Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Family Time Warp

I was quickly browsing through my local Value Village this morning, ostensibly for "Kip"-style glasses (a'la Napoleon Dynamite) for Damon's Halloween costume, when "Let's Do the Time Warp Again" from the Rocky Horror Picture Show came over the loudspeaker.

I actually find that song incredibly annoying, but I have felt like I was in a bit of a time warp the last few days.  I finally decided to load all the pictures from our old CPU onto our new computer.

Yeah, we upgraded two years ago--wanna make somethin' of it??

Anyway, I found lots of adorable pictures of my kids which no one else will likely find as fun as I do, but I also found some before pictures of our kitchen in Utah.  We replaced the counters, appliances, put in a granite tile back splash, had the finish on the kitchen cabinets renewed and installed pulls.  We budgeted carefully and found great deals.  All told, we spent around $5,000 and dramatically changed the look and feel of the space.

View #1 Before

View #1 After

View #2 Before

View #2 After

View#3 Before

View #3 After

View #4 Before

View #4 After

Ahh--I love it when a plan comes together {{pat my own back}}.

It's gratifying to see what a difference we made in the life of that kitchen, and to know that I can make some happy changes to our home now, a little at a time.

Speaking of which, we are receiving a new fridge today after some unnecessary drama getting it in our kitchen doorway.  Let me just say that the old adage to measure twice is good advice.  With new appliances, the kitchen looks--and functions--so much better.  The rest of the things I want to do in there are mercifully much, much cheaper.

Does anybody else besides me like to relive the glory days of successful projects long after they are complete?  Feel free to brag to me...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Homecoming at Home

I have been completely missing in action the last week or so, because I agreed to do a very daring thing.  I guess Brendan isn't the only brave one in our family, after all.

He was going to his first Homecoming dance on Saturday, after asking in a dramatic way a few weeks ago.  My husband and I encouraged him to have a few of his friends and their dates come to our house for dinner instead of going to a restaurant.  We figured that the food would be better, it would be cheaper, and it would be fun for our family to work together to prepare and present this kind of evening.  We told him that 8-10 people would be a perfect number.

When a bunch of his friends got word of the event, they wanted in.  As in, at the final tally, we served 35 teenagers dinner.  Yikes!


We accommodated everyone by pushing all our furniture in our family room to the sides and bringing in tables and chairs conveniently stolen borrowed from our church (we did give them back, I promise).  Two other moms who are a-maz-ing cooks (amazing to the point that I have to really try to not feel completely jealous/insecure around them in the kitchen) did the majority of the cooking.  I made a bunch of decorations earlier in the week, and then I (with help from my mom and another nice mom who volunteered at the last minute) decorated and hosted.  My husband hauled tables and chairs like a maniac, vacuumed and held down the fort with the younger kids and their soccer games that afternoon while I worked feverishly all day to prepare.  The younger kids all pitched in, too, working like house elves.  Literally, see?

Hey, even House Elves need a break.  S.P.E.W., unite :) !

House elves, because their Homecoming had a Harry Potter theme.

Is that not the coolest Homecoming Week theme ever!!?!  

Anyway, in homage of Harry Potter, we served the guests butterbeer as they were arriving and taking pictures.  It was pretty good, by the way.  Fairly close to the stuff we drank at Harry Potter World last February.

About a half-hour before we were due to start, I was worriedly mulling over what a fool I am for taking on projects like this when I seem to have enough to do just keeping clean underwear in people's drawers.

But half-way through the evening, I got one of those happy, "this was worth the sacrifice" kind of satisfying feelings.  Having 35 teenagers in our home was a delight, our carpet remained unscathed despite serving sparkling grape juice (don't quite know why I approved that idea :) ) and I think it'll be something they will all remember for a long, long time.

Anybody else bitten off more than you can chew lately, but loved every minute of it like I did :)?  

Friday, October 7, 2011

Great Deal at Graveyard Mall

I just wanted to pass along a great deal at Graveyard Mall.  They deal in closeout merchandise, and I have had great success buying light fixtures and sunglasses from them (random, I know).

Anyway, today's Daily Deal is 11 Webkinz for $29.99 plus shipping (mine was $6.99).  Granted, Webkinz have been out for a few years, but my kids and a bunch of their friends still like them.  And, at less than $3.00 a kinz, that is a good deal :).

Here is the link:

Deals like this go very quickly, so act fast!  I am saving mine for thrifty birthday presents for my kids' friends and rewards for my kids.  Let me know if you get some, too.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

 MMMMMmmmmmmmmmm.  Pumpkin bread.

This is my favorite recipe for Pumpkin Bread and is guaranteed to make your house smell Autumnal and Amazing (what is it with me and alliteration?  Enough already! :) ).

The original calls for raisins, and I love raisins--just not in most baked goods.  They get all slimy and bloated.  Not very appetizing, see?

But substituting chocolate chips is genius, if I do say so myself, even though I can't take credit for the idea of pairing pumpkin and chocolate.  When I first moved to Utah to begin college, my sister would come visit every so often.  When she did, she would go get some groceries for me at a local grocery store called Smith's (sadly no relation).  They made something delicious there called pumpkin chocolate chip cookies--I realize that probably they have been around for ever, but to me, these cookies were a revelation.  If you haven't tried them, I recommend them highly.

So anyway, onto the recipe, which comes by way of Deb Drake from The San Francisco West Portal Lutheran Church's cookbook.  Church cookbooks are the best!  It was my maternal Grandmother's church, and she gave my mom, my sister and me each a copy for Christmas the year before she passed away.  Cooking from it makes me happy, remembering her.

Okay, really--onto the recipe.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

2/3 cup butter
2 2/3 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 lb. pumpkin (I use canned usually, but it also works with one you bake and puree yourself, too)
2/3 cups water
3 1/2 cups any mix of white and whole wheat flour (I use finely ground white whole wheat, but anything works)
1/2 tsp ground cloves (the original recipe called for more cloves and less cinnamon, but I like this mix better)
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cardamon (cheapest source is from a whole foods bulk spice aisle--don't pay $10+ a bottle at the grocery store!)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (or 9 ounces roughly chopped chocolate)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Generously grease two 9" x 5" loaf pans.  Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  beat in eggs until well blended.  Stir in pumpkin and water, mixing well.  Sift dry ingredients (or just fluff them around in the bowl after you dump them on top of the wet ingredients like I do :) ).  Stir into pumpkin. just until blended.  Add chocolate chips or chocolate.  Divide into pans.  Bake for approximately 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out cleanish with no batter stuck to it.  I usually just poke the center gently with my finger and when it is solid instead of mushy when you push it, it is done.

Enjoy my favorite taste (ok, one of 'em) of Autumn.

I'm linking up to: Modern Country Style's Fall in Love link party.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Kitchen Improvement #1: Craigslisted West Elm Island

Remember my post about my kitchen and my hopes for making it a little happier and more awesome?

I've been taking some baby steps, starting with purchasing this West Elm island from someone off Craigslist.  It originally listed for $1,400 retail, and I scored it for only $350 despite because of my killer bargaining skills.

Seriously, my attempt at bargaining was pitiful.  I asked the seller, "Would you consider taking more?"  He paused a moment, as both of us considered my novel approach to haggling, and said, "Sure, I'd take more."  I started laughing, and so did he.  I confessed that my confused question demonstrated the full extent of my bargaining skills.  He offered to take $50 off the price.  I blushingly agreed.  Embarrassing.

Embarrassing moments aside, it is a really pretty piece, and it nicely stores all my baking stuff, as well as providing a little space for displaying some fun things.

This recipe book, "Joys of Jello" was my husband's Grandmother's from the 1960's.  There are all sorts of scary recipes in there!  But it helps me stay true to my time in Utah.  Go green jello!

A few of my favorite aprons.

Clock from IKEA.

Here's a closer view of the shelves underneath, with my favorite pretty cookbooks (my cookbook folders are in the right-hand cupboard), some tea towels I use to line bread baskets and cover rising dough with, vintage rolling pins and a pitcher in my favorite blue.

It's a happy spot in my kitchen visually, and has helped things function better, too.  That's fundamentals and fripperies in a nutshell, right there :).

Have any of you found something lately that improves your kitchen's form and function?  I'd love to hear about it.

Linking up to: Not Just a Housewife and Miss Mustard Seed: Furniture Feature Friday