back on our laps and sleeping in between us at night (Yup, we're mean. Gizmo gets to sleep in the bed but Leela has to sleep in her crate).

Monday, June 24, 2013

Lemon Chiffon Cake

It feels good to be baking. It’s the summer and we're currently at 90 degrees and muggy weather here. Usually that means grilling outside and eating ice cream, never running the oven. But I was in the mood for something that screams summer to me. Citrus and cake. My birthday was a couple of weeks ago and I was lucky enough to celebrate it a couple of times but I never had a cake. I felt the need to have cake.

Lemon Chiffon Cake

Enter the lemon chiffon cake. I found the recipe here.

Recipes always call for stuff I don't have, like buttermilk and cream cheese. Or cake flour. That’s the worst. Who keeps cake flour laying around? This recipe was pretty good about not needing a lot of random things. And luckily I happened to have cream of tartar on hand to be whipped with the egg whites.


Make sure you whip the egg whites and the cream of tartar long enough. And fold it into the batter right away. If you spend time photographing it, your egg white peaks might turn into puddles and you'll have to whip them again.


I took several liberties with the frosting. And what I put down is approximation so play around with it a little. The original recipe calls for cream cheese in the frosting. That might be tasty. I didn't have any cream cheese and really, I don't like cream cheese frosting, so I took it out. I went for soft, light frosting, almost like a glaze, but thick enough that it stays on the cake.


It was pretty easy to make and took only a few minutes of prep time. Nice and lemony, the perfect summer treat. The whipping of egg whites was definitely worth it. So was running the oven in the afternoon.


Lemon Chiffon Cake with tangy lemon frosting, adapted from Taste of Home.

One cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, separated
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup oil
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 tablespoons butter, left out the night before
4 tablespoons milk
3 teaspoons lemon juice
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks, water, oil, lemon peel and vanilla; add to dry ingredients. Beat until well blended. In another bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form; fold into batter.

Gently spoon into an eight inch cake pan. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Immediately invert pan; cool completely, about 1 hour.

In a small bowl, beat the butter, milk and lemon juice until smooth. Gradually beat in powdered sugar. Run a knife around side and center tube of cake pan. Remove cake to a serving plate; frost. Store in the refrigerator.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Pretty Things

My mother and aunt are fantastically creative. When I was little, they made my Halloween costumes. My mom decorated our home and even some other people’s homes. She has style. My aunt is probably the queen of DIY craft and has made some awesome stuff for around the house. When it came time for my wedding, I asked them to help out with the flowers, because they could be florists (my aunt actually has been a couple of times in her life).


These amazing flower arrangements decorated twenty tables at Mike and I’s wedding. My bouquet was so beautiful and the bridesmaids’ were as well. They even made the boutonnieres for the guys.


My sister and her new husband are a bit nontraditional. They had a small ceremony a few weeks ago in my parents’ backyard and then last weekend had a low key wedding reception in their town. It was quite different from our wedding, but they also asked for my mom and aunt to help out with the flowers.

Here they are at the wedding reception, having a little too much fun:

And here is one of the beautiful arrangements they did for my sister’s wedding:

Which brings me back to the point: our living room. We bought the two chairs from Ikea last month and got them set up in the living room right away, but I never took any pictures because it was boring. Our living room still needs some work. But, I stole was given two of the lovely arrangements from sister’s wedding and stuck one in the living room. It definitely livens things up!


Pretty, no? My sister went with a succulent theme and my aunt added the flowers the day of to add a little somethin’ somethin’.



Obviously our living room is a bit lacking. I’m waiting to do anything with the walls until I get the curtains done (someday, I promise!), thinking that they will probably be a focal point in the room.


This is the second centerpiece that we took home. I'm not really sure where this one is going. Outside? Upstairs? Right where it is in the family room?

So those are the newest additions to our home. I’m a cheapskate frugal, so getting something for free is always preferred. I’m hoping not to kill them right away!

Monday, June 17, 2013

House Progress: The Upstairs

 It’s been awhile since I've shared with you all some pictures of the house. I gave a tour of the house before we moved in, but haven't quite finished with the current tour of our house. Please stay with me, I have plans to get the rest of it out soon!

Loft Before

Coming up the stairs and to the left is my craft room. Above is how it was before we moved in, staged and uncluttered. Now it’s a mess and needs organizing. Last year, I picked up my childhood things from my bedroom at my parents’ house. It all rests in the craft room. The sad thing is that there still boxes and boxes of stuff in my parents’ attic that I need to bring back. It would be nice to paint this room (and the hallway), but I am not confident that this will get done while we live here. White is pretty inoffensive and is kind of nice to have for an open, airy space.

Loft After

When we moved in, there was great debate where everything should go. We had two rooms to put a craft area and office into. One of us could take the spare bedroom, but would have to share it with the second guest bed. The other person would use the loft area, which only has three walls. Michael chose the spare bedroom and it was a good decision at first because it could contain noise a little better than the loft. You see, he occasionally plays games on his computer and at night if I’m trying to sleep, it can be noisy.

Spare Room Before

The spare room was originally how it is above. Bright blue walls, a neon floral wallpaper, and circus colored curtains (you can kind of see them on the left). I removed the wallpaper and curtains and painted it a light gray.


Then we decided to move the office downstairs because there was plenty of room down there and eventually we would need to move it anyway (assuming a baby enters our lives at some point). That turned out to be a great decision for the downstairs but it left the bedroom upstairs kind of empty. Now that the chicks have left the room, we need to do some work on it. Some things I would like are: a dresser, some art for the walls, a new light fixture or a redo on the ceiling fan?

Bathroom Before 2

Bathroom Before

Down the hall a little bit is the bathroom. It’s the only full bathroom in the house. When we moved in it was sponge painted with blue and white stripes and had a wallpaper border. There was a whole lot of pattern going on in there. I really wanted a green bathroom. I’m not so sure why. I ended up going with something that matched the tile and linoleum flooring better.

Bathroom After

It’s Olympic’s Tattered Sail and it’s a really nice creamy color that complements all of the white in the bathroom perfectly. We installed a shower head and a new medicine cabinet and light fixtures, replaced all of the hardware, and painted the vanity. It’s definitely more relaxing in there now. And I'm thrilled I don’t have to go down to the basement to shower.

Master Before

The master bedroom at the end of the hall needed a little sprucing up, what with the outdated stenciled border and the super old curtains.

Master After

I painted the walls the same gray as the spare room and it looks completely different in this room. It’s definitely more blue than I thought it would be. I made the shams and curtains at our last house and simply moved them with us to this house. We upgraded to matching lamps from Ikea which was definitely needed in this house. I'll go into more detail later, but our bedroom doesn't have a light attached to the ceiling fan. There is just a single bulb that sticks out from the wall.

So that’s the upstairs! We're pretty happy with the way things are on this floor for now. Especially since there is so much to do on the main floor. Stay tuned for a look at the basement next week.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Chicken Update: 10 Weeks

The chicken updates are slowing down now as they seem to be growing at a slower rate now. They are super sweet and very charming little things. We sent two packing last week but still have Penelope, Lucille, Ruth and Dorothy.

Chickens 10 Weeks 3

Penelope is the head hen and is always the first to receive a treat. She is the ring leader for getting into trouble!

Chickens 10 Weeks 7

Lucille is spunky and second in command. Ruth just kind of goes with the flow and doesn't really command much of our attention. Dorothy is shy and a giant scaredy-cat. She frequently gets lost and has to be reunited with the flock to feel safe again. It takes her a lot of time to warm up to people, so she spends a lot of time in the corners of the coop.

Honestly, we have a hard time telling them apart all the time, so I am hoping to get some leg bands for easy identification.

Chickens 10 Weeks 5

The chickens are free-ranging when weather allows in the mulched garden. They love running around and foraging for snacks. Speaking of snacks, their eating habits are significantly changing since they left their brooder box. They fight over worms and one received a lovely treat of a slug the other day. They love to munch on blades of grass, flowers and whatever else they can get their beaks on. I read once that they will eat mice and birds if they have access to them; as a mostly vegetarian, I am horrified and hope they stick to insects.


That’s about it. The chicks are super easy to care for and I couldn't be happier with them at this point. Another six weeks or so and we’ll hopefully be enjoying some eggs!

Monday, June 10, 2013

We have a gate!

It stopped raining for a whole day so we were able to install the gate that we built a while back.

Looking at this made me squeal with delight.

Garden Gate

Nearing the completion of our garden project, we spent Saturday making the area pest proof. We installed the gate, put rocks along the bottom of the fence, and started putting the trim around the lattice.



Gizmo and Leela were around to help.


We created the gate some time ago using a piece of lattice cut to size (it’s something like 3.5 feet wide) and four 2x4’s on each side. The lattice is sandwiched between the eight boards. Then we bought a self-closing gate kit at Lowe’s. It was very easy to install. We first had to decide which way the gate would swing. We hopefully picked the way that is the most functional for anybody who would want to come down here!


Mike was able to do most of the installation himself, so I was able to snap some pictures. Just screw the hinges on, and put the latch on, and you’re done! We also bought a handle, but since the gate is self-closing, it’s really just for show. We haven’t put it on the gate yet.


As you can see, there is still a lot of lumber remaining in our garden! We did get a start on making the pile smaller by framing out the lattice on the fence.


This is going pretty quick, so hopefully it’ll be done soonish.


Mike filled in the gaps in the fence with some large rocks that we dug up while putting up the fence. I spent most of my time weeding and laying down mulch. More of that to come later. It’s really starting to look nice!

Once the mulch is down and the trim and header is put on the fence, we will be able to call this thing done!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Chicks at Two Months Old

The chicks are looking more and more like chickens! They are nine weeks old now and living outside. The transition to outdoor living happened rather quickly. They were wearing out their welcome in the house so we just decided that there was no perfect time to take them out and went for it last weekend.

Chicks Nine Weeks 2

We were cautious parents and tried to show them around their new home, which is a palace compared to their makeshift two-box brooder. It took them awhile to find the ramp going into their coop and the location of the food and water, but they seemed pretty content. They finally ended up huddling up in a corner in the coop and we were happy to see them all still alive the next morning!

Chicken Coop

I've talked a bit about their coop here, but I kind of wanted to tell you about how it is holding up. Mike affectionately refers to the coop as, “A piece of crap.” I wouldn't go that far, but I don’t think too highly of it either. I knew going into this that the pre-fab coop was going to be cheap and not very well insulated. I knew that tweaks would be needed to make it inhabitable for our chicks. But, I also wasn't planning for the water issues that we are already having. The roof on the coop leaks in certain places, so we already have to think about what we need to get it ready for winter. As the chicks get older, we are also going to have to work on the ventilation in the coop. Right now it is functional, but we definitely need to get creative to fix some of the little issues it has. If we had the money to make a sweet coop, I would go that route. In the future, we have our eyes set on a little shed (we’re talking way down the road, folks, like 5-6 years from now) that would rest in a large play yard.

Chicken Coop Waterer and Feeder

We have the feeder and waterer hanging on a wooden garden stake that we found at Lowe’s for $2.99. It seems to do the trick for now. Since the chicks are constantly growing, this also allows us to adjust the height when necessary.

Chicks Nine Weeks 6

Our girls like to spend time in groups. I usually find a group huddled in the coop in one of the nesting boxes and another group under the coop in the play yard. It’s good to see that they stick together and keep each other warm. They definitely get friendly when you approach them.

Chicks Nine Weeks 1

Chicks Nine Weeks 5

Over the weekend we gave away two of our babies to a friend of a friend. I’m a little said to break up the group, but at the same time, I know they are going to an excellent home where they will be well taken care of. So now we are down to four.

Chicks Nine Weeks 3

I need to be better at remembering to take pictures. The chicks have been enjoying a diet of chick grower feed with some treats mixed in. They started out loving meal worms, but have lately been bored with them. Things that they have consumed recently are: lettuce leaves, grass shoots from the garden, and some meal worms.

Chicks Nine Weeks 4

Leela seems to enjoy seeing the chicks. We cautiously keep her on a leash and this picture was taken with Mike carefully holding onto her collar so she couldn't get much closer. After all, she is a dog and her instinct is to chase and kill (although we could never imagine our sweet Leela doing so!) small animals. Gizmo also goes down to the coop from time to time and checks out the chicks. They are about the same size as her now and she seems to play nice.

Overall, we've really enjoyed our chicks outside. It is fun to go out to the garden and visit with the girls. They are good company for when I am gardening, too! It smells so much better in our house and the coop doesn't seem to smell much either (although if we ever get any 90+ degree days, I might change my tune on this one). The chicks have a ton of room to run around in now and I think they are much happier out there, being in the fresh air and living (almost) free range.