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Archive for July, 2012

I don’t post about cooking very much – if ever. I like to cook, but don’t consider myself at the level where I should be sharing tips with anyone. However, I just have to tell you about our dinners this week.

First, do you ever find yourself in a rut when it comes to planning meals? That was me on Monday morning. I sat down to make my grocery list and could not think of one thing I wanted to cook. Jason had no requests – so that wasn’t too helpful either. So, I did what most women in that situation do, I went to Pinterest.

I perused my recipe board for meals that I had pinned but never tried and looked at my friend Stephanie’s recipe board. She’s constantly trying new Pinterest recipes and was a great resource.

Each meal was AMAZING… here’s what our week looked like…

MONDAY

Skinny Broccoli and Chicken Alfredo, via Celebrations.com

Oh my, this dish has the triple threat – easy, healthy and YUMMY. Even the leftovers were great. Seriously, make it tonight.

TUESDAY

Brown Sugar and Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin, via C&C Marriage Factory

Healthy Sweet Potato Skins, via Pinch of Yum

Tuesday was my day to be ambitious. I broke out the ol’ crock pot for the first time in ages (why don’t I use that thing more?!). The pork loin was really easy – simple ingredients and basically impossible to screw up. The glaze has soy sauce, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar – which results in a really great flavor. The potatoes were a bit more challenging. I’ve never made twice-baked potatoes before, which is essentially what these are. I didn’t earn any presentation points, but OH.MY.GOODNESS were these amazing. I still dream about the flavor – and garbanzo beans? Yeah, who knew? Okay, make this meal tonight too.

WEDNESDAY – I let my mommy cook! Wednesdays are my days “off.” My mom watches Kenton for the day AND cooks dinner for all of us. I know! I’m the luckiest daughter on the planet.

THURSDAY

Ziti with Portobello Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions, and Goat Cheese, via Food & Wine

This was a Stephanie-recommendation and it lived up to the hype. Caramelized onions? Check. Portobello mushrooms? Check. Goat cheese? Check. (Yes, just as the name suggests! Imagine that.) If I need to say more, your palate is seriously lacking. Make this NOW – don’t wait for dinner.

FRIDAY – Yep, that’s tonight and tonight is DATE NIGHT. I’m off the hook. However, I think I earned a night out after three AMAZING new meals this week – all of which Jason loved and begged me to add to our regular rotation.

How about you? Do you have a favorite Pinterest-inspired meal? Please share the link in the comments below. I’d love to try even more amazing dishes!

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Wow… I am really late with this week’s bump pic – and only have a lame picture to show for it…

28 weeks!

See? I wasn’t kidding.

Sorry. All you get this week is a self-portrait-iPhone-bathroom-mirror-shot. That is how crazy this week’s been.

But, it’s a good crazy. Here’s why:

  • I’m speaking at a conference in the EST next week and am busy getting ready for that – Powerpoints, handouts, four days of time by myself (including 12 hours of flying/uninterrupted reading time)… yeah, I’m EXCITED.
  • I’ve been working this pregnant toosh OFF. We joined a gym and I’ve been there nearly every day. Water aerobics is my new thing – me and the grandmas. It’s good times.
  • Due to my lack of a “real” job – I’ve had the free time to indulge in some activities that I deem as fun. Not everyone may agree… but I like volunteering for committees and leading projects – so, I’ve been doing that for the MOPS group at my church. Have you heard of MOPS? Google it. It’s awesome. I went to two meetings last year before they took a break for the summer – and somehow managed to sign up for the publicity team and am now in the throws of promoting it. Speaking of, here’s what I’ve spent the last few days working on…

Oh, gosh, I hope you laughed. If not, I’m really embarrassed. If you live in the Phoenix-area, please come! It’s going to be EPIC.

In other news, I’m 28 weeks pregnant this week. This baby is coming in 12 weeks. Cue: screams of terror.

(Perhaps the filling up my schedule with non-baby-related things and ignoring the fact that we’ve done nothing – NOT.ONE.THING – to prep for the impending arrival of this child is a clue that I may be in denial about just how far off my delivery date is.)

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DIY Anniversary Gift

A few weeks ago, my parents celebrated their 37th wedding anniversary.

with Kenton in Telluride

Do you ever struggle with what to get your parents for their anniversary? I always do. For some reason, that’s usually a tough gift for me to nail down. I usually end up getting a gift certificate to a nice restaurant. In the past, I have ordered a nice bottle of wine to be delivered to their table when I know the time/place of their own celebration. In particularly lean years, I’ve just sent a card with a nice sentiment. This year, I came up with a fun, inexpensive DIY crafty gift that was a big hit.

That is a framed piece I created myself in Photoshop, depicting all of the states my parents have lived in since they were married.

Virginia is for lovers.

My parents met and fell in love while my dad was at VMI and my mom was at Radford College in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. They married in Alexandria and I arrived while they were living in Richmond.

Illinois is where my parents lived when my dad was stationed at Scott Air Force Base, where he did his residency in family medicine. It’s also where my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and became a survivor.

Next, my dad was stationed at Reagan Air Force Base just outside of Washington, DC in Maryland.

When my dad got out of the Air Force, he accepted a position at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. (Go, Blue Devils!) We lived here for many years, formative years for me – 3rd to 8th grade.

The next move was a biggie… all the way across the country to the Pacific Northwest and Olympia, Washington. I went to high school here then took off for sunny California. My parents stayed in the rain through most of the time I was in college, until…

…they themselves moved to a sunnier climate, Arizona. This was another job move for my dad – and they’ve loved it so much here they have not left in 13 years (8 years in their current house!). That’s a record for my nomadic parents!

Photo by O’Grace Photography

For their gift, I used free downloadable state art, that I’ve mentioned before – from this site.

I grabbed a simple image of a hearts made out of maps and tiled it as the background in Photoshop.

I resized the maps and arranged them in order.

Then, I ordered a 16×20 poster from Walmart (not the best quality, but the $14 price-tag was nice!).

I tried to encourage the edges to uncurl for a few days, under heavy candlesticks on my dining room table.

That didn’t really work, so I wound up getting a custom-cut piece of foam that I mounted behind the poster in the frame.

That did the trick!

This gift was a hit – but not a hit on our wallets…

PROJECT BUDGET:

  • $29 = Frame
  • $14 = 16×20 Poster
  • $3 = foam board (20″x30″ original size, cut to 16″x20″ for free at Joann’s)

TOTAL = $46

Nice, right? You could probably save even more by getting a cheaper frame at Ikea or a thrift store – or even using one you already have.

Well, now the pressure is on… Jason’s parents celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in a few weeks. Still not sure what I’m going to get them… hmm… I can’t do the same thing because (A) they read this blog and (B) they’ve only lived in Maine (and now also spend winters in Arizona).

Ideas?

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Happy Birthday, Jason!

Today, I celebrate the birthday of my favorite person on earth…

Photo by O’Grace Photography

I am so blessed to have this man by my side. He is an amazing husband, wonderful father and great friend.

Happy 33rd, Jason. I hope you feel loved, honored and respected today – because you are.

xoxo

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Upon learning my third trimester has begun, Kenton is floored…

27 weeks!

…or perhaps that’s the photo of a mom saying, “Come HERE sweet, precious, perfect child!” to a toddler who developed a mind of his own overnight.

YOU DECIDE.

Here’s another shot…

That would be Kenton demonstrating his new trick – “Where’s the baby?” and lifting mommy’s shirt. (That’s a fun one for daddy to play in public. Ehhhem.)

So, we’re 27 weeks along. This baby is finally starting to groove, but in waves. We’ll go several hours with a ton of movement, then I won’t feel anything for nearly a day. Kinda crazy. I don’t remember Kenton doing that at all – I just remember him constantly moving.

I’m going to celebrate the big third trimester milestone with an OB appointment and a haircut while Grandma gets some quality time with the “toddler who developed a mind of his own overnight.” 🙂

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House-aversary #3!

We closed on “Our Dream Foreclosure” three years ago today!

then

Happy anniversary, house!

It was a CRAZY day. Six months prior, I had booked tickets to France to celebrate Jason’s 30th birthday. Our first leg – a red eye to London – left at 7:00 PM on July 17, 2009.

When we started looking at houses, we told our mortgage guy we weren’t in any rush. Besides, we still had several months left on a lease for a house we were renting. But we found “The Dream” faster than expected – and a little too close to our European departure for just about anyone’s comfort. Even though the house was a foreclosure, our deal went through really fast.

In fact, I’ve never blogged about that – so, here’s the story…

Jason and I had narrowed our house search area to a certain area… a triangle, actually…

If you’re familiar with Scottsdale, Arizona – the border on the left (to the west) is the Loop 101 freeway. The border to the south is Shea Boulevard and the border along the east, up to the north is Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard.

We had decided that was our “sweet spot” based on where we both worked at the time. That, actually, was our number one priority… limiting our commute times. We also considered where our friends lived, where our church is located and where we generally like to spend most of our time.

The problem was, a lot of other people like this area too. In order to get a home in this triangle, we were fairly certain we would have to make some major compromises on what we preferred – size, number of bedrooms, etc.

Little did we know we would find more than we ever dreamed of right in our Dream neighborhood.

(And, no, I’m not going to give you the exact location. Sure, it would be interesting if a random psychopath showed up at our door, but no thanks.)

So, back to the day we met “her.” It was a Friday and I had arranged to see three houses with our realtor over my lunch hour. These three homes were about a mile from my office at the time, right in our “sweet spot.” Jason had a busy schedule that day and wasn’t sure he’d be able to meet us. His office was about seven miles from the neighborhood we were going to look at. I met the realtor at the first house – and Jason pulled up at the same time. I was surprised and excited to see him! It’s so much easier to see houses together.

I was REALLY excited about the first house. It had four bedrooms, two baths and 1,700 square feet. It was all on one level and had a spacious backyard. The photos in the MLS listing looked gorgeous! We walked in and my love fest continued. I really liked the house and was choosing to ignore the obvious – and major! – changes we would need to make. The kitchen was in a really awkward set up, we spent several minutes plotting out how we would demo the current kitchen and redo it. Jason started scratching the house off the list. I was upset – a kitchen demo sounded like a fun project to me! The fourth “bedroom” was actually a den and right off the main rooms… that was a downer. However, the major disappointment was that the bedrooms that our future kids would take were right on the street – and even though it was a safe neighborhood, that was a concern for me. Still, I liked the house. Jason did not.

So, we followed our realtor to the next house. It was just around the corner. I was so-so about this one. I knew it was a foreclosure and the photos I had seen online were all exterior and the house looked sad. In person, it really wasn’t any different than I expected. When our realtor opened the front door, I was shocked by what I smelled – the distinctive scent of paint and new carpet. Fresh paint? New carpet? In a FORECLOSURE? What the what? Jason and I exchanged puzzled looks. Our realtor didn’t have an explanation. We started exploring the house, room by room – and with each room it got better and better. This place was blank slate. It had five bedrooms, three baths and 2,600 square feet – so much larger than the first house and the price was nearly the same. We started to get excited. This place needed some work too, but we were both enthusiastic about the projects. However, this wasn’t the first house we fell in love with and we knew if we liked it, other potential buyers probably did too. It had also already been on the market for several months – so we knew the odds were not in our favor. We asked our realtor to call right away to see if the house had any other offers.

None. Zippo. Zero. Not one.

High-fives all around! And a quick phone call to our mortgage guy – “Sorry, we lied about taking our time. We need to make an offer NOW!” We also told our realtor we wouldn’t bother seeing the third house on our list that day!

By 5:00 PM, we had everything together and our offer was in with the bank that owned the home. The bank was located in Philadelphia – a little fact that would be crucial later. We offered about $12K under the asking price, but offered to cover closing costs. We spent the next 24 hours in bliss. We were SO HAPPY.

We already knew some of our neighbors and shared the exciting news with them. On Sunday, they called to let us know, “By the way, there was an open house at ‘your’ house on Saturday.” They had walked through and loved the house too. Our hearts sunk. An open house? Our offer was in before the open house, but not before the bank closed in Philadelphia on Friday (a three hour time difference from Arizona). We went from euphoric on Saturday to depressed on Sunday. Surely, the open house drew in more offers – and on Monday morning, they would all be at that darn Philadelphia bank. We kicked ourselves for our lowball offer and were resigned to the fact the bank would likely pick the highest offer and go from there.

On Monday, our realtor confirmed our suspicions, the open house drew in several additional offers. All we could do was sit and wait. She told us it would likely take several days. We began licking our wounds.

Imagine my shock when about an hour later, our realtor called me back. The bank honored ours as the first offer and were countering us! Their counter was just $5k over ours, and they offered to cover closing costs. What the WHAT?! YES! We accepted without hesitation and started our happy dance.

now

Later, we found out that the house sat on the market for six months without one offer. So, the bank fired the realtor and hired a new one. The new realtor took it off the market for a couple of weeks – repainted it, put in the new carpet and added appliances. Seriously! In a FORECLOSURE. Apparently, the family that lived here before liked bright, ugly colors, had six kids who ruined the carpet – and had stripped the place of appliances before they high-tailed it out. So, the new realtor painted over everything with simple white, replaced the carpet with an inexpensive beige – boring, but new – and grabbed some appliances off Craig’s List (basically, just for appearances).

The home was put back on the market THE VERY MORNING we went to see it and we were the first people who walked through. We had NO IDEA at the time.

This house was meant to be ours.

After we accepted the bank’s counter offer, we went by for another lunch hour visit that Monday. I arrived at the house first and stood in the driveway, waiting for Jason and our realtor to arrive. Suddenly, the garage door started opening behind me. I whirled around to see a sweaty man with a camera. “What are you doing in MY house?” I demanded. “Your house?” the man chuckled. “I’m the realtor trying to sell this place. I’m taking new photos for the MLS listing.” “Well, don’t bother,” I told him. “We just bought it.” He just started laughing. Apparently, it all happened so fast – the bank had not even told the seller’s agent yet.

So, three years and multiple sweat equity projects later…

Not to mention our major life changes… Kenton’s birth in May 2011 and our upcoming baby #2 set to arrive this October.

We are so blessed and love living our life within these walls.

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If my Pinterest incoming links tell me anything… it’s that my nursery is the most popular thing I’ve ever blogged about.

most popular post!

However… I’m not talking about the nursery today. Because… looking at the latest Pinterest referrals, it seems people are interested in box valances. That’s awesome! We love the box valances we’ve made.

In fact, box valances were the subject of our very first DIY guide waaaay back in October 2009.

note the lack of paint, old door and bully butt 😉

So, in case anyone is searching for a relatively simple, certainly inexpensive window treatment – head on over to our old post for the tutorial.

We think this treatment works so well, we have box valances in our kitchen…

In our family room…

In Kenton’s nursery….

painted those stripes meeself. click on the pic for the post on that.

We even did one for Jason’s parent’s condo

We’re working on a second one for them. We’re also planning to make one for Kenton’s big boy room and one for the playroom. We are also considering them for the living room, but just ordered new blinds for that room (YIPPEE! No more peep shows for the neighbors!) and I want to wait until those are up and then decide.

Do you have DIY box valance window treatments in your home? If so, please share!

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