Monday, March 28, 2011

thrifty nifty!

While out shopping this weekend, we hit a thrift store in my husband's hometown. We got into thrift stores last year while looking for glass bowls and vases for the cookie bar we had at our wedding reception. We've been randomly hitting them up ever since. Most of the time we don't buy anything, but sometimes... we have a major SCORE! This weekend was totally a SCORE weekend. While strolling around the store we stumbled across a storage chest. It caught my attention because we are seriously in need of storage. I opened it up and then I smelled it. Cedar. Dear God in heaven, I LURVE the smell of cedar. Seriously, how useful and utterly timeless is a cedar chest? The price was right and we packed that baby up in the backseat of the car and brought it home! I did a little searching on the interwebs and a chest similar to what we've got can run about $500. The chest along with 8 gorgeous and completely unused crystal champagne flutes ran us $115! SCORE! It has a few scratches, so after we move this summer, we'll need to sand it and refinish it. Not a big deal at all, considering the price!

 can you smell the cedar???
even the dog seemed to enjoy it's presence?
For now, it'll serve as storage for our extra bedding that gets used when we bust out the air mattresses in the sunroom  for guests or have a college student crashing on our couch. Yay for storage! 

 On our drive back to the city today, the hubs and I had a few laughs while speculating how big the paperwhites might have grown while we were gone for 3 days. Maybe we'd see roots peeking out from under the front door when we came up the stairs or perhaps they'd be sitting on our couch smoking cigs and demanding lunch. Luckily neither of those things happened, but O-M-G... they grew several more inches! 
need I remind you what they looked like six days ago?
and nine days before that?

Seriously, y'all... I've never seen ANYTHING grow this fast! They really need to flower already because I'm convinced that a flower will make them a little less creepy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

the plants are starting to scare me...

Last weekend I put together the bowl of paper white bulbs that I bought for my husband. You can see how I did that here. I knew it took about a month to grow tall and start blooming, but seriously... these things are growing so fast that they are starting to creep me out.

Last weekend, they looked like this:
and today, nine days later, they look like this:

it's like every time I look at them, they are growing larger and larger. The roots are getting longer by the minute, they remind me of jelly fish or squid or something else super creepy.

We keep joking about how we're going to wake up in the middle of the night and these things are going to be standing at the foot of the bed staring at us.  It's crazy how fast they're changing, but that really just means that the flowers will bloom sooner rather than later. I can't wait to try these again when winter rolls around again (god help us) it will be nice to have fresh growing flowers in the house in January.
In other news, I whipped up the cleaners I previously mentioned here. Much to my husband's chagrin, the cleaner not only worked well but smelled GREAT! We spent hours scrubbing baseboards, shelves, moldings, window sills, etc. and I put together a carpet deodorizer with the lavender oil and some baking soda and sprinkled it over the carpet. After 15 minutes, I vacuumed it up and the house smelled fabulous! I haven't had a chance to make the scrub for the bathroom shower tiles (for shame!) but I have no doubt it'll work well, provided the plants don't take over the place and hold me hostage.

love a man that can cook

It is no secret that I love to cook. But honestly, sometimes I just want to sit on the couch and let dinner magically arrive in front of me without having to lift a finger.
The hubs and I have started a new cooking challenge... every other weekend we take turns and pick a dish we've never made before and cook it, in hopes of finding new easy recipes to add to our normal rotation of meals or something for special occasions or even guests. Two weeks ago I made tandoori chicken, which you can read about here. This past weekend was the man's turn. He waffled about with several ideas and finally landed on a dish from one of the Rick Bayless cookbooks I bought for him a few years back (which has only gotten used twice... just sayin'). I have a bit of an obsession with Rick Bayless, I admit. I'd pretty much eat anything he cooked and put in front of me, which is saying a lot because I'm a picky eater! But this man... this man is MAGICAL in that super dorky/slightly creepy white boy that knows more about Mexican culture/customs than anyone on this planet kind of way. Needless to say, I was pretty pumped for dinner and luckily, I was not disappointed!

Jalapeno-Baked Fish With Roasted Tomatoes and Potatoes

• 4 medium (1 pound) red skin boiling or Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
• 1 tablespoon jalapeño chili pepper pickling juice
• 2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted), including their juice
• 1 large clove garlic, cut in half (we love garlic and use 3 cloves)
• 1/3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnish
• 1/4 cup sliced, pickled jalapeño chili peppers
• 1 tablespoon jalapeño chili pepper pickling juice
• 4 to (1 to 1/1/4 pounds) skinless fish fillets, such as mahi-mahi, halibut, grouper, snapper, black cod or striped bass, preferably 3/4 to 1 inch thick, patted dry (we used mahi-mahi, from the freezer section)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a microwaveable 8-by-8-inch baking dish, toss together the potatoes, 1 tablespoon of the oil and the salt, and spread out evenly. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and poke a few holes in the top. Microwave on high (100 percent power) until the potatoes are nearly tender, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, combine the tomatoes with their juice, garlic, cilantro, jalapeno chili peppers and the tablespoon of pickling juice. Process with a few quick pulses until well combined but not quite smooth.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil and quickly sear the fillets on both sides, about 15 seconds per side. Remove from the hot pan and set aside.
When the potatoes have finished cooking, place the fish fillets in a single layer over the potatoes. Pour the tomato mixture evenly over the fish and potatoes. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the fish can be flaked easily with a fork.
Divide among individual plates and garnish with cilantro. Serve hot.

Let me just say, YUM! He used mahi-mahi as our protein. It is one of my favorite fish, but I couldn't find any fresh at the local grocery store and ended up picking up frozen fillets at Trader Joe's, and they really worked out great. The real gem of this dish is the salsa. In fact, last night I made the salsa from this recipe and chowed down with a hand full of tortilla chips, it is just that good.
The man raved about how easy and quick it was to prepare and we (us plus our dinner guest) raved about the great flavor, so it was win win! We'll be adding this as a somewhat regular dish in our house. I can see this recipe working great for chicken as well, but since I have a more difficult time getting my husband to want fish for dinner (and I love fish!) we'll probably stick with fish here.  
  the "judge" for our cooking challenge, aka a hungry college student

If you try the recipe, let me know what you think... and if you're not a meat eater, then totally just make the salsa. You'll thank me.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

going green on st. patrick's day

After all, green is the new black, right?

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of making things from scratch. You won't ever catch me buying lasagna from the freezer section of the grocery store or buying canned biscuits. I prefer to make pasta from scratch, roast tomatoes for homemade tomato sauce and homemade buttermilk biscuit are my specialty. I even tried my hand at a container garden last year (mostly unsuccessful, but I have learned from my mistakes) and once the sun comes out in the spring, I will hit the store for some seeds and grow fresh herbs in my window sill again. One day, when we have the yard space, I want my own modest garden. Because fresh home grown produce? YUM! Until then, I will continue to mooch off any friend lucky enough to have a garden and hit the farmers market when it set up shop in the city.
I'm not a fan of preservatives in my food (just to clarify, i do still buy some packaged food, but honestly, it's only a small portion in comparison to the rest of the grocery list)  so it only stands to reason that the next logical step would be ridding the unnatural chemicals from my environment. Honestly, there's nothing worse than spraying the bathroom down with Scrubbing Bubbles and then having to run from the room in order to breath some non-toxic air! A while back my BFF mentioned in one of her blog posts that she was using a vinegar concoction as an all-purpose cleaner. I tossed the idea around, but in the back of my head had doubts because I *HATE* the smell of vingar. Seriously, it takes me back to my childhood when my mother would run vingar through the coffee pot to clean it. The ENTIRE house would smell disgusting and god forbid it was raining outside and I couldn't escape to my swing set! So, I did some further research anc checked out my current obsession (sorry, I'm going to keep referencing because they are simply awesome and consequently, ADORBS!) and they did indeed have a super informative blog about making your own cleaners!   I'm especially looking forward to trying the following (these and many more can be found on the above link!)

Gorgeously Green All-Purpose Spray:

32-ounce plastic spray bottle
2 cups water
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon pure castile soap (peppermint)
3/4 cup hydrogen peroxide
20 drops tea tree oil
20 drops of lavender essential oil

Toilet Bowl Cleaners:

Liquid castile soap (like Dr. Bronner’s)
Baking soda or borax
Scrub with a toilet brush.

Carpet Deodorizer:

Baking soda
10 drops of essential oil (optional)

Mix together then sprinkle generously on carpet, wait 15 minutes and vacuum.

and who knows what else I'll try after that... maybe something from HERE or even HERE! I take great comfort in knowing that the possibilities seem endless!

In addition to finding natural cleaning products, I've been trying to find more natural skin and hair products. It's no secret that since moving from the humid climate of Houston, Texas to the dry and often frigid Chicago, Illinois, I've been on a never-ending search for a product to slather on my skin and give me the moisturized feeling that every girl deserves! I've easily spent hundreds if not a thousand plus on different cleansers, scrubs, moisturizers, lotions etc. etc. in hopes of something that will rid me of dry flaky red skin and soothe the urge to scratch my skin off. I recently came across this site that provides a recipe, instructions and all the scientific mumbo jumbo that supports the oil cleansing method.
Basically, you find the right combonation of oils (castor and sunflower-or EVOO if you like) slather your face in the mixture, massage it into your skin thoroughly. Cover your face with  a hot, wet washcloth until it cools, then wipe away the oil. Rinse the cloth and repeat a few more times.
I know it might seem crazy to slather your face in oil in order to clean it, but honestly? I'm up for the challenge. So bring on the castor oil and let's give it a try! Maybe this will be the end to my search. My skin and my pocket book will be greatful. I'll certainly let y'all know!

For now, that's all I've got in the way of going green. Once I've picked up all the necessary items and given them a try (this weekend) I'll report back. If you have any additional tips or opinons you'd like to add, please let me know! Meanwhile, check out the BFF's blog where in addition to cleaning products, she's been cooking up some lotion and lip balm! Who knows... Maybe she'll feel compelled to pop a sample of lip balm into the mail for me!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

craftastic weekend!

First off all, I took Friday off in order to get into the eye doctor. If you've checked out my 2011 bucket list you'd know this was on my list of things to do this year. I haven't been to the eye doctor in over 6 years (oops) and I've been putting it off  since I moved to Chicago. My eye doctor in Texas was a jerk and totally made the experience horrible, plus the air eye puff thing. HATE! However, I am pleased to report that I had an appointment Friday, loved my doctor (she lives at the end of my block!) and picked out some super sassy frames. strike one off the list!
Now, on to the more interesting points of my post... this weekend was pretty craftastic! I've been working on this cork board for the dining room. I have hundreds of wine corks and I've been tossing around different ideas of how to use the corks. The hubs and i picked up a big backless frame from hobby lobby, a piece of backing and a hot glue gun. It was a huge pain in the behind, I removed and reapplied and even had to troubleshoot but I finally finished it today and the man hung it in the dining room.

Last month, as my monthly present to my husband, I bought him Paper White Bulbs. You might be saying "yeah, sure... you bought the bulbs for HIM" but seriously, the man loves plants. He'd turn this place into a jungle if I let him. Oddly, you think this would lead him to buy more flowers for me... but alas that is not so. Anyway, I bought paper white bulbs, which can grow in water and in doors. From what I've read, people use them during winter to get a spring-ish feel but I figured I'd  get them and try them now anyway. I put together the bulbs as instructed and here's what it looks like now:

hopefully in just a few weeks, it'll look more like this:
 photo from

Lastly, I've been itching for a custom lamp ever since I fell in love with bright colorful lampshade I saw in a local store (and maybe also a little because I hate the lamp we have in the living room, it came with the hubs and isn't my style). I read a lot about recovering lamp shades and making custom lamp shades and thought I'd give it a try. I bought some fabric a few weeks back, but put off the project. 
Today, the man ran to target to get a few things for the house and came back with this:

It's just a plain $15 cheap lamp from Target. Oddly enough, I saw the same lamp on Friday when I was there but decided not to buy it since I was already picking up the panini pan from my last post. Luckily, it caught his eye as well and he brought it home for me to "practice" making a custom lamp. Score!
I found my fabric, spray adhesive and hot glue gun and whined enough that Rodney gave in and ironed my fabric for me (I can't iron to save my life. seriously. can't.) and I got to work. A few minutes of work and VIOLA!
there's my colorful, fun custom lamp! and here it is in it's happy home:

I have to say that I love it. It has inspired some redecorating in the living room. I hope to take on throw pillows for the living room. Hopefully I can find some great fabric in the blue/greens and beige tones that I can tie into the lamp and we'll store the throw pillows that are currently on the couch. Of course this means I either have to 1. learn to sew or 2. bribe a friend who sews. For now I'm thinking the latter is the way to go.  Stay Tuned!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I'm not above sharing

I'm currently trying to come up with a great way to organize all my favorite tried a true recipes. I don't use recipes too often but there are some cases when proportions have to be just right, such as baked goods or I simply need a reminder because it's not something I make to often. So, while I try and figure out the best way to put this together, box? book? who knows!, I decided to add a Recipe Tab with a few of my favorites. I'll be adding to it (and hopefully finding a better way to organize it) from time to time, so check it out.

We're making it a mission to try at least two new recipes a month at home, so hopefully I'll have more yummtastic things to share! And since the man has given me the go ahead to buy wonderful contraption:
image from

which, btw, I've been dying to get for months. I already know several ways in which we can use it (grilled cheese, quesadillas, naan, bacon) but rest assured I'll be trying to think of other wonderful things to cook to prove it does deserve a place in our already overcrowded kitchen. Have an idea? send it my way!

Sunday, March 6, 2011


One of my favorite hobbies these days is cooking. I LOVE LOVE LOVE to cook (and to eat, obviously!). However, I must admit that I am not terribly adventurous when it comes to cooking. I can make some mean southern food, I can rock the basic meat and potatoes and veg and if you want italian food? I gotcha there. but honestly, I don't branch out much from there. I never really learned to make mexican food, because I grew up in Texas and there's a mexican joint on every corner. And honestly, it was cheaper to just buy a taco from the neighborhood place than buy all the ingredients yourself. The thing is, while I love Thai, Indian, Greek, Mediterranean, Spanish food etc etc, I'm just not familiar enough with the ingredients to make dishes myself.
Part of my 2011 bucket list is to make dishes from different cuisines that I don't normally cook and find 3 keepers.
Last night was attempt #1. I made the indian dish Tandoori chicken with white rice and homemade naan.
I admit that i sorta cheated a little, in that I bought a Tandoori spice blend from The Spice House instead of all the individual spices that blend together to make the dish, but despite that, it was still something new I'd never attempted to cook. I am pleased to report that the dish was a huge success! The hubs and a friend both gave it a 7.5 and I gave it a solid 7. We all agreed that the dish could use a little more heat (as it spice). Now that I know that this is a dish that is here to stay, I can justify buying individual spices that made up the blend and can alter the recipe a bit to add a little more heat. I'm pretty excited about this victory and am looking forward to trying additional Indian dishes.
A few photos from last night's table...

Thanks to everyone who sent me messages and FB notes and comments and such regarding the anniversary question. The hubs and I decided on a nice little way to remember the anniversary of our first day, which is today! We plan on cooking up the same dish I made on our first anniversary of dating, Chicken Spaghetti Carbonara, which is freaking rich and luscious and to die for! hopefully I can talk him into a re-shoot of these fine photos from that meal...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Random Questions

To all my married friends, I have a question on how you do things. and to my single friends, I'd like your opinions...

Once you're married... do you still celebrate the anniversary of your first date?

The man and i were discussing this... the anniversary of our first date (03/06/08) is coming up this weekend and we usually do a little something to celebrate. but we're married, so what do we do now?!?!

to me, the anniversary of our first date seems more special. i mean, that's when it all started, right?
i suppose getting married is a pretty big deal too, however if you attended our wedding/one of our "celebrations" you know we didn't go all out and over the top by any means.

obviously, we can celebrate or not however we choose, but i was just curious to find out what y'all think!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


A couple of months ago the man and I were walking through a local neighborhood after meeting some friends for brunch. The neighborhood is filled with unique shops that I love. On this particular visit, we passed a small furniture/home goods type store and as I glanced in the window I was immediately drawn to a glorious colorful lampshade. yes, folks, a LAMPSHADE. We kept on walking (it was COLD! outside) but I never forgot about the lampshade. I loved the lampshade because it was so different and unique. As I sat at home thinking about it, I couldn't help but look around and think, why isn't our place more different and unique? I've always had rules about the things I hang on my walls. No mass produced art hanging on our walls, no pictures that you can find at a big box store. I've enlarged photos from our travels (well, mostly my travels, but hopefully that will change over time) collaged photos of family/ friends/ etc. I love things that are unique to us, things that might create interest and perhaps even start conversations. Something more interesteing than  "Hey, is that big flower by Georgia O'Keefe?"
In my search to find ideas on personalizing your own space, I turned to the internets... because, obviously. I found some great articles on turning boring unfinished furniture from ikea into something super cute and more personal and lavish, which seemed like a good start. However, while catching up on the blog of one of my favorite authors over at I read about some of her own home improvements and followed a link to THIS BLOG with which I have since become obsessed. Kids, I'm talking O-B-S-E-S-S-E-D! I now want to go buy old things so that I can re-paint/stain/cover them. I want to buy paint/primer/spray paint. I want to remodel a bathroom, pick out fixtures and tiles. And if I'm 100% honest here, I want to birth a baby girl so that it can wear a "Little Sister" shirt and Cisco (our dog) can wear a "Big Brother shirt" ala their own baby girl, and family pet. Don't worry though, that birthing urge has passed, but rest assured I'm storing that idea away for later.
Since my obsession began, I've been keeping a list of "projects" that I want to take on and it's growing at a rapid pace. I even added something to my 2011 bucket list! Did I mention that I bought fabric to "re-cover an old lampshade"? Perhaps I should tell you that I do not even own an old lampshade! But maybe one day I will! I've been talking about finding dining chair and recovering then/ re-painting them to go with a new dining table that we have yet to even pick out. (Don't get me started on my recent obsesion with place mats, either. That's a whole other post for another day!)
I'm really not sure if the man is trying to humor me, or maybe he's starting to be on my side, or perhaps has a completely different motivation all together, but he suggested we look up some thrift stores around the city and hit them up this weekend. This whole obsession could truly raise me to domestic godess status... or make me vow to never stray from Ikea again.
Stay Tuned.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

how's married life?

It seems like at least once a week someone asks me "how's married life?" and i never really know how to answer this question. i mean, they aren't asking how I am, or about MY life in general but specifically about my married life. I feel like i should either be exclaiming how wonderful it is and how i can't imagine life any other way, or perhaps lamenting and discussing how hard it is. but instead, what i really feel is, married life is the same as non-married life, except now i have a longer name and an extra ring. nothing has really changed and i can't help but wonder, is it supposed to???
I've always wondered why people were in a hurry to get married. I've heard girls utter "i just can't wait to be mrs. *boys name here*" or "i really just want to be married already!" From my experience thus far, and granted i'm only 6 months into this, there's no sense in rushing because nothing magical or amazing happens. don't get me wrong, i love my husband and wouldn't trade him for anything but life isn't mystically better because we have a marriage license.
Actually, i take that back. there is a big difference where taxes are concerned. i never paid much attention when people talk about the tax benefits of being married. WHOA! i honestly was shocked when we did our taxes. i even felt a little guilty for getting such a major tax break just for being married. single people get screwed where taxes are concerned. so, if all those girls were talking about how the couldn't wait to get married for the tax benefits, then i apologize for judging them. 
anyway, point is, i feel as if my answer is always a let down to those asking. people want to hear some great newlywed story of amazing bliss or difficult adjustments,etc. but the truth is, nothing has really changed... and honestly, i wouldn't have it any other way.