Thursday, March 31

Because I didn't do anything 'pretty' last night

Last night after I got home from the office I didn't do anything worthy of blog photos...

I took the dogs for a walk on the wind-swept plain also known as the Casper Municipal Golf Course, and it wasn't very nice out, so no photos there. I did figure out the other day that the longest circle we take on our fetch/walking outings is three miles, so that's good exercise for the pregnant girl.

When we got home I had some celery for a snack, then went to the basement to help Scott put the new platform under the washing machine. The floor is sloped to the drain, so it's necessary to have a platform to level the machine. However, the one that's been there since we moved in was made out of thin plywood that was too flexible to keep the machine steady on the spin cycle, so Scott made one out of 2x4s that's much more solid. After the usual fussing around with making all the corners level again, I ran a load of laundry and I think we've got it much more sturdy and happy now.

While Scott was tinkering around with that, I started sweeping the laundry room and organizing some things, and that led to getting out my wash bucket and also washing the tile floor, which is in terrible shape, but at least it's clean now. The laundry room is so ugly I really don't want to post any public photos again until I start making improvements.

It's my new goal to work on house projects every evening at least until 7 p.m. I decided that leaving cleaning, sewing, building and rearranging projects until only the weekends will not result in my getting everything finished before the baby comes, so I've tried to be more diligent with my time in the evenings, and so far it's been working well, and last night I worked until after 8.

One such evening project this week has been hanging these photos in the bathroom:

For a very long time my house project list has included making one of the bathrooms into an island theme, with a few of my photos from the Prince Edward Island trip, and finally the first step is done! I still need to get some skinny white shelves to offer a little more display space for shells, etc. and also a shadowbox to recreate the beach art in the photo with the white flowers and 'PEI.' Yes, I still have the shells Melissa and I used, as well as the twigs. :-) They've been waiting patiently in a plastic bag.

But the upstairs bathroom is already so much more interesting with pictures hung! I will share photos once it gets a little further along...

This is a half-finished project in Scott's and my bedroom right now... a new shelving unit. I got the rest of the brackets mounted to the wall, but have yet to return to Menards to get the shelves... they were out of the cheap pine boards when we were there to purchase the brackets, and because I plan on painting or staining them, anyway, I wanted to just go with the least expensive, at $10 each for six-foot boards, as opposed to some of the lumber that ran as high as $30 per board.

These shelves will hold boots, hat boxes, jeans and all that miscellaneous stuff that we have in our bedroom that won't fit in the dressers. Mostly boots. I think between the two of us we have close to 20 pairs. It's not always a good thing, the way both of us like to add boots to our collections. :-)

This was the Feline Assistant while I was hanging the shelf brackets. He was laying off his duties that day.

And this is the Feline Assistant at the water bowl. I'm not really sure why he felt he couldn't stand for the 30 seconds it took him to get a drink from the bowl.

The photos below are some of my latest inspiration for baby/kids rooms:

After seeing this on Pop of Red, a red crib is a *must-have.* It's so pretty.

This dresser I also found on Pop of Red.

And if we end up with a little girl, either with this first baby or another along down the line, she will have to grow up loving color, because as long as I still make the decisions, her room just might look something like the one above, found at House of Turquoise. The room below is also at House of Turquoise.

Wednesday, March 30

Project: The Baby's Armoire

It's been a while since I've purchased a new piece of furniture, so I was pretty excited when I received a call back on a Craigslist posting from the lady who had this armoire listed for sale. We made arrangements to meet up at 1 p.m. last Saturday, and I sure am glad I asked Scott to go along to her place on the west side of town, because I don't think the lady and I could have gotten this handled by ourselves. It's a pretty good example of a solid piece of craftsmanship.

When I first saw this listed, my first thought was, "Look at all that storage! I bet I could fit almost all the baby clothes and supplies in there." I was happy to see that this armoire had the original shelving and drawers in it, and hadn't been shamelessly retrofitted to a tv cabinet, like so many have been.

While the exterior is a little rough, with some dents and scratches, the interior finish is still in really good shape. I think what I'll do is paint the outside, but leave the inside as-is. A change in hardware will also be on the project list.

For now it's sitting in the garage, because Scott let me know in no uncertain terms that he wouldn't carry it back up the basement steps for its paint job. So there it waits, until it comes up on my list of weekend projects, and until I decide what paint color I want to put on it.

I don't think either of us is looking forward to the struggle of getting it downstairs, but I think once it's painted and in the baby room it will be more than worth the trouble. Hooray for my first successful Craigslist purchase, which I even scored for $20 less than she was asking - $80 was the final price for this classic piece of furniture that we'll be able to use in our house for years and years. I offered her $75, but was really glad when she said $80, because I had only brought $20 bills. :-)

Tuesday, March 29

Beer Braised Beef & 'Gourmet' Mashed Potatoes

I know, my posts have been pretty heavy on the recipes and 'what I cooked for dinner' category, but I've got a backlog, and have to be able to post the new recipes I make in the days to come. This post is about the Beer Braised Beef. At this point, I'm not really sure where the recipe came from... I wrote it on a recipe card some time ago, and just recently got around to putting it together.

One day last week when I was at home on lunch break I pulled out the crock pot and threw in onions, diced canned tomatoes, cubed round steak and other things of the sort, then poured in a can of beer over the whole thing. You see, a while back we came by some Bud Light in our house, and neither of us are Bud Light drinkers, and I can't drink anything of any sort these days, so it's been languishing in the cupboard. After making this recipe, I have one can left. I've slowly been using them up by cooking.

When I got home I lifted the lid and tasted, only to be disappointed by the bland flavor. Turns out, I was also supposed to add seasonings to the pot, including salt, oregano, parsley and all that good stuff. It was much better once I seasoned it up a little.

I decided to serve the beef over mashed potatoes, since these had also been languishing in their drawer for quite some time. I could eat mashed potatoes by the potful, and thus I avoid making them too often.

I left the skins on for the cooking and mashing process. Who says you have to peel your potatoes? Besides, anymore it's considered gourmet to leave the skins on in fancy restaurants. That, and they're nutritious.

Once again, my KitchenAid mixer came into play to mash the potatoes, along with a little bit of salt, pepper, milk and butter. There are few things more delicious.

And there you have it, an easy weeknight supper that your husband will love and of which he'll help himself to seconds. :-)

Sorry, I don't have the recipe on hand, but it's one of those that you pretty much just put together whatever you want - within reason - and it will turn out good.

Firewood and Sour Cream Noodle Bake

Last Friday was one of those chilly, cloudy days that feel more like December than late March. I don't know about you, but those days always inspire me to put something in the oven, something nice and warm and filling to come to come in from the cold and enjoy. Those days also inspire Scott and I to cut more firewood to keep our little house nice and toasty.

There had been a stack of 2x2s and 2x4s in Scott's truck for a few days, which he'd brought home from work after a load of steel was delivered. Cut into thirds, they make great kindling, and we were all out, and Scott was out of his trusty lighter fluid to get the bigger chunks going, so we tackled the task of cutting them up and refilling our front porch.

Only this time, instead of using our circular saw to cut them one by one, Scott tried a new strategy, bundling them together then cutting them with the chain saw, and it worked well and went a lot faster carrying them to the porch when two-thirds of every bundle could be carried to the porch in smaller bundles with the ropes still on. My job was to pick up and stack all the loose ones.

Scott started on them while I was getting dinner put in the oven to bake, and what I made was Sour Cream Noodle Bake, from PW's website last week or so.

It started out with a package of ground beef. I love recipes that start out with ground beef, because of our neverending supply. It's cheap - as in Bob resupplies us from Association beef - and can be made into so many variations.

This was a recipe made from ingredients out of my pantry and freezer, so I did adapt it a little from PW's original, to suit the ingredients I had on hand, but I did happen to have these two cans of tomato sauce available.

I started by browning the ground beef on the stovetop.

Then added the tomato sauce. If I did it again, I'd season the ground beef as it was browning. I always forget, and always wish I had when I taste the final product.

Boil some water for some noodles.

Then add them to the pot. PW called for egg noodles, but I've had a box of whole wheat rotini in my cupboard for quite some time, so I used it in the recipe.

For the sauce to hold it all together, of course there had to be some sour cream.

And there was some cottage cheese. I always use lowfat dairy products instead of fat free - they cut the calories, while still having a somewhat normal texture and taste to them.

I think the recipe called for green onions, but I didn't have any so I just put in some yellow onion.

So you mix the dairy products, onions and seasoning all together, and it was actually quite good on its own. :-)

And this little 'pasta salad' mixture also tasted quite good on its own. :-)

I used my trusty Martha Stewart cast iron baking dish. After I've used it for a few months now, now I kind of wish I also had a smaller one for when I make recipes for just Scott and I. Sometimes the single batches kind of get lost in its large size. But, I guess soon enough I'll consistently make more family-sized recipes, instead of just meals for two.

With the pasta mixture on the bottom, layer some ground beef on top, top with cheese, then repeat the three layers again.

It's always better to grate your own cheese. It's so much more fresh and soft and flavorful and not dried out. And always grate a little extra. Extra cheese is never a bad thing.

I added a little sprinkle of parsley to the top of the whole thing, just to pretty it up a little bit. Then it went in the oven, and I went outside to stack wood.

When we were all done and came in the house, this is what we enjoyed for dinner, along with buttered and garlic-ed French bread I'd also stuck in the oven, wrapped in foil. And this kind of thing makes for great leftovers!

Monday, March 28

Blueberry Walnut Pancakes

I enjoy making breakfast on the weekends, and Saturday morning's menu last weekend included Blueberry Walnut Pancakes.

I've been enjoying a lot of blueberries lately, mostly with yogurt and granola. Usually I would use frozen, but since fresh blueberries are frequently on sale these days, I went ahead and used some of my fresh berries for the pancakes.

The recipe also features whole wheat flour, and if I'd been thinking I would have thrown in some ground flax seed.

As with many whole-grain recipes, it calls for beating the egg whites until fluffy to keep the batter nice and fluffy. It really works, and is worth the extra effort. I love my KitchenAid mixer, I use it for everything and it's a very hard worker in my kitchen.

When the whites are beaten to stiff peaks you fold them into the flour/egg mixture batter.

The batter even looks nice and fluffy uncooked.

Then the blueberries are folded into the batter before spooning into a preheated griddle.

When they start to bubble, it's time to flip. This recipe doesn't bubble as much as some, so I could have flipped them earlier than I did on this first batch.

Looking good!

The recipe makes a really small batch. Mine only made six pancakes of this size, but Scott and I each ate three and because of the whole grain they were filling and we were more than satisfied.

I copied this recipe down a while ago, so I forget where it came from, but here is the card, if you want to give it a try. I highly recommend them!

Saturday, March 26

A gift from Uncle Bobby

On Wednesday Bob and Jamie went to Riverton to order some spurs, and then they made a side trip to Thermopolis and White Horse Feed, where Bob had had his eye on this kids' saddle since the weekend before.

Later in the day Bob stopped by the house and brought the saddle along with him - a wonderful gift for our Baby Martinez!

It's pretty much guaranteed that any and all of our kids will begin riding as soon as they're able to sit up, and this saddle will be a great piece of tack to have around as they grow into and get to know the horses. It doesn't look that small in the photos, because it's perfectly proportioned and well-made, unlike most cheap kids' saddles. It's only got about a 12-inch seat, where most regular saddles have 16-inch seats or bigger.

Scott and I are very grateful for this generous gift from Uncle Bob, as it's a quality piece of equipment we'll be able to use for years to come.