Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Return of Yard Work and Recipes Worth Trying

Cue the Hallelujah chorus; spring has finally arrived in central Minnesota!
I cannot even express how happy we all are to see the mercury finally above the 50 degree mark.
Unfortunately, with warmer temperatures and disappearing snow, we were able to fully see the sorry state of our deck after the brutal winter. It wasn't in very good shape to begin with, but we've finally reached the point of no repair. It was no longer safe to walk on and I was always worried that someone would get hurt out there. So, on Saturday the boys strapped on their safety goggles, grabbed their sledge hammers, and went to work.
 Our deck is built into two sections, and thankfully we will be able to salvage the larger half. But this lower section was rotten throughout and had to be completely demolished. We are hoping to replace it with a paver-patio of some sort, but we don't have a solid plan yet. A big project is not in the budget, so it may stay in its current state for some time to come.
 Hunter thought this was the best weekend project ever. He has always loved to be Chris's helper, but he's now finally big enough to actually be of assistance. I was very impressed with how quickly this demo-crew got the job done.
While the boys were busy outside {and Caitlin was at a friend's} I got busy on my neglected chairs. Yes, they are still unfinished, but I've made progress! They are all painted, waxed, and awaiting their sanding. Sigh, someday they'll get done!
I might have gotten more done, but I kept getting distracted by my stomach.
I tried out several new Pinterest recipes this weekend and wanted to share the winners.
If you're interested in seeing more of what I pin, you can follow me here. These were all easy and delicious recipes...highly recommended!


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Food for Giving: Mocha Sheet Cake

The birth of a baby. An unexpected illness. A new neighbor. A death in the family.
Whether it's an occasion to celebrate or one to sympathize, we share food to show we care.
One of my favorite foods for giving is this simple sheet cake.
It's easy to make, easy to transport, and chock-full of mocha flavor, making it a very welcome gift. 
There are few combinations I like better in this world than coffee and chocolate. But the two united in cake form and topped with a latte-like frosting... and it's bliss beyond measure. 
Even better? This cake can be made ahead, and frozen {unfrosted} for up to 3 months. Simply thaw at room temperature and frost when you need it.
{recipe adapted from an old issue of Country Home}
 For the Cake:
1 cup butter
1 cup brewed coffee {decaf is okay}
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
In a large saucepan bring butter, coffee, and cocoa to boil, stirring occasionally with a wire whisk. Remove from heat and stir in flour, sugar, and salt. Beat on medium speed with an electric mixer for 1 minute. Add sour cream, eggs, baking soda, and vanilla and beat on medium speed until well blended, about one minute more. Pour batter into an ungreased 15x10x1 inch baking pan (I use a 9x13 Pyrex, but adjust the time by a few extra minutes). Bake at 375 for 23 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
For the Frosting:
In a large bowl beat 5 tablespoons softened butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in a 1-pound bag of powdered sugar a little at a time on low speed until combined. Beat in 3 tablespoons cold brewed coffee, 1 tablespoon milk or cream, and 1 teaspoon vanilla until frosting is fluffy and spreadable. Add 1-2 teaspoons milk, if needed, to attain desired consistency.
I'm linking up here:
My Romantic Home
French Country Cottage
Savvy Southern Style
Between Naps on the Porch
Domestic Fringe

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Confessions of a WIWW Slacker

pleated poppy
By now, you all know the purpose of WIWW: it's meant to motivate stay-at-home/work-at-home moms to get out of our pjs and get dressed in something cute. The idea is simple; if you look good, you feel good. 
And I will be the first to say it works. 

But I'm lazy, and have gone back to my slothful dressing habits.
Most days I only get halfway dressed. 
I work {late at night and early in the morning} as an online English teacher, and my students only see me from the waist up.
So it's professional on top, pjs on the bottom.
The rest of the day I'm a homeschool mom, so I often don't leave the house...
why bother with pants?
Needless to say, WIWW has suffered.
But I've managed to scrape together a few pictures from the last two weeks.
 Denim jacket: Old Navy
Dress: Shade Clothing
Wool leggings {yes, still wearing wool!}: Smart Wool
Boots: Keen
Scarf: made by my aunt

Cardi: Target
Top: Boden
jeans: Joe's Jeans
Pin: The Pleated Poppy

What I wore to Junk Bonanza...
Jacket: Lands End
Top: Boden
Jeans: Joe's Jeans
Pins: The Pleated Poppy
Scarf: Dress Barn
Shoes: El Naturalista

Gingham top: Old Navy
Sweater: Mod Cloth
Jeans, flats: Target
Necklace: Dress Barn

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Junk Bonanza

One of the things I look forward to every September is going to Junk Bonanza. A few of my girlfriends and I have made it something of a tradition. We spend the entire day browsing, eating, and laughing. It is a blast, and we always find lots of wonderful treasures. We were even featured on the Junk Bonanza blog in 2011 with some of our loot.
But unfortunately, last September we weren't able to make the 2+ hour trip to Shakopee for the Bonanza. I was lamenting the long wait till next fall, when I found out that this year, for the first time, there was going to be a Spring Bonanza! 
If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you already know that this past Saturday, that's exactly where I was.

We got there around ten, and it was crowded. Once we got through the gates, we were doing the cattle-shuffle and barely moving, but no one minded. There were treasures to look at on all sides.
 Terrariums were everywhere, and many of them featured this darling plant called "Baby Tears." It's so delicate and spring-like, perfect for the mini-world of a terrarium. I think I need some!
 We always look for weird hands and send pictures of them to our friend, Becky, who could't be there this year. 
It's a long story... but we find it immensely amusing.
 The vintage wedding display made me want to get married all over again. It was gorgeous, and my iPhone pic does not do it justice.
 I bought some of this darling bunting made from embroidered tea towels. I'm thinking it will be perfect for a summer mantel-scape. I also bought 8 unframed Audubon bird prints... but I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them yet. Stay tuned...

Jen, Katie, and yours truly.
 Also known as the Chicago South Suburban Dental Society, or the C.S.S.D.S.
And yes, we did sport our official name tags all day.
I'm John Fox.

We capped off the a long day of shopping with spicy Bloody Marys.

I had so much fun and can't wait to go back in September!
Will you be there?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Springtime Snowstorm

It has been a brutally long winter {I might have mentioned it once or twice before...} and it shows no sign of abating. 
We're talking record-breaking snow for April. 
Yesterday we got got nearly a foot of snow.

 We tried to look on the bright side... at least this snow is good for making snowmen and snow forts, and it's not too cold to play outside {as it often is in midwinter}.
 The kids and the dog were having a grand old time.

 School is closed yet again today, so Caitlin is home. 
Hunter got a snow day too.
I tried to make tell him homeschoolers don't get snow days... but when the neighbor kids and Caitlin were all outside playing, I gave in and let him go. 

 They spent all morning playing king of the hill and trying to push each other off the huge banks made by the plows. 
There's 50s in the forecast for next week.
I think I will weep with happiness if that actually happens.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

One Wink and Fourteen Years Later

Picture this:
A keg party crowded room.
A shy girl.
A handsome young man.
Their eyes meet... he winks, she blushes. They strike up a conversation, he offers a ride home...
And they lived happily ever after.
~~My Junior Prom, circa 1996~~

~~Our wedding day, circa 1999~~

Today, Chris and I are celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary.
 We eloped to Hawaii for our wedding, and always said we would go back for our 5 year anniversary... then our 10 year... but between babies and bills, it never happened.
I've got my fingers crossed that 15 will be our lucky number.
Here's to next year, babe... and a lifetime more after that!

Monday, April 15, 2013

What I'm Reading

Having been on the library wait-list forever, I recently got notice that several books I reserved were available... all at the same time! Needless to say, I've been burning through the books in order to finish them before their due dates.

Ever since I read "The Secret Keeper," I've been on a Kate Morton kick.
In the last two weeks I've read both 
"The Forgotten Garden"

and "The Distant Hours"

Both of them were thoroughly enjoyable although, for me, neither quite lived up to the thrill of  "The Secret Keeper." The twist at the end of that particular book was completely unexpected; that factor alone made "The Secret Keeper" my favorite.
 Morton's books are a bit formulaic {single woman untangles mystery from her family's past}, but each story is unique enough that it wouldn't deter me from reading more of her work.
In fact, I'm picking up "The House at Riverton" at the library tomorrow.

Not wanting to limit my reading repertoire by focusing solely on Morton, I've also recently enjoyed "The Light Between Oceans" by M.L. Stedman.
Strangely enough, the story was similar {in some ways} to Morton's "The Forgotten Garden."
However, I think this is by far a superior book. I could not put it down, and the characters stayed with me for weeks after I had finished reading. If you need more convincing, here's a link to the Good Reads reviews.

What have you been reading lately?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Stuff and Nonsense

I've been in a bit of a funk lately. Nothing is wrong really, I just feel kind of blah. 
I blame the weather.
It's hard to be cheerful during a never-ending winter. I mean, a foot of snow in mid-April?!? Come on. That's just mean.
 The kids made the best of it.
They were trying to build the biggest snowman ever, but got a bit too ambitious and couldn't move their  creations very far. So they used them as perches instead.
 I decided this morning the best way to get over my funk was to get out of the house. So we loaded up the kids for a bit of a road trip. Nothing too exciting (well, it was exciting for me, just not so much for Chris and the kids) and drove an hour to our nearest Annie Sloan Chalk Paint retailer. 
I got the first coat on as soon as we got home, but these chairs are old  and quite wobbly. I keep finding bits that need more wood glue or other repairs, so it's slow going. 

We also went to Calico Corners to look at some of the fabric choices I mentioned in this post. Thank you all for your input! I had taken your advice and settled on the funky floral. However, when we got to CC, I decided the pattern was too large-scale for my chairs. It would've been a pain to try and have it centered nicely on each cushion. So, naturally, I went with something totally different.
A simple and classic ticking stripe.

To cap off our little day-trip, we stopped at Sonic. The closest one is more than an hour away, so none of us had ever been there.
I got a strawberry limeade and it was wonderful. Just what I needed to put me in the mood for spring.
Now if only the sun would come out!
{It's not going to though. More snow in the forecast for tomorrow. 
So we're going to an indoor water-park.}

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Choosing Fabric is Hard!

I mentioned the other day that I am in the process of redoing 6 hand-me-down dining room chairs. 
I am painting them and re-covering the seats.
I had hoped to get them done this weekend... but that was before I changed my mind 3 times on fabric. I even went so far as to buy fabric and bring it home, only to decide as soon as I walked in the door that I didn't like it. It has since been returned.

So help a girl out...
Which fabric do you like?
The classic toile?

The funky floral?

Or the romantic floral?

Nothing like having wildly different choices, huh? 

The chairs will be painted a creamy white or taupe color, and I have a lot of red/aqua/cream/gold in my house already so I know that any of these choices would work. But I would love some input and opinions. I am terrible at making decisions. Help me out or I will probably just choose something plain and boring out of frustration!