Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Top Secret Project Revealed!

My daughter lives in a utility closet under the stairs.  Yep.  Crazy, I know, and yet it is a pretty cool space according to Cinnamon.  Several years ago the girls really wanted their own rooms.  The problem was not so easy to fix.  We live in a three bedroom house and there was not really an area to carve out for another bedroom.  So we did what came natural:  we ignored the problem and hoped that this was a passing request.  Well, it wasn't.  Paprika's medical needs at the time really pushed us to look for a way to create some space; the want became a need. 

Then I had an idea.  A crazy idea.  Dan was going to be away for the week for work, so as he was getting ready to leave I asked, "Can I just try to create a bedroom while you are gone?"  There was a long pause, so I quickly added the clincher, "As long as it doesn't cost a dime?"  How can you say no to that, and yet there was a crinkle that passed his brow.  Without a pause I continued, "And if you come home and don't like it, I will put it all back, but you're gonna like it!"  Hook....line....and sinker.

My idea: to use the utility closet for a bedroom, naturally.  The room was completely unfinished: exposed beams, no sheetrock except on one wall, artificial grass carpeting, and pipes sticking out of the wall.  Perfect.  A crawl space went under the stairs and then opened up to an area you could stand in, as well.  This would not be easy, but I thought I could pull this off.

The fist hurdle was to get a bed into the space.  If I couldn't do that, I was finished.  After some manuvering I managed to get the bed in to the room, barely.  It fits perfectly from wall to wall.  So the room was a go.  I hung sheets to make walls: flat sheets, fitted sheets,  pillow cases (when I ran out of sheets).  I used blue and green sheets since I had several of them that I wasn't really using.  I hunted for furniture in other rooms to find a small desk that would fit in the space and a little night table.   With the limited square footage I needed to create space for her to put her things, but everything had to be on a small scale.  I hung some posters to make it feel roomy.  Hung sheer fabric from the ceiling to hide the exposed beams.  Moved a dresser under the stairs; I about killed myself doing that one!  I will tell you now, if we ever move, the new owners can have the dresser under the stairs!  Hung a rod for a makeshift closet.  Voila....bedroom!  Cinnamon loved it.  Dan approved it.  Cinnamon has been in the mismatched utility closet ever since.

But, lately I had been thinking, and that can be dangerous around here.  The room had been the same for the last five years and although Cinnamon never once complained, Dan and I wished her room was a bit nicer and more finished.  So I came up with a secret plan!  About a year ago, on a whim I had surprised Paprika with some updates to her room when she was gone for a weekend and she had loved it.  I could do the same for Cinnamon.  While Cinnamon and Paprika were gone to the International Dance Festival, I would fix her room.  I only had 24 hours, but I could do it with a little help.  Then Dan had to work. Okay, I could still do it with a bit of help from Allspice.  Then Allspice  had to work.  Okay, so I could do it myself, maybe.

We dropped the girls off on Saturday morning and I headed home to completely gut Cinnamon's room.  The clock was ticking!

See!  I told you it was a converted utility closet!
I began painting with Allspice until he had to leave.  I hung new sheets (Way harder than you think!).  I decorated.  I hung the "ceiling" (thank goodness, Dan came home to help with that!).  I smiled and I smiled.  She would be so surprised! 

Let me tell you, she was!!!  When she opened the door to her room she stood in total shock as she scanned the room.  With a grin from ear to ear she said, "I can't believe you did this!  This is the best surprise ever!" 

Cinnamon loves her new room.  Yesterday she said to me, "Mom, I can't believe that this is my room!  I never thought I would ever have a room like this."  She hugged me tight and said, "I love it, Mom.  It is absolutely perfect!"

My heart swells each time I hear the joy in her voice.  This was not about a newly decorated room, but rather a way my heart wanted to reach out to a teenage girl in her own love language and ask, "Do you know how much I love you?  Do you know I am always thinking of you?  Do you know I think about you when you are gone?"  This wasn't about stuff, it was about love.  It was perfect.  Mission accomplished.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Simple Summer Fare: Crab Stuffed Avocados

I like to keep things simple when I can.  If I can get by with just a few ingredients to make something lickity-split, I'm your gal.  This recipe came about simply because it was lunchtime and these were the ingredients on hand.  Oh, and the fact I was playing with paleo ingredients which makes this dairy free and gluten free, as well.  After eating it though, I will definitely make this on purpose next time.  It is great for summer and delicious!

Crab Stuffed Avocado:

1 can of crab meat (or you can use fresh crab)
Handful of grape tomatoes, cut in quarters
2-3 mini peppers, chopped
1 avocado, halved
Salsa (I used Trader Joe's Garlic Salsa.  YUM!)

Mix crab, tomatoes, and peppers together.  Add salsa (according to your taste) and mix together.  Top avocado halves.  Add one tablespoon of salsa to the top.  Serves two.

See!  EASY!!!  And yummy!  You could change this up depending on the ingredients you have on hand.  Instead of crab meat you could use chicken or tuna.  Vegetable choices could include celery and cucumbers.  Add some basil, garlic, a little mayo and Dijon mustard instead of the salsa for a creamy topping.  The choices are up to you!

Simple summer fare. Quick and easy.  Delicious!  I love it!  I hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Gardening Daybook

Outside my window...
Wildflowers!  I love looking out the window and seeing the hillside dotted with flowers.  June and July are always filled with color!  New and different flowers seem to bloom each week.  In May it was tiny yellow buttercup.  Now Oregon grape and its yellow flower clusters are waning as white yarrow dots the grassy meadow areas.  Purple lupine is next.  Beautiful!

I am thankful for...
The sun!!!  It has been raining lately and today is sunny and absolutely gorgeous!

I am thinking about...
Food.  Well, not exactly food, as in food, but rather food choices in terms of health and budget.  It is a conundrum to say the least.  The more I read about what I should be eating, the less I know about what to eat!  Eat this, but not that, unless this.  What???  Grains are bad.  Grains are good.  Legumes are poisonous.  Legumes are one of the healthiest options. Buy organic.  Only buy these organic foods.  Organic labeling is a scam, buy the cheaper local choice.   Help!!  There are so many ideas out there it is hard to discern the truth. 

Learning all the time...
Did you know you can over-water cucumber plants?  Yep!  You can.

From the kitchen...
Nothing too exciting here.  I am back in the rut.  I am not feeling creative or motivated, now that I think about it.  Summer means BBQ, right?  That means Dan cooks.  That means my dinner helper makes a salad.  That means the honeydew melon or watermelon I cut up yesterday can round out the meal.  That means I don't have to cook.  See?  Rut! 

I am creating...
Summer goals.  I am making a list of all the things I really want to do over the next few months.  High on the list.....make homemade ice cream!

I am working on...
Gardening.  This is no easy feat, by the way.  I am not a gardener.  I would love it if some kind of gardening fairy would take care of it all.  I love the results, but getting there is a different story. 

Lettuce and Herbs.
Peppers!  Banana, Red, Green Bell, and Jalapeno varieties!
Walla Walla Sweet Onions!
And of course, tomatoes. 

I am going...
To replace my dead cucumbers.  Apparently, there is no gardening fairy. 

I am hoping...
My garden does not end up like the herb garden I tried earlier this year.

Yes, they eventually all died.  I told you I was not a gardener.  Okay.  It is harder than it looks.  You can stop laughing now.  Really.

I am reading...
7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker.  This book is really making me think.  She is hilarious.  It is a fun read, but has a strong important message.

Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider.  I am really enjoying this book.  Makes me want to clean. 

The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr.  I know I read some very random things, but this is a great book so far!

I am praying for...
Guidance in new adventures.
Discernment for God's will in the paths we take.

I am hearing...
Absolute quiet in the mornings.  The kids are all working this week at a science camp, so it is just me and my cup of coffee.

Around the house...
I am deep cleaning! Hmmm, could this be the result of my reading choices?  I am going through each room and purging.  How do we accumulate so much stuff? 

One of my favorite things...
Sea Salt and Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds from Trader Joe's.  Divine!  Absolutely Divine.  Another favorite?  Dark Chocolate Almond Cherry Clusters from Costco.  Yes, chocolate is my favorite thing.

A few plans for the rest of the week...
The girls are headed to an International Dance Festival to perform.  I have plans for a top secret project that I can’t wait to start.  I will share more later when it is no longer secret

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...
Baby Robins.  Awesome!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Where Have You Been?

I didn't mean to disappear for so long.  Really!  After graduation we went on vacation.  A wonderful way to relax after the hectic past few months.  We went to Leavenworth, Washington.  If you have never been, it is a quaint little Bavarian town nestled in the Cascade Mountains.  It is absolutely beautiful!

We thoroughly enjoyed our time, even though the weather seemed to be against us!  It rained and rained and rained!  When it rained we played some mean games of Catan!  We love that game!  We probably play it at least once a week, if not more.  We have now added the Fishermen of Catan (fun!), Oil Springs (a fun and aggravating twist) and Cities and Knights (lots of details and maybe the most fun according to the gang).

I know what you are thinking.  Gee whiz, it sure doesn't look like they are having fun!  You are right.  At that moment I am pouting.  Seriously!  Allspice is stealing a card from me.  AGAIN!!!  I think he likes to pick on me.  So, I am pouting and probably kicking him under the table.  I am not competitive or anything.

When is wasn't raining we were on the go!  We walked the sidewalks of town and ducked into all kinds of little shops filled with goodies!  Sure there were stores filled with knick-knacks, fancy bags, chic clothing, but the shops that held my attention were filled with food, or at least stuff to make food absolutely delicious.  The vinegar and oil shop was incredible!  Mushroom and garlic infused olive oil is amazing!  Apricot balsamic vinegar that has been aged for 18 years: mouth watering!  Cured, a small butcher shop, enticed us with buckboard bacon.  Some of the best bacon I have ever had the privilege to eat!  Delicious gluten free honey barbecue sauce came home with me.  Specialty mustards were found elsewhere.  It was a culinary delight.

The landscape was incredible!  We wished we could have hiked more!  Our hiking adventures were limited, but we made the most of it!  God's creation is so perfect!

It was a wonderful vacation.  And now we are back to normal and all that it entails.  I am hoping to get back into the swing of things!  So, that is it.  That's where I have been.  Off relaxing and playing.  And loving every minute!

And now, just in case you are wondering what I plan on doing with mushroom and garlic infused olive oil, I will tell.  A few months ago I discovered a new family favorite vegetable side dish: Roasted Broccolette.  Broccolette is a relative of broccoli, but the taste is more mild.  We all love this.  It is loaded with garlic, so what is not to love!  Right?  It is so easy and the results are delicious.  And most importantly, yes, you can make it even if you don't have infused olive oil :) 

Roasted Broccolette:

Broccolette (I get mine from Costco and use half the bag to serve 5)
1 shallot or onion, sliced
1 fist of garlic, chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Seasonings (I love to use McCormick's Perfect Pinch: Mediterranean Herb.  YUM!)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with foil for easy clean up.  Wash, trim, and dry broccolette. If the stems are thick, I split them in half lengthwise.  Place on the cookie sheet in a single layer.

 Nestle chunks of garlic in the broccolette.  Top with the shallot or onion.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Season according to taste.  Roast for 30 minutes.  After 15 minutes, turn the broccolette to roast the other side.

YUM!!!  Perfect with a side salad and bbq chicken!  I hope you enjoy!

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