New Year’s Resolution

Ohmygoodness.  A year since my last blog post?  Shame on me.  I blame my lack of blogging in 2013 to my career change.  This past April, I took a leap of faith and decided to get my Real Estate license.  Best. Decision. Ever.  I absolutely love what I do.  I’m sure you’re thinking “but realtors are supposed to have more time on their hands for things like blogging, housekeeping, couponing, crafting, getting their nails done, and being awesome in general”.  Boy do I wish that was true.  My house is a constant mess, I’m completely behind on my couponing, I haven’t crafted anything in months, obvi I’m behind on my blog, and don’t even get me started on my nails!  I’ve worked harder in the last 9 months than I’ve worked in my entire life, but it’s so worth it!

I always make the same New Year’s resolutions (get in shape, stop cursing, save money, blog more, etc.) and I never seem to keep them.  In 2014, I’m going to focus on managing my time.  I figure if I can be 100% efficient with my time, I can accomplish more in my business and my personal life.  One thing specifically that I’m going to focus on next January is a little phenomenon called freezer cooking.  For those who don’t know, freezer cooking (as I understand it) consists of a once-a-month grocery shopping trip and meal prep, resulting in an assortment of crock pot meals and casseroles ready to thaw and cook at the drop of a hat.  I work odd hours and Brad works odd hours, and I can’t tell you how many times we get home from work and have nothing prepared for dinner.  We end up getting take out, which is bad for our bank accounts and our calorie intake.  If I can nip that in the bud and have dinner ready when we walk in the door without having to hire a professional chef, I’d consider that a win-win for everyone.

Today, I’ll be taking my January grocery shopping trip.  I have my customer loyalty card and a few coupons in hand, and by the end of the day I plan to have roughly 20 meals ready to put in the freezer.  Wish me luck!

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Venison Sloppy Joes – NOM!

My husband is a big deer hunter.  A friend of his manages a ranch in South Texas, which means Brad goes deer hunting at least 3 times a year, if not more.  He doesn’t hunt for trophy bucks, he hunts for the pure joy of waking up at 4am to sit in a deer blind in complete silence for hours on end and to bring some deer meat home.  Personally, I don’t think a zombie apocolypse could get me out of bed at 4am, but to each their own I suppose.  I’m actually thankful for Brad’s hunting skills, because I know that in the event of a zombie apocolypse, natural disaster, or if the Hunger Games really happened, Brad wouldn’t die and and we wouldn’t starve – yay!

Anyway, since Brad hunts often, we have a stash of frozen deer meat in our 2nd freezer at all times.  Eating venison isn’t my fave, but it’s tolerable.  Brad can throw a marinated slab of backstrap on the grill and eat it like it’s no big deal, but I can pretty much only eat venison that is fried or cooked in the crockpot.  Which brings me to the resason for my blog post – yesterday was Brad’s birthday and his birthday dinner request was shredded venison sandwiches.  A few years ago, I found a recipe for shredded venison sandwiches on tasteofhome.com.  I make these sammys once or twice a year, and they are actually quite good.

Each time I make them, I change things up a little bit because the recipe calls for several different spices and I usually get creative and just use what I have in the house.  This time around, I soaked the meat in milk overnight to help remove gamey flavor that venison has. I accidentally overcooked the meat (very easy to do with venison because it is so lean) so I ended up mixing the meat and juices together in my KitchenAid Stand Mixer.  I added a bit of water and some BBQ sauce to moisten the meat a bit it turned out to me more like a venison sloppy joe, which I actually preferred to the shredded venison sandwich!

Sidenote: If you’ve never used your stand mixer to shred beef or chicken, you really need to try it.  Anytime a recipe instructs me to grab two forks and shred meat that I have just cooked, I say, “psh, yeah right” and throw everything in the stand mixer bowl.  If you use the blade attachment, you will get finely shredded meat at the flip of a switch.

I’m always looking for new venison recipes to try. If you have one to share, I’d love to read it!

Long Time No Blog – Around the House Project Update

Wow!  It’s been almost 5 months since my last post..  Eeek!  In my defense, I have been uber-busy doing things around the house (just ask my friends or family for verification).  A friends asks, “Hey Sarah – what are you and Brad doing this weekend?”  My response would be something like, “Oh, nothing really.  Just painting and doing stuff around the house.”  That’s been a pretty standard response from me for the last several months.

A few months ago, when my husband and I offered to host our family Thanksgiving dinner at our house, we also sat down and made a loooooooong “to-do” list of little projects we wanted to tackle before Thanksgiving.  Now that Thanksgiving is upon us, we have finished almost all of those small projects, resulting in some major improvements around our home!  I may have mentioned before that Brad and I are VERY stubborn and like to make every attempt possible to do things on our own before we ask for help.  You may remember reading about our Laundry Room Makeover, which was the first room transformation we did in our house.  We started with the laundry room because it’s the smallest space in our house and was the easiest to start and finish in the same day.  The next project was the guest bathroom.  Here’s what we were dealing with pre-makeover:

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I mean, what’s going on here?!  The ivy wall paper banner at the top?  The sponge painted walls?  Not to mention, the chrome towel bars that were barely still attached to the wall.  ICK!  At first, I thought that all I needed was a fresh coat of paint to instantly make the room better..  Don’t get me wrong, the paint made a huge difference, but it also made me realize we needed a new light fixture, new shower curtain, and a new shower curtain rod.  Take a look at the end results:

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I’ve seen several tutorials on how to frame a bathroom mirror, which I’d like to do eventually.  For now, I think our guest bathroom looks A LOT better than it did before 🙂

To provide you with some insight on the cost for our quick bathroom update:

Paint, Light Fixture, Light Switch, Electrical Outlet, and Switch Plates – $60 – Home Depot

Shower Curtain, Curtain Rod, and Curtain Hooks – $60 (paid for with a Gift Card) – Bed, Bath & Beyond

I peeled off the wall paper trim, painted, and hung the new shower curtain rod and curtain.  Brad installed the light fixture and replaced the old, manilla-colored light switch and plug with fresh new white ones 🙂  The whole project only took a weekend and it was fun for Brad and I to do together.

Stay tuned for more “Around the House Project Updates”.  Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Maxi Dress Makeover

Years ago, I bought 2 maxi dresses at Old Navy.  If I remember correctly, they were on clearance, which is why I bought 2 of them.  I cannot remember the last time I wore a maxi dress, and a few days ago I found this particular dress hanging in my closet, begging to be worn:

I think the main reason that I rarely wore this dress is because it’s a bit..  revealing.  Not like I have a lot going on up top, but I’m not the kind of gal who would show off that much of my ladies in public.  The dress is made of jersey fabric, which is really easy to work with because it doesn’t fray – so a little light bulb went off in my brain and I decided to turn this maxi dress into a maxi skirt.

It sounds a lot easier than it was.

I didn’t take very good tutorial pictures for this post, because I was mostly flying by the seat of my pants with this project.  But for those who need the step-by-step, I used the following materials:

– Maxi dress found in closet
– Scissors
– 1.5 inch elastic
– Sewing Machine
– Coordinating Thread
– Patience (seriously, this took me over an hour.  But it’s raining and Harry Potter is on ABC Family today so I had nothing but time)

I knew that I wanted my skirt to sit just below my belly button, so I took my fabric tape measure and measured 38 inches from my belly button to the floor.  I laid the dress on the floor and measured 40 inches from the bottom of the dress (to give myself a little wiggle room) and cut across the dress from one side seam to the next:

My first cutting attempt resulted in this:

Then I was successful – chop!:

I wanted to keep the original seams on the sides and the original hem, so after I cut off the top I was basically left with a 40″ fabric tube.

My original piece of elastic was 1 1/4 yd. long, so I pinned it to make a circle and used it as a guide to make the casing for my elastic.  I flipped the tube inside out and folded the raw edge down about 2″ (just over the elastic) and pinned all the way around, leaving about 1/2″ of a raw edge.  Once I pinned all the way around, I realized that I had cut my dress crooked and had to re-do the casing for my elastic so that I wouldn’t have a lop-sided skirt.  Fail.

Once my pins were situated, I kept the elastic in place and started sewing in a straight line.  That’s when I realized that I’m still a little intimidated by my sewing machine and my straight line ended up anything but straight.  I had a few (okay fine, several) mess-up spots that I had to go back and correct, which made me thankful that I bought a seam ripper thing the last time I was at Hobby Lobby.  I sewed just about all the way around the skirt but kept a small opening so I could pull out the elastic, measure it, cut it, and then thread it back through the casing.

So I did just that – I pulled out the piece of elastic and measured 34″ around the part of my waist where I wanted the skirt to fall.  I cut the elastic an inch or so shorter than I measured, so that the skirt would fit snuggly.  I put a safety pin on one end of the cut piece of elastic to help thread it through the casing on the skirt and made a quick stitch to sew the raw ends of elastic together.  Once the elastic was in place, I stitched up the small opening in the elastic casing that I had made before and voila – I had a skirt!

If you look closely, you will notice that it’s not the prettiest article of clothing ever made, but it’s comfortable and something that I can throw on if I need to run to run errands and haven’t shaved my legs in awhile.  For a novice seamstress, I’m quite proud of the finished product!  Hopefully I will get more use out of it now!

Thanks for stopping by – have a great day! 🙂

Laundry Room Makeover

Our laundry room needed some serious TLC.  Actually, every room in our house needs some help.  But our tiny little 7’x6′ laundry room seemed like a great place to start.  I knew we wouldn’t have to do too much to spruce it up – just a fresh coat of paint and a few splashes of color.  All in all, we spent about $75 on the makeover.

Here are the before pics:

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Disgusting, right?  I mean, I know laundry rooms don’t have to be beautiful – but I think you’ll agree that this room needed a little help.  The first thing that we needed in the laundry room was storage, so Brad installed a second shelf using some leftover wood from work.  I’m a huge fan of hidden storage and knew we didn’t want to spend the money on cabinets for the laundry room.  Instead, I hung a valance on the existing rod to cover up the space between the two shelves.  Hidden storage, check!  I also have a slight obsession with baskets because they are a perfect way to camouflage miscellaneous junk.  I bought a few laundry baskets to display on the top shelf and the cute “laundry” sign from my local Garden Ridge.  I already had the rug, we bought a gallon of a taupe-colored paint to match, and Brad was able salvage a few pallets from work which he used to build a stand for the washer & dryer.

The end result:

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Quite an improvement, if I do say so myself!

Breaking in the KitchenAid Stand Mixer

Last night, I decided that it was finally time to use my KitchenAid Stand Mixer.  Brad and I received the mixer as a wedding gift and for about 2 months now, it has been sitting in the corner of my kitchen counter, quietly collecting dust.  I guess I was a little intimidated by the mixer because I had always done my mixing the old school way with a bowl and a wooden spoon.  The reason that I’ve been hesitant to use this specific kitchen gadget, you ask?  Well, I remember walking into my friend Kristin’s apartment one day while she was in the process of baking cupcakes.  She is an excellent cook, but every time she baked it looked like a flour bomb went off in her apartment.  I’m a total neat freak and I envisioned that the moment I switched my mixer to “on”, I would have a batter disaster.  I was surprised because what I thought would be complicated turned out to be quite easy!

“What should I bake as an excuse to use my Stand Mixer?”, I asked myself.  “I know!  The recipe for Snickerdoodle Bread that I saw on Pinterest!”

I guess what sets me apart from other “pinners” that I know is that I pin recipes and crafts that I actually intend on making.  Maybe everyone else refers to their pins to cook and craft as well, and they just don’t tell me about it?  Who knows.  I realize that Pinterest is a virtual pin board designed for inspiration (I think?), but what’s the point of inspiring yourself if you don’t plan on taking action?  I may not travel to the vacation spots or buy all of the clothes that I pin because I’m far from being a gazillionaire, but the crafting and the cooking ideas definitely inspire me to try new things!

I found this little gem – a recipe for Snickerdoodle Bread – on Lil’ Luna’s Blog.  What a treat!  I immediately knew I wanted to make this bread because Snickerdoodle cookies (specifically Snickerdoodle cookies from Tiff’s Treats ) are TO DIE FOR.  I’m talking, a melt in your mouth, buttery, cinnamony, sugary delight.  For some reason, I feel less guilty eating dessert bread than eating cookies, so that is how I can justify that this Snickerdoodle bread isn’t bad for you (nevermind the 2 sticks of butter that the recipe calls for).

So yeah, the only change I made from the recipe on Lil’ Luna’s blog was that I opted not to include cinnamon chips.  I couldn’t find cinnamon chips at the grocery store because apparently they are a seasonal item.  Luna suggested white chocolate chips or toffee chips, so I bought some white chocolate chips but used them as a pre-cooking snack instead of an ingredient.  The end result – the bread tastes just like a Snickerdoodle cookie.  I was in absolute heaven last night when I snuck a taste. 🙂  I cooked the bread in 2, 9×5 loaf pans because I don’t have mini loaf pans and the recipe suggested cooking for 60-70 minutes.  I cooked the bread right at an hour and the edges were a little crisper than I had hoped, so next time I bake this bread I will try to cook it for maybe 45-50 minutes.  Here is a picture of the deliciousness:

I have a list of craft projects that I am going to get started on next week so stay tuned for a post or two next week – Have a great day! 🙂

Baked Oatmeal Cups – Perfect for Breakfast on the Go!

During the week, Brad and I never have time to eat a good breakfast.  On the weekends, we take advantage of having time to make breakfast tacos or omlets but weekday mornings are a different story.  We are both in a horrible habit of repeatedly pressing the snooze button until we absolutely have to get out of bed to get ready for work, which usually leaves us fighting over who gets to shower first, who is going to make coffee and let the dog out, etc.  Making breakfast never crosses our weekday-morning minds.  On occasion, we will make what we call a “scromlet” which is our name for an omlet on a toasted English muffin or a biscuit (it puts McDonald’s Egg McMuffin to shame), but even those breakfast treats take too much time to make and when I do make one, I have to sacrifice blow drying my hair.  Lately, breakfast to-go options in our home have been nothing but granola bars and/or yogurt.  Brad has a weird obsession with granola bars and usually eats 2 each morning, which is totally fine because I’d rather him eat a box of granola bars than no breakfast at all.  I racked my brain (and consulted Pinterest) to try and find something that I can make in bulk to satisfy a hurried breakfast on our busy weekday mornings, and also save us a little money because those boxes of Nature Valley Sweet & Salty nut bars are like $4 for 6 granola bars.  A little pricey for 6 stupid granola bars.

Alas – I found a recipe for baked oatmeal.  But not just any baked oatmeal, baked oatmeal cups!  A perfect alternative to pre-packaged granola bars and much, much better for you!  The recipe is courtesy of Sugar-Free Mom and can be found HERE.  Be sure to click around her site for other delicious recipes!

One of my favorite things about this recipe is the option to get creative with the toppings.  My least favorite thing was wandering around Kroger for 30 minutes looking for flaxseed meal.  Moving on.  The recipe yields 18 oatmeal cups, but I actually got 23 cups out of my mix.  I probably could have gotten to 24 if I hadn’t over-filled a few cups, but oh well.  I topped the first batch of oatmeal cups with white chocolate chips and sliced almonds and left the second batch plain – they turned out great!  I popped these suckers out and let them cool, left a couple in the fridge to be re-heated this week and put the rest in the freezer.  I stuck one in the microwave this morning for about 30 seconds and it was delish.  Hopefully these will last me a little longer than 2 boxes of store-bought granola bars!

 

Another DIY Success from Pinterest

Darn you Pinterest for making me want to try every single DIY craft I come across on your website.  Seriously.  Now that I can finally access (and use) my craft table in the “croftice” (croftice = the word I made up for my craft room/office) I want to try making everything I see on Pinterest.  Saturday morning, I woke up about 8:30, had some coffee, picked up paint samples from Home Depot, then spent about 2 hours browsing the aisles of my local Hobby Lobby.  And by the way, Hobby Lobby is the place to be on Saturday mornings.  Anyway, I bought enough stuff to crank out several different projects including bracelets, necklaces, a swimsuit cover up, a roman shade, mending one of my broken cross-body purses, and last but certainly not least, learning how to use my sewing machine.

The first project that I tackled was a DIY braided bead necklace, inspired by a post on the ECAB blog, which I stumbled upon while “pinning” one day.  The tutorial can be found here, along with a ton of other nifty ideas!  When I first saw this necklace, I thought to myself “I can totally make that”.  What I didn’t know was that this necklace would frustrate me to the point of finishing a bottle of wine before I finished the necklace.  Okay, not the whole bottle, but I did take a wine break in the middle of thie project.  Here’s the scoop:

My Hobby Lobby store was a little picked over on Saturday morning in the jewelry/bead section.  Perhaps it was due to the 50% sale on beads?  Whatever the reason, I was able to find what I needed to make the braided bead necklace, but I had to be slightly creative.  I could only find packs of solid colored beads in gold, silver, and white, so I bought 4 packs of multi-colored beads and picked out the turquoise ones that I wanted to use.  I don’t know what upholstery thread looks like, so I just found some gray nylon thread because nylon is supposed to be good thread (I think?).  I also couldn’t find a 22″ chain, so I bought two smaller chains, which were on clearance, and joined them together make a longer chain.  The necklace hardware (jump rings, bead tips, and clasps) all came in packs of like 10+ but didn’t cost more than $2.99/pack.

I followed the tutorial on ECAB step by step (minus the accidental bead spill that happened as I was threading my last strand of beads – hence the wine break) and my finished product looks like this:

Boom!  Braided Bead Necklace!  And a doggy in the background.  I think Slyder channels his inner Waldo when I start snapping pictures, because he is always in my pictures but manages to be slightly incognito.  Silly dog.

One of the many uses for vinegar

My house is a disaster.  People seem shocked when I tell them that I’ve lived in my house for a month and I am still living out of boxes.  If you saw how much stuff my husband and I have, then you probably wouldn’t be so surprised that I have no idea where anything is.  Not to mention, that Brad has started about 5 projects around the house – each of them about 1/3 of the way done.  He is building built-ins in our master closet because we have zero storage in our master bathroom.  He is using crown moulding to build me place to display my high heels (an idea found on Pinterest, of course), he is replacing the hardware in our master bathroom, building shelves in the laundry room, starting plans to build a pergola over our back porch, and he is in the middle of organizing his garage.  Yes, it is HIS garage.  He gets the garage, I get a craft room 🙂

So while my house is a disaster, one thing that is no longer a disaster is my hair.  A few days after we moved into our house, I realized that we have hard water.  Bleh.  Hard water and my hair are not friends.  In fact, after I dried and styled my hair in the mornings it still looked and felt as if I had forgotten to wash out the shampoo :(.  I’ve been wearing my hair in a ponytail to work for the last few weeks because my hair sucks so bad.  So, I started doing some research to see if there is a special type of shampoo I can use or what the heck I need to do to help my hair.  Of course, the first solution I found was to install a water softener system in our house.  I don’t have an extra $5,000 laying around, so I kept searching.  I found a tutorial on eHow.com on how apple cider vinegar can help your hair suck less if you have hard water.  Not gonna lie, I was a little skeptical.  The idea of spraying my hair with vinegar and smelling like a pickle all day wasn’t too appealing – but I was desperate so I gave it a try.

Yesterday at Kroger, I picked up a store-brand bottle of apple cider vinegar for less than $2.  I think it was a 12oz. bottle, but that is kindof irrelevant to this post because I only used 2 tablespoons.  Moving on.  I looked around Kroger for one of those plastic spray bottles that you use to spray water on your cat when he/she misbehaves, but I couldn’t find one.  So, I got home and rummaged through the garage.  I found a few gignatic spray bottles that one would use to make their own household cleaners, so I kept looking for a smaller bottle.   I found an almost empty 10 ounce spray bottle of some kind of cleaning solution for our sofa (that we never use) so I washed out the bottle and mixed together my apple cider vineger solution.  I used 2 tbs of vinegar and filled the rest of the bottle with filtered water from my refrigerator.  I hopped in the shower, lathered, rinced, and then generously sprayed the vinegar & water solution all over my hair – being careful not to get any in my eyes.  I ran my fingers through my hair a bit to try and spread the solution around, finished up with my shower, then rinced the vinegar-water out of my hair.  No lie, my hair was SO MUCH SOFTER!  I let it air dry for about 30 minutes then finished drying with the blowdryer and I could actually run my fingers through my hair without feeling like I hadn’t showered in 3 weeks.  The vinegar smell was gone, and my hair was actually soft, shiny, and manageable – eureka!

The tutorial I read on eHow.com suggested to only use the vinegar-water solution once a week, so I placed the bottle neatly on my shower caddy for use next weekend.  I highly recommend everyone trying the vinegar-water trick if you have stubborn hair due to hard water or product build up.  It works GREAT!

Crock Pot Chicken Fajita Taco Goodness

I LOVE cooking in my crock pot.  Why do I love crock pot cooking so much?  Because it is so E-A-S-Y.  I’ll be honest, crock pot cooking does take a smidgeon of time for preparation and planning, but it is so nice to have food ready and waiting for me at dinner time!  Another reason I’m obsessed with crock pot cooking is because I get home from work about 6:00pm and by that time all I want to do is sit on my fanny, crack open a beer or a bottle of wine and watch The Wheel.  I’m lazy, and standing in my kitchen for 30 minutes to an hour to cook something is the least of my concerns even though by that time I’m so hungry I am about ready to eat my arm.  Moving on.

I had been wanting to try out a recipe for crock pot chicken fajitas that I found on the blog Stacy Makes Cents via Pinterest.  At my bi-monthly grocery shopping trip last weekend, I bought everything I needed for this recipe because I knew I would make it when my craving for chicken fajitas hit, which happened to be last Sunday night.  Side note: Whenever I make a crock pot meal for the first time, I like to make it on a weekend so that I am at home to monitor the time and progress, which actually worked out in my favor yesterday.  I eneded up shortening the cook time by about 45 minutes and the meal was amazing!

I followed the receipe from Stacy’s blog (which you can find here), and here is how it went down:

I used these things –

 

Then I did this:

 And I mixed it all together like this:

Then, I mixed the seasonings together and sprinkled them on top:

And then I set the timer on my crock pot for 8 hours and skipped off to do things around the house:

A few hours later, the house started smelling so good that I was drooling.  I checked the crock pot around the 7 hour mark and decided to shred the chicken and let it soak in the juicy goodness for the last hour.  And when I say shred the chicken, I mean attempt to pick it up with a fork and watch it fall apart all by itself.  My dinner looked like this after 7 hours:

I know, it doesn’t look too appetizing.  But, when you shred it – it looks like this!

Not too long after the chicken shredding and the juice soaking, I came into the kitchen and found my husband eating out of the crockpot with his hands.  So, thanks to Stacy for sharing this delicious and easy meal for lazy people like me!  Brad and I scarfed down our dinner (we each had 3 tacos – oops) and we are having the leftovers tonight as a topping for baked potatoes.  Yum yum!