Monday, May 23, 2016

Home Renovation - 4 years in the making

Today was monumental. For nearly 4 years, Reece and I have been renovating our charming cottage in Marietta. A few months ago, we decided in order to do it right, we were going to do something drastic - move everything in our home, including us, out and in to storage (no, we aren't living in a storage unit...we have amazing family that has been hosting us).

After clearing the house, we scheduled some pretty major work to be done - drywall repairs throughout, fresh paint in every nook and cranny, hardwood floors refinished, a (near complete) kitchen remodel and a brand new name a few projects. And that's just in the last few months. Prior projects while we were living there included: a major French drain system around the perimeter of the house (which involved heavy equipment operated by my jack-of-all-trades husband), new HVAC, new plumbing, bathroom renovation, addition of a laundry closet, numerous yard projects including a new fence and front rail and and and...the list could go on for days. Most of it we've done ourselves, but some of it we subbed out - we just plain ran out of time.

Today we met our deadline - the listing agent scheduled our professional photographs to be taken today so that means within the next 48 hours, our little house will be on the market.

Below are before and after photos. It's come a long way and we couldn't be happier with how it turned out. I can't write this post though without thanking our incredible support system - family and friends who've donated time and furniture to get us to this day. And disclaimer, we don't magically have a small child - it's just a staging trick ;0)

Before - 2011
After - 2016 - new shutters, fresh painted foundation, new front path, 2 trees removed, misc. yard improvements
Hallway before - looking toward bedrooms (wood paneling on walls and small closet at end of hall)
Hallway after - no wood paneling and expanded the closet about 6" to accommodate washer/dryer. Major project as we expanded the closet wall to the right by 6" which impacted the bedroom...meaning we didn't just expand the closet, but the entire wall which runs the length of the back bedroom (hence the built-ins you'll see later on).
Old deck and backyard

New, larger , safe deck, fresh pine straw and debris clean up, new patio around swing

Back bedroom before the built-ins
Back bedroom - mid-renovation
Back bedroom after - Reece built the built-ins when we created the hallway laundry closet.
Front/master bedroom before
Front/master after
Bath before
Bath - mid-renovation
Bath after - new tile floor, refinished wall tile and bathtub, major drywall repair, new vanity, fresh paint
Kitchen before
Kitchen after - new tile floor, paint throughout, granite counter top, tile back splash, new appliances
Dining before
Dining/kitchen after
Front bedroom - formerly the laundry room. Where the yellow bench sits, used to be the washer/dryer unit and next to it sat a work table. The whole room was lined with wire coat racks at the ceiling. The floor in this room had not been refinished with the rest of the house so it was in pretty bad shape. We also had to replace a corner of the flooring as it was rotten perhaps from a washing machine leak. Now we've made it an office. 
Living Room - mid-drywall repair. Gives you a good idea of the amount of drywall repair. All walls were mudded where there were any imperfections and then sanded down.
Living Room - after - pretty much just paint and floors (and a new front door)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Get lean with the green!

Super Green Smoothies

Tropical Dreamin' Smoothie

I am going to be brutally honest. I have been unhappy with my body over the last few years. Plain and simple. I am pretty sure most college grads would agree that once you've graduated and get stuck behind a desk all day, those pounds seem to come out of no where! Growing up, I was fit....or at least I was constantly exercising with soccer practice after school and other activities. I pretty much ate whatever I wanted to, but the fateful time has come which my mother warned me about saying, "All that junk food is going to catch up with you one of these days!" Ok Mom, you were right. It done caught up! And being married to a 'meat n' potatoes' kind of guy isn't exactly pleasing for the figure either. Not complaining, but I definitely feel challenged! 

I have posted before about healthy alternatives for 'work lunches,' but I admit I have still struggled. If I didn't pack my lunch the night before out of laziness, then I found myself starved at about Noon the next day and sneaking in to the snack cabinet at work or heading down the street to grab a sandwich or Chick-Fil-A. That all changed after the first of the year (and not because I made a new year's resolution....that was just coincidental!). My co-worker, Tina, has been my inspiration for my green smoothie kick. She is super healthy and I have often seen (and heard) her making a smoothie for lunch. She has shared some great tips with me! I am now in my 3rd week of lunch smoothies and at least am feeling better about myself :0) 

My biggest piece of advice and the reason I have stuck with this smoothie kick....investing in an individual blender. The kind where you make the smoothie in the same cup you drink out of. So convenient. I also buy my smoothie ingredients and store them in the fridge at work instead of having to pack them each day. 

Below are some ingredients I have included in my smoothies (feel free to experiment which is what I do daily!). Note, I put spinach in every smoothie, and before you make that 'icky' face, you can't even taste it! Oh, and I just made up the names so you can call it whatever you want~!

Green Monster Smoothie:
-Spinach / Kale / whey protein powder / peanut butter / almond milk / apple (cubed)
-Spinach / Kale / whey protein powder / peanut butter / almond milk / banana (cubed)
-I also combined the two above and put apple and banana together
-Instead of apple or banana, add frozen fruit: blueberries, raspberries, peaches

Tropical Dreamin' Smoothie:
Spinach / Chia seeds / carrots (cut up) / pineapple chunks / orange pieces / banana pieces / coconut milk

Friday, January 3, 2014

Chicken n' Waffles

Not sure where this itch to make Chicken and Waffles came from, but I sure am glad I decided to give it a whirl! While the dish may sound a little odd, it's actually the perfect blend of sweet and spicy. It's a savory dish that qualifies as breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

Oven-fried chicken
2 Egg whites
Chicken tenders (or breasts)
All purpose flour (white lily) about a cup 
Self rising cornmeal (white lily) about 1/2 cup
Salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, "Slap Ya Mama" Cajun spice :-)

Preheat oven 425 degrees. 
Step 1: combine buttermilk and egg whites. 
Step 2: Add several pieces of chicken and let soak in fridge Atleast 30 minutes (I used Springer Mountain frozen chicken tenders, thawed, of course). 

Step 3: Meanwhile, combine flour, cornmeal, and spices in gallon ziplock bag. 

Step 4: dredge Chicken in flour mix, one piece at a time, and toss until coated well. 
Step 5: line baking sheet with foil and spray generously with cooking spray. Step 6: Place chicken on pan and lightly coat top with cooking spray. 

Step 7: Bake 30 minutes then flip chicken and bake another 20 minutes. 
Step 8: to crisp the chicken, set oven to broil during the last minute or 2 of baking, flipping chicken once to get even crisp on both sides. 

While you let the chicken bake, you will make the maple gravy AND (if you are "all that and a bag of chips"), the waffles (however, I totally cheated and used frozen waffles!) 

Maple Gravy 
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp Gold Medal Wondra quick mixing flour (this was new to me, but I think it really makes a difference! It dissolves much better than all-purpose)
1 3/4 c chicken stock (not broth)
Salt, pepper
1/2 c pure dark maple syrup 
Cinnamon and sugar, pinch of each

Step 1: heat butter over med high heat in cast iron pan. 
Step 2: add Wondra flour and stir constantly, about 2 minutes, until golden brown. 
Step 3: slowly whisk in stock. Bring to boil over med high heat stirring constantly for about 10 minutes. 
Step 4: reduce hear to simmer and add salt, pepper, syrup, cinnamon, sugar. Mix well. 

Toast up that waffle(s), add chicken tenders atop, drizzle with maple gravy. Savor every last bite :-)

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mini apple pies (with a simple pie dough recipe)

Today is New Year's Eve 2013. Our last day at the beach (sigh). What always happens on the last day at the beach?! Clean out the fridge and pantry. Mama always says, "We're not taking anything home!" (She also says not to call her 'mama'!! But I do anyways). :-). Needless to say, we had several apples left to eat. As if we needed any more desserts to consume, I decided to make mini apple pies. I got a little creative because as I said, it's 'eat the leftovers' not 'run to the store for the ingredients!'

I looked up a simple pie dough recipe (using what I had which was self rising flour and not the typical all purpose flour used in pie dough). 

Simple Pie dough
1 cup flour (self rising worked fine - just don't add salt)
1/3 c Crisco (or butter)
2-3 Tbsp cold water

Using pastry cutter or two knives, cut Crisco into flour. Add water to combine everything in to a dough ball. I used a fork to toss everything together. (I also made 2 dough balls). 

Apple pie filling
3-4 apples peeled and cored; chopped in to small pieces (Granny Smith is traditionally used in pies but use what ya have)
2 Tbsp butter
Pinch of salt
2-3 Tbsp sugar
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
Melted caramel (optional)

Preheat oven to 400. Melt butter in cast iron skillet (if you have one; something big enough for the apples). Toss apples, sprinkle salt, and let cook a few minutes. Add sugar and spices. Let apples cook until tender. If you have caramel you can add at the last minute just until melted (again, cleaning out the pantry we had caramel candies so I decided to experiment. You could totally omit the caramel). 

Transfer to a dish and allow apple mix to cool down. 

Meanwhile, cut you dough in half or thirds (I did). Roll out to flat disks. Maybe 6-8 inches in diameter. 

Add a few spoonfuls of apple mix to center. Fold over dough and seal edges. 

Brush an egg wash over top (egg and water). Cut slits in top. Bake for about 30 minutes. 

Not bad for improvising!! 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Apple Slab Pie

What to do with an excessive amount of hand-picked apples?! Make a slab pie! Reece and I went to North Georgia this past weekend and stopped to pick apples at, no joke, BJ Reece Apple Orchard! What are the odds?! And, they spell it right :) 

I was contemplating what to make with all those apples before they went bad, when I got the email from the blog, Smitten Kitchen, that I subscribe to (thank you for sharing Ali Barden). (See Smitten Kitchen's recipe here I thought, 'this is perfect! I can use up the apples, and I have something to take to small group Wednesday (thank you Small Group for being my taste testers!)!'

3 3/4 c. all purpose flour
1 + 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1 + 1/2 teaspoon salt
3 sticks COLD, unsalted butter
1 c. COLD water (I even stuck it in the fridge for a few minutes!)

about 8 cups apples - peeled and diced in to 1/2" pieces
squeeze of lemon juice (to keep apples from turning)
3/4 c. sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg (*NOTE: I substituted Penzy's pumpkin pie spice for the nutmeg and allspice)
1/4 tsp. allspice
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt

Steps (photos at bottom - sorry for the formatting; I am still having issues with adding captions; be sure to read the photos left to right)
Preheat Oven to 375 degrees.

CRUST (can make 1-2 days in advance; need enough time for the dough to chill)
1. Mix flour, sugar, salt.
2. Using pastry cutter (or two knives - see my technique in "Biscuit Heaven"), cut cold butter in to flour mix until you get pea-sized mix.
3. Slowly add cold water, folding dough until you get a workable ball. Knead only 3-4 times
4. Cut dough in half.
5. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and slightly flatten out to a disk shape. Let chill in fridge at least 1 hour (I let mine chill over night)

1. Toss apples with lemon juice. Mix apples, sugar, spices, cornstarch in large bowl.

1. Remove dough from fridge. Working quickly, roll out dough to fit your pan, leaving enough 'extra' on the edges to stand up the side of the pan. Smitten Kitchen uses a baking sheet with a 1" depth...since I didn't have such, I used a cake pan with a 2" depth. Worked just as well.
2. Spray pan with butter spray. Place first dough in bottom of pan.
3. Add apple filling.
4. Roll out 2nd dough and place atop apple filling. Tuck edges in to bottom dough edges. (Does that even make sense?!)
5. Brush top with egg wash and cut slits with knife to allow to heat flow.
6. Bake in oven 45 minutes - 1 hr.

Powdered sugar + water; mix well. want consistency that is pour-able but not too runny

7. Let cool for about 45 minutes.
8. Served best with vanilla ice cream :-)

Dough ingredients
Baker's tools
Cut butter in to flour mix

crumbly mixture