October 31, 2011

Retro Kitchen Renovation

So, we're in a tough spot. Well, in a decor kind of way.

Our house came with the original kitchen. People tend to think its "cute" and has a lot of character. To be totally honest, it is one of the reasons we bought the house - no one had done a bad ikea remodel (like a lot of the "flipped" houses in our neighborhood).

But, I hate the tile. Hate it.

Along with it being chipped, dingy, and with disgusting grout, the edge lip annoys me, the colors leave very little room for changing up the decor, and the windmills and dutch boys are so cheesy they should come with crackers.

We've come to the conclusion that we will most likely NOT be remodeling this house. We should really close off one entrance, cut a hole in two of the walls and open it up. Then we could get a full sized dishwasher and way more counter space - plus, maybe there would be a fridge we could get other than the one we have (it is literally the only stainless steel fridge that is short enough in the whole universe).

We'll stay here until the market goes back up (maybe 50 years?) and then hopefully find something with three bedrooms (two flats of course, we love living with bunni (grandma) upstairs)).

So, I'm trying to convince my husband to let me re-do the surface of the kitchen. Oh, and we're now on one income (yay), so we have to do it CHEAP.

To do?

* Re-do the counters
* Sand and paint the cabinets
* New hardware (including hinges) for the cabinets
* New sink and faucet
* New flooring

With a budget of about 1,000 bucks (like, 1,000 bucks MAX), this is what I think we could do. A good bit will come from Lowes Gift Cards, so it must come from there as well :)

This sink for $199
It is really the only one from lowes that is cast iron and will fit in the spot we have...but I worry that two small basins will make washing cookie sheets difficult. Will it?

With this counter top (from ikea) $200
I mostly see undercounter sinks with pics of this the best way to do it?

This faucet $108
White Tile Backsplash going all the way to the cabinets, not stopping halfway. $40 (at .33 cents a tile, its a bargain...but I have no idea how much the materials cost.
Butcher Block
(though no where near as fancy as this one, but you get the picture).

Then I truly would love to tear down the tile on the wall that the stove lives on and just re-sheetrock and paint. But, not sure how possible that will be. Tim thinks it will be a huge job...We're going to take down the backsplash tile first and see how that goes.

Now that I have this all down I can get final approval :)

I'm in the Room for Color Contest!

When you get a chance, take a look at my entry to the "Room for Color" contest on Apartment Therapy. I entered a week ago and when I never heard back I assumed I didn't make the cut.

But, this morning I woke up to an email and I'm in!

Go to MY ENTRY and once you sign in/sign up on apartment therapy (they never spam me - so its not a problem signing up), you can vote for my entry :)

October 28, 2011

What to do with Vegis that need to be eaten

Yesterday Bubbs took the garbage to the curb with T. This makes T VERY happy.

Bubbs was freaked out because the cans were only half full and they are usually overflowing.

Um - our new money, thus food diet? Means way less waste. A plus we hadn't considered.

One thing we're wasting much less of is food. If we got in the mood, we would buy something, eat it, and the leftovers would sit in the fridge until I tossed them. Now, with our new fancy budget, we're buying WAY more produce with way less packaging, and we're eating what's the in the fridge rather than stopping at the store to buy what tickles our fancy.

So, I came home from my weekend long trip and saw that the boys had left all the steamed broccoli and rice (boiled in homemade chicken stock) to die in the fridge. Rice is pretty gross on day two, and on day 3 1/2 it is disgusting, hard, and crunch.

So, I looked up a recipe for Fried Rice, and got to work.

This is another recipe, like the quinoa patties, that you can basically throw ANYTHING into and it will be awesome. I've made it twice now and we're calling it "clean out the refrigerator fried rice."

Click over for the exact recipe (above), but what I did was:

1) Crack 2 eggs and beat them.

2) Then put them in a pan with oil over high heat.

3) Cook them and break them up (letting them get brown), then add your vegis, meat and rice.

4) One time I used (all of these chopped super duper small) carrot, celery, left over steamed broccoli, and left over roasted chicken (I would say about a 1/2 cup each vegi and meat, and a cup and a half of rice - but last night my ratios were way different and it was still amazing).

Last night I used carrot, chard, left over steamed broccoli, and onion. Plus I added some leftover instant brown rice from Trader Joe's and left over white rice.

Anyway, let them all cook up on high heat for about 5 minutes.

Mix together four tblsp. water and four tblsp. soy sauce (we use low sodium). Pour that in and let cook for another five.

T LOVES THIS. And...he didn't even violently spit out the chard (like he usually does when I try to hide it in something).

And it cleans our the fridge :)

October 25, 2011

Navy Blue Dining Room

I just entered my dining room in the Apartment Therapy "Room for Color" contest.

As soon as I pressed send, I checked the other entries and a room showed up in the EXACT same blue and color scheme! Plus, it was much prettier than mine - actually gave me some great inspiration!

As soon as my entry gets accepted, I'll post the link here so you can vote!

October 22, 2011

What happens when mama is away?

I'm working away from home this weekend.

The longest I've been without my boys.

Bubbs keeps emailing me pics.

Like this one
2011-10-21 10.35.22
sent at naptime yesterday.

Or this one
2011-10-21 15.10.52
Subject line: yelped most scenic bottle spot

I laughed inappropriately in a meeting when I saw this awesome face.

This one actually made me cry this morning because I miss my boy so much
2011-10-22 06.59.21
naked bootie breakfast

I thought I'd get a full night's sleep this morning because of no interruptions, no teething, no mama mama! at 5:45, but instead I tossed and turned all night long.

How your home feels

We had friends over the other night. They popped in to avoid commute traffic (they live in the burbs and we live in the city). I had just put a dinner of corn bread, beans and squash in the oven, so we had them sit down with us.

Or rather, eat between moments of chasing babies - their munchkin is a month older than T.

When they walked in, my friend said, "your house always feels amazing. You know how you walk into some people's houses and they can be cold or just 'uh'. I always love walking into your house."

I think I followed up with, "well, it could be the smell of cornbread baking" to deflect the compliment (need to work on that).

This is one of the biggest compliments someone could give.

In our Marriage Contract (which is framed and hung in the house), we promised to always have a home that was open to family and friends and to maintain a gathering place. This was important to both of us.

It makes me really happy that people feel at home and welcome in our house.

Maybe it was the cornbread OR maybe it was that we really like these friends and wanted to see them OR maybe it was the furniture arrangement...who knows. But, I like it, whatever it was.

October 21, 2011

Taking better photographs

We have a fairly nice camera (more than a point and shoot). But not super fancy.

I need to learn how to use it, but as I'm reading up on taking better pictures, I keep seeing photos of professional lighting set ups and aluminum foil reflectors...

I try not to use my flash and use the aperture setting on the camera (I think this means allow a lot of light in?)...and I take a TON of pictures.

Any other tips? Especially for food...

October 18, 2011


I have:

A drool worthy chicken in the oven.

A baby who missed nap at noon and fell asleep at 4:30 (it is 6 now and he's snoozing soundly).

A clean house.

A husband with just the right interview lined up.

A work trip this weekend that will make me miss my boys, but will allow me to see long lost friends.

A Florida vacation scheduled for December.

At this moment, I'm pretty darned happy.

October 17, 2011

The Yellow Paint that Never Happened.

My bumble bee yellow paint never happened.

We started it, but apparently yellow paint just won't go on evenly (this is after three coats) because it is transparent (or something).

We had extra boring blue grey (that I really do dislike) from the living room, so the rumpus room got painted boring old blue grey (steel lake, I think).

I suppose I'll post pictures eventually, but maybe just of the cool driftwood shelf my bubbs made. Crazy busy week at work, so posting may be light.

October 14, 2011

Making a Raised Bed out of Free Scrap Wood

Rather than trolling craigslist for stuff to buy, I watch for free stuff now. There was a posting for free redwood lumber, so I sent Bubbs over to pick some up.

He only came back with two pieces, but he really helped the backyard!

This is our one "unbricked" section of patio:

The dirt overflows and when you water and makes a huge mess!

So, in about 2 hours yesterday, with a saw and some screws, Bubbs made me a raised bed!

Should I paint it to add to the colorful yard or leave it shabby chic?

Other ideas?

Quinoa Cakes - and how to hide vegis in amazing deliciousness

In the beginning of August, I got hypnotized.

I swear, before I got pregnant, I was NOT a hippy. Had you asked me two years ago if I EVER thought I would see a hypnotist, I would have laughed in your face.

As soon as that baby was inside me though, I got freakishly concerned about chemicals, organic foods, and my mental state affecting his little development. I knew that if one day he ended up a bad person, I would blame the fact that I ate strawberries with chemicals on them while he was in utero.

Anyway. On T's first birthday, I realized that my time was up. The other moms had lost their baby weight. Moms of toddlers at the park didn't have the triple chin anymore and they certainly didn't have thigh sized upper arms like me. I had told myself that I would lose the weight after I finished breastfeeding, then that I would lose it by his first birthday.

It just didn't happen.

I had gotten to a point where I felt ugly, my clothes didn't fit, and I was cranky because I didn't feel like myself.

Hypnotism had worked for Bubbs when he had a small tic that he didn't like, so I decided to try it myself. I yelped, "hypnotherapist and weight loss" and chose the top name.

After two sessions my behavior has really changed. I've stopped eating grown man sized meals, stopped pulling over for snacks on long car rides, and started exercising regularly. The hypnosis just changed the song the little birdie on my shoulder was singing. It went from "you don't have time to work out" and "this is a treat, you deserve it" to: "you have time and it makes you feel good" and "one treat leads to others, so have a bite and move along."

I immediately lost about five pounds (admittedly not doing the homework she gave me - I need hypnosis to make me do the homework). I noticed it in my face and that was huge inspiration to keep going.

Since Bubbs and I have cut our restaurant budget back from a LOT a month to zero, at all, ever, I have lost another five pounds. I think restaurant portions are part of the problem, but also, I would want the restaurant experience and eat even if I wasn't hungry. Now, we eat much lighter.

So, the point of all that was to say that I am finally only 10 pounds heavier than I was pre-baby. Since I'm finding great healthy reciepes that are helping this along, I thought I'd share.

I have to share an AMAZING recipe that is simple, delicious, and a healthy protein bomb.

I found it off Epicurious, Little Quinoa Patties, but I'm going to put my recipe here, since it varies quite a bit from the original.

Clean out the Refrigerator Protein Bomb Patties

You can seriously use practically ANYTHING in the fridge and I think these would be good.
Put 2 cups of quinoa (I used red and white mixed) in 3 cups of water with one bullion cube. Let it come to a boil, then cover, turn down the heat to simmer, and remove from heat when all the water is gone and the quinoa are curly (about 20 minutes). It needs to cool a bit. You could also use left over quinoa from dinner the night before.

Then, mix together:
4 eggs
pinch of salt
1 onions chopped super tiny
1/2 cup of shredded organic mozerella (or sub any kind of cheese you want)
1/4 cup of shredded paremsan
4 garlic cloves chopped tiny
2/3 cup of bread crumbs
1/2 cup last night's swiss chard chopped tiny (or sub any minced other vegi you want)
1/2 carrot grated (or any other vegi you want)

You can add more water or bread crumbs to get patties that stick together. Form them into patties (whatever size you like) and pack them fairly tightly. If they aren't sticking well add more egg or breadcrumbs till they are good and firm and sticky.

Heat up a good layer of oil in a pan.

Drop the patties in carefully. When you can see the edges a little brown, flip them and smush them slightly with the spatula. Let them cook for a couple more minutes, then remove and place on a paper towel to drain.

The epicurious recipe talks about possible dips, or using them as vegi-burgers (we are SO trying this at some point), but we couldn't stop just popping them in our mouth. There wasn't time to try dipping them, they were gone too quickly.

(yes, I use a cheese slicer as my mini spatula - it works great!)

Little T LOVED them. I made him tiny versions that he could hold himself and eat. They held up well in a backpack on an evening trip to the beach too.

We have a ton of the mix left over, so we're having it for lunch again today!

I'd never had quinoa in any form other than just boiled as a side.

Are there other ways to use it?

October 13, 2011

Tofu and how to eat it if you hate it

I have to say it.

I'm not a huge fan of tofu. I think I was overloaded as a kid and it just rubs me the wrong way.

But, tofu is a cheap source of protein, so we're working on it.

(I do LOVE LOVE LOVE Tofuyou's products. Their tofu is firm and delicious, plus their tofu balls, spicy wraps, and lemon honey strips are to die for).

My menu planning this week didn't go as planned. The weather turned beautiful, so my soup plans for yesterday were traded for a more light fare.

We had purchased a couple things of Tofu from Trader Joe's last week (no firmness indicator on the packaging - it is medium, in case you are wondering).

I sliced it into long rectangles and layered it like this:
(from bottom to top)
1) cutting board
2) paper towels
3) tofu (single layer)
4) paper towels
5) HUGE heavy wooden cutting board

I left it like this for about 10 minutes to press most of the liquid out.

Then I chopped it into little squares and put on a baking sheet with parchment paper (bleach free).

This was the first time T has every "helped" me cook. He yelled, "TOFU" every time he put a piece from the cutting board to the baking sheet. Then he would eat a piece (the kid really likes cold raw tofu - yuck).

Into a pre-heated 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes, flipping a couple times, and we had crunchy hot tofu squares!

I tossed them in some peanut sauce, cooked up some frozen thai pot stickers, and sauteed a bunch of swiss chard and we had a happy family dinner.

October 12, 2011

bumble bee yellow

When I get home from work today, my rumpus room is going to be this color.

Lame! Just got a call from my house husband that the color is going on really unevenly - no matter how many coats! The room was primed just fine! The paint store said that it is just a problem with the color. We're going to paint it the same boring grey blue of the living room. Probably more safe, but I'm bummed.

October 11, 2011

More montessori baby room updates!

We've made some updates to T's room that are working out beautifully!

1) Stuffed animal storage: If it doesn't fit shoved in here, it doesn't stay in our house. Plus, they are the perfect height for T to grab them and talk to them then put them back!

2) Child Safe Frames - Family pictures: See the frames to the left of the animals? Turner has been obsessed with my new family pics and points and says "see it" which then requires me to pick him up and show him the pictures. I thought he needed his own.

We took some ikea frames and heavy duty sticky velcro and stuck them to the walls (the velcro is so we can change out the pictures). It is strong enough that he can't pull them down and hurt the frames or himself, and you can't see it!

3) Glass Dog Nightlight: How fantastic is this dog? How much more fantastic is he when I tell you that he lights up? This is T's nightlight. We found him at an estate sale. I love him. I am terrified that since he's like 50 years old he's going to explode, but Bubbs swears he's safe. The light he gives off is gloriously mellow low light.

4) 3D Fisherman Painting: This painting. Well. It really speaks for itself.

5) Ikea globe light: T's room doesn't come with an overhead light, so we had to find lamps. This one is fantastic. The light is really pretty and its bright enough for stories when it is dark out.

His room is one of my favorite rooms in the house. Not only because it is calming compared to the rest of the chaos, but because we get great time together in there...and, everything is safe.

Rusty Frigidaire Stainless Steel Refrigerator

Updated: 10/12/11
My husband just called me to let me know the good news!

Frigidaire IS standing by their products.

He got a call from someone in customer service and they are going to make this problem better for us. Thank goodness!

We loved our new appliances when we got them.

Frigidaire Refrigerator

Frigidaire Gas Stove and Oven

After tons of research on brands to buy (Consumer Reports, Lowes reviews, etc), we decided on Frigidaire. We ordered one I loved, but when it arrived it was too tall for our vintage kitchen! We had to special order one from Lowes and it took a week a get here (keeping our baby's milk in a cooler while we waited). It is the Frigidaire 14.8 CF top freezer refrigerator in stainless steel (energy star) Item #: 358746 | Model #: FFHT1513LS (granted, the model number in our fridge is different than this one, but this is what we ordered from Lowes).

Since we went stainless steel on the fridge, we bought a tiny 18" dishwasher and had it installed (we had a handyman and plumber come and cut the cabinet and install it).

The price to install it was hefty, but well worth the time and energy of doing dishes by hand (and the counter space of drying them). I wanted a full sized dishwasher, but we would really be compromising the vintage kitchen, so we went 18" and it isn't too bad.

About three months ago we started noticing rust spots on our fridge. Almost as if the "brushed" areas were rusting between them. We had just moved everything in the office around and couldn't find the receipt from Lowes, so we put it off until now (3 months later).

We called Lowes and they said to put "touch up paint" on it. I scoffed at the idea. We just bought an APPLIANCE and it is faulty! When I questioned the quality of the product (six months old and rusting?) they said it was because I live in San Francisco and it is foggy here. Seriously? It's not like I bought it in Arizona and had it shipped, I bought it at the San Francisco store!

They directed us to call Frigidaire. I put my husband on it, since I had to work, and he called only to find out that they were not willing to do anything because rust is not covered in the warranty.

We're not giving up and their customer service road blocks are SO not going to work on us.

If you are considering buying a Frigidaire refrigerator, don't. Even if it IS just that ours is a lemon, their customer service is so bad, I wouldn't trust any other problems to get fixed.

I'll let you know what happens, but I have to do what I can so other people don't make the same mistake! My question now is what brands won't have this problem?

Updated: 10/12/11
My husband just called me to let me know the good news!

Frigidaire IS standing by their products.

He got a call from someone in customer service and they are going to make this problem better for us. Thank goodness!

This week's Menu

Our organic cheap food adventure continues and I have to say that I'm highly disappointed in most of the recipes I used last week. After promising myself that I wouldn't use any recipes that weren't in epicuirous (because I get to read REAL people reviews and tips in the reviews section), after many failed or just not so good meals last week, I did it one final time. While the NY times is great for a lot of things, I was highly disappointed with the white bean and kale dish I tried to make yesterday. I saved it by turning it into mexican flavored beans (cumin, garlic powder, salt and canned black beans). We'll eat it all week long for lunch.

We had spontaneous company last night (SO FUN) and we ate the beans atop corn bread along with a roasted butternut squash with lots o butter.

We bought $100 worth of groceries on Sunday. We started at our normal farmer's market, but after buying chard and pasture fed eggs, we quickly realized that our local produce market is half the price for organic, so we left. This made me a little sad because I love going to the farmer's market, but with no budget for homemade waffles with nuttella, or our favorite afghani spreads, it is just no fun. We bought our dairy at trader joe's and headed to the produce market for more $1.89 pears, organic local cheeses, and vegis.

This is our food plan for the week:

Sunday: leftover pizza from our dinner party and salad

Monday: White bean and kale casserole black beans and cornbread with roasted butternut squash

Tuesday: quinoa cakes. Not sure what I'm going to do with them...Burgers? Sauce? Caramelized onions and mushrooms? Any ideas?

Wednesday: Lentil Soup with small frozen baguettes from trader joes (that heat up beautifully in the oven for 4 minutes)

Thursday: garbanzo beans and chard (maybe add tofu)

Friday: butternut squash moroccan

Saturday: Pizza

October 10, 2011

Baby Kisses

You wouldn't know it from this picture, but tonight Turner fell in love. Serious love. There were gentle kisses, seductive cavemen dances, and no hitting. At all. My bruiser turned gentle.

They dined on squash and cheese, SHARED toys, and took a bath together. I've never seen my boy so gentle and loving. This is the best picture we got.

Hanging Family Portaits

This might seem really strange.  But I sort of think hanging family portraits looks cheesy.

I love my family and I LOVE our family portraits, but I couldn't figure out where to put them in our house.

Since we are all in our house, why would WE need pictures of OURSELVES to look at?

So, I finally figured out a non-offensive, non-cheesy way to deal with it, and I'm pretty happy with it.

They don't shout "Here we are!  Aren't WE pretty!" like a big over-the-fireplace portrait would.

They are a little high because the boy likes to pull things off the wall.  He loves them and about once an hour goes over and points up and says, "TT, see!?"

And I think it looks pretty good.  I tried hanging the 8 x 10s without matting, but it looked horrible, so I chose some 5 x 7s and used the matting in the 8 x 10 frames, and I like it. 

October 9, 2011

A Week of Budget Eating with Lots of Greens

The weather is crisp and cool and perfectly fall, so everything has a little fall flavor.

We eat the same breakfast almost every day, oatmeal, and lunch is usually scrounged snacks so I'll just be sharing dinners.

Monday: Baked Polenta with Cheese and Swiss Chard.  T LOVED this.   Even the chard.  It was very rich and creamy.  Had we made our own polenta (I used the tube kind), this would have also been VERY cheap.  It was much mushier (almost liquid) than I thought it would be so it was a soupy dish for bowls rather than a solid casserole.

Tuesday: Leftover Polenta and home made whole wheat biscuits.  The polenta was great on day two, but the biscuits were only good covered in butter and honey.  I was trying to be healthy, but I think next time I'm just going to do it with white flour and consider it a treat.

Wednesday: Collard Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuits.  I subbed the sausage for mushrooms and used homemade chicken stock.  This was okay.  It was very very rich.  It might have been my chicken stock, but I'm not totally sure.

(someone learned to load and unload the dishwasher this week)

Thursday: Same cobbler from the night before, but added mixed rice (from TJ's), brown, red, and white, which killed some of the richness and added a great crunchy texture.  Next time we'll layer the rice under the collards and maybe use half water and half stock.

Friday: Roasted a Chicken.  This was heavenly.  Amazingly heavenly.  Perfect, beautiful, amazing, best chicken ever.  So simple, done in an hour, and genius.  The chicken was the happy farm free bug eating chicken we bought at our produce market.  Tricks: let the chicken get down to room temperature by leaving it out for two hours.  Use more salt than you think you need.

Saturday: We had company over so we made Homemade pizzas.  I made this overnight dough.  The jury is still out as to whether it was worth the work and the mess.

It took a lot of planning (started it at 2pm the day before) and a lot of flour all over the kitchen.

We made three kinds of pizza (spinach, mozzarella, garlic, tomato shown here)

1) hot sausage (local happy pigs), mushrooms, mozerella, parmesan
2) mozerella, paremesan, heirloom tomato, spinach, roasted garlic
3) green olive and garlic, mozerella

They were all good, but the best was the sauage.  The others were kind of flavorless.  In an effort to save money I didn't buy the good cheese or the smoked mozerella like I usually buy for pizza.  It was just lacking a little something.

I made a salad with romaine lettuce hearts, pears, blue cheese, heirloom tomatoes and a killer balsamic vinagrette (balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, dijon mustard and olive oil).

For dessert, I tried to make an olive oil pumpkin bread, but it was a tremendous I took the last few pears we had, cored them, peeled them

and covered them in butter, brown sugar, and apple juice,

then baked on 400 for an hour.  They were fantastic.  Especially with vanilla ice cream on top :)

Overall, it was a very successful week.  I made double of almost everything and we froze half of it.
Right now the chicken bones and dark meat is boiling into a stock for some of this week's recipes.

Just got back from the farmer's market and Trader Joe's buying groceries for this week...all new recipes to try!