Baking, Daily Life, DIY, Food, Pictures

Succulent Sundays: Wine & Lasagna (Hint: There’s a Recipe!)

It's An Ordinary Blog

As you may remember (reading back to this post), I’m not really into alcohol but when my husband and I saw a Groupon for a small group wine tasting in our home, we pounced on it. 8 bottles of wine, a relaxed atmosphere, and some time with our friends seemed too good to pass up. I learned something…I like wine! The glass pictured above was one that our consultant said would be good with lasagna and so that’s what I made for dinner last night.

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I thought I’d take some time to share the recipe…

You’ll need:

1 pound lean ground beef (or ground turkey) browned and drained.

Lasagna noodles (you can either buy the oven ready noodles or cook them yourself).

8oz Pasta Sauce (I use unsalted)

8oz Stewed tomatoes drained and sliced.

2 cups mozzarella cheese.

16oz large curd cottage cheese.

2 eggs.

Combine the eggs and cottage cheese into a bowl and set aside.

Combine the meat, pasta sauce, and stewed tomatoes into a bowl and set aside.

Assembling the lasagna is very simple. Start with a layer of noodles and then add a layer of your cottage cheese/egg mix followed by a layer of your meat and sauce and then a layer of mozzarella. Repeat, repeat (typically you get two to three layers per recipe).

Bake in the oven, covered with aluminum foil, at 350 degrees for 60 minutes.

Serve and enjoy with a glass of your favorite wine.

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 I suggest pairing your lasagna with fresh salad and homemade garlic bread. To make the garlic bread, I sliced a fresh made baguette from my local bakery, used my new Orblue garlic press that I purchased through Amazon (you can find it here). I combined the fresh garlic with melted butter and brushed it onto the bread before baking it at 400 degrees for about five minutes. It was delicious!

Bon Appetite!

 

 

DIY, Food, Health & Wellness, Reviews, Sustainability

Wellness Wednesdays: Let’s Chat About Gardening!

Ark Garden Seeds

Hello & Happy Wednesday, Everyone!  If you’re new here, welcome!  Allow me to introduce you to my Wellness Wednesday series.  Each week, I spend a few minutes chatting about something I’m doing to improve my overall health and wellness.  So far this summer I’ve covered a variety of topics from skincare to nutrition supplements.  One thing I haven’t touched on yet is the importance of eating whole, natural, real foods.

Garden

A couple of years ago, after the birth of my daughter, I started to research what was in the foods that we were eating.  As she transitioned from a newborn to an older infant (especially when she transitioned from breast milk to solids), I knew I wanted to provide her with the best, most nutrient rich foods that I could.  My goal was (and is) to start her on a healthy diet so she doesn’t have to learn how to eat better as an adult (it’s hard, trust me!).

Garden

Part of my goal to provide healthy, natural foods for my family included the desire to start my own garden with fresh vegetables and herbs but, until this year, I’ve never really gotten my feet wet with that particular part of living a more organic lifestyle. My love for sustainability, my desire to raise my daughter with an appreciation for home grown foods, and a yearning to try something new led me to plant my own garden in 2014 instead of waiting until I was “more ready” to dive in.

Garden

I started out small, growing several of my plants in pots on my deck (I’m absolutely terrified of even the remote possibility of snakes in the yard) and I’m really happy with how well they’ve done so far this year.

Garden

I started several of my plants from seeds (lettuce, summer squash, spinach, catnip, basil, cilantro, tomatoes, and a couple of other plants) and purchased a few starter plants (green peppers, jalapenos, and a supplemental tomato plant). Much to my surprise, most of my plants have done really well with the exception of a few that stopped producing once the Summer heat settled in.

Garden

Even though my little garden hasn’t produced enough home grown goodness to supply my family of three with all of our produce for the season, I’m really happy with how much I’ve accomplished.  As a novice gardener, I wasn’t expecting my plants to do as well as they did on my first attempt. Needless to say, gardening exceeded my expectations and I discovered that I actually (really, really) enjoy spending time tending to my plants.  If I can grow vegetables, herbs, and flowers in pots on my back deck, so can you.  I truly believe that anyone with a little outdoor space can grow their own food.  Gardening is such an incredible experience.  It provides me with an appreciation for this planet and the amazing power of nature.  There’s something truly magical about creating your own food and I can’t wait to grow my garden again next year.

Garden

I am excited to have a starter kit for my 2015 garden provided by my friends over at Ark. They provide 100% USA, heirloom vegetable garden seeds in 30 varieties with over 7500 high quality seeds. Their seeds are non-hybrid, non GMO, organic and come with a lifetime guarantee.  Ark is a company that I personally use and am happy to provide them with my heartfelt endorsement for anyone looking to grow their own food.  You can find more information about Ark and their products by visiting their Amazon listing.

DIY, House & Home

Transforming My Builder Grade Bathroom For a More Custom Look: The Plans

bathroom before picture

It’s hard to believe that five years have already passed since we moved into our home. As first time home buyers, we were lucky to find a brand new home that met all of our needs on a budget that was affordable for budget. To keep costs low, we opted for builder grade fixtures and hardware throughout the house. In the five years that have passed since we closed on the house, we’ve made some changes which have helped to transform our house into a home. We finished the basement, replaced carpeting in the living room and hallway on the main floor living space, upgraded the kitchen faucet, and have added personal touches throughout that we’re really happy with.

One project that I’ve had in the back of my head for the last several months is to add custom touches in the most important spaces in the house. If I had my druthers (I just love that word, don’t you?!) I would add crown molding throughout the house, upgrade to a thicker baseboard, and replace all of the light fixtures but that would likely not offer the best return on our investment (and, let’s be honest, it’s not really necessary for this house) so I want to focus on small, low cost savings that will appeal to a future buyer when we’re ready to move one day.

This month, I want to focus on upgrading our guest bathroom on the main level of our house. I already have a few ideas for how I plan to transform the space so I wanted to share my plans with each of you and gather your thoughts and opinions for what I should do with the rest of the space.

bathroom after

Here’s what I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I want to do in the guest bathroom. We’ve got a single vanity sink right now with two drawers and storage space underneath. The vanity is already the ideal size for the space and the birch wood is absolutely stunning so I don’t want to change those at all. The faucet, however, is definitely builder grade and it’s a fix that I think will make a huge impact in creating a custom feel in the bathroom. I’ll be updating the faucet and installing this:

Vigo Faucet

Absolutely gorgeous, right? I’m very excited to be installing this beautiful bathroom faucet and drain assembly from Vigo Industries in my guest bathroom. I love that this faucet offers a unique look and the oil rubbed bronze is, perhaps, one of my absolute favorite finishes on Earth (there, I said it, sorry frosted nickel). What I enjoy about Vigo products, in particular, is that they’re made with solid brass construction to ensure durability. The finishes resist tarnishing and are said to be significantly easier to clean (which I am looking forward to).

 Oil Rubbed Bronze

I feel like I’m taking a little bit of a risk with this next project but I want to update the towel, toilet paper, shower curtain, and hand towel rods (which are now currently a reflective silver color) to match my new faucet so I picked up a can of Rust-Oleum spray paint in an oil rubbed bronze finish and I plan to update each item in the new color for a more custom look. For less than $8, I thought the risk was worth the potential reward and I’m excited to see what it’s going to look like when it’s done.

Aside from these two updates (which I am confident will be a drastic change), I know I want to replace the existing shower curtain with a lighter color to brighten up the space, update the colorful floating flowers on the wall, add a little bit of shelving, and purchase some new towels but I need your help with a couple of other decisions…

The Mirror

Right now the space has a rather large, builder grade mirror. To give it a more custom look, I am considering framing it on my own. If you were to create a custom frame for a mirror, would you go with white & crown molding, or a unique wood?

The white would look something like what Momtastic has done in her bathroom:

Momtastic

For a more rustic look, I would do something like you see from Sweet Home Designs:sweet home design ideas:

Paint

I’m still debating (and am honestly very torn) between painting the bathroom or leaving it the sandy tan color that it’s been for the last five years. No matter what choice I make, the space desperately needs a fresh coat of paint so feel free to give me your honest feedback without worrying about how labor intensive the project might be. Having said that, I’m thinking that a nice, light, airy blue might be a good choice for the space. Maybe something similar to this:

http://i399.photobucket.com/albums/pp71/aadrolet/IMG_3031.jpg

Now that you know what my ideas and thoughts are, I’d love to hear your opinions on the framed mirror and paint options. Feel free to leave me a comment below and tell me what you think!

DIY, House & Home, Tutorials

Our Deck Transformation (For Less Than $70): Part I

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As we approach the 5th anniversary of homeownership, my husband and I decided to celebrate by sealing the deck. It’s a project that we’ve been intending to do for the last couple of years but finally got around to actually completing it last week. Sealing your deck is an easy (albeit time consuming) task that really helps to improve the look and prolong the life of your deck. I will warn you that it is somewhat of a labor of love but it’s totally worth it in the end.

How To Stain Your Deck 

For this project, you’ll need:

  • Deck Stain (We purchased Thompson’s Water Seal Waterproofing Stain from Home Depot for just under $30)

Deck Seal

  • Wood Cleaner (We purchased two of the Behr Wood Cleaners for about $20 for the pair)
  • Protective gloves
  • A broom and scrub brush
  • A bucket or tub
  • A Power Washer
  • Roller and paint brushes (We also purchased this set from Shur-Line at Home Depot for just under $5 to help with the hard to reach places)

 Deck Seal

Since I apparently fail at remembering to take “before” pictures of major household projects, this (below) is the best photo I’ve got of our five year old deck pre-treatment. As you can see, it needed a little (okay, a lot) of help.

Deck

As novice deck sealers, we weren’t entirely sure where to begin so we set out on the internet (much like I assume you’re doing if you stumbled across my post by chance) to see what the best course of action would be to prepare for the seal. Many of the resources we came across advocated power washing a pre-treatment for staining or sealing a deck. Thankfully, one of our neighbors has a power washer that we were able to borrow. Power washing was a relatively simple task and did make a difference in the look of the wood.

Deck Stain

After power washing the deck, we ventured out to our local Home Depot to purchase supplies and while we were there, We began to question whether or not the power wash was sufficient enough in preparing our deck for this project. We took a few minutes to look at the various products in the stain/seal aisle (near the paint) and came across this:

Behr All In One Wood Cleaner

Behr Premium All-In-One Wood Cleaner. At the end of the day, we wanted to make sure that the seal on our deck is going to last and we want to make sure that we’ve done all that to protect our home. With the promise of cleaning off mold and mildew stains from the deck, we decided that the Behr Wood Cleaner was worth the small investment we would be paying to make sure that the deck was clean before sealing it. I should mention that it’s really important to make sure your deck is as clean as it can be before you seal it otherwise you risk trapping in bacteria, mold, and dirt into your wood and you increase the chance of having problems later on down the road.

Deck Protection

The wood cleaner requires a 1:1 ratio (which is what we did) of product to water. Knowing that we would be using the entire bottle, we just dumped the bottle out into an old container, filled it up with water, and mixed it all together. We soaked our deck before treating it (per the suggestions) and then applied it using a stiff thistle broom and a small scrubbing brush (for the spindles and railing). The deck has to remain wet the entire time you’re doing this project so I would suggest having a partner help you while you clean.

Deck Cleaning

The transformation after using the wood cleaner was pretty amazing. I had absolutely no idea how much nasty dirt we had accumulated over the years.

Deck Clean

We wanted to make sure that we washed off as much of the cleaner as we could so we spent a good half hour spraying it down after we were done (I’m fairly certain my neighbors think I’m a crazy person for watering my deck for so long).

Sealing A Patio

It worked so well that we decided to go over the deck with one more cleaning before applying the stain. This part of the process (power washing, cleaning the deck, and going over it a second time) took about two and a half hours but was well worth the time to make sure our deck was properly prepped for staining. Had we not opted to purchase the wood cleaner, we would never have known how completely disgusting our deck really was. Power washing it alone would never have been sufficient and I’m really glad we made the choice to buy it.

Sealing A Deck

Next time, I’ll share the rest of this process with you including the incredible transformation that makes all of this time and effort so worthwhile. Stay tuned…

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DIY, House & Home, Tutorials, Uncategorized

We Said Goodbye To Carpet: A Living Room Renovation

Updated Living Room

In December 2012, in anticipation of our basement remodel, we purchased new living room furniture and we have absolutely loved our living room set since. One thing we haven’t loved, however, has been the wear and tear on our carpet in the five years since we purchased our house.

I really don’t like carpet for a multitude of reasons but primarily because it’s a hot bed for germs when it gets a lot of traffic (which ours sure did) and, over time, it gets kind of ugly. There are a lot of options when it comes to replacing flooring and we wanted to make sure whatever we did with our house offered the best possible return on our investment. Since the purchase price of our home five years ago is almost $10,000 more than what comparable homes in the area are listed at right now, we wanted to be careful not to end up spending money that wouldn’t be “worth it” to us in the end.

Sunset Acacia Laminate Flooring

When we were working on finishing the basement, I found this beautiful laminate flooring by Harmonics that is exclusively sold at Costco. What I love about this flooring is that it comes with the underlayment already attached so, as someone who has never put down flooring before, it was very user friendly. When I purchased for downstairs, the flooring was on sale for about $28 a box (which was awesome) and, since we did all of the work ourselves, it saved us a TON of money. I knew when we were ready to replace the main floor carpeting, we would likely go with the same flooring we used in the basement. Even at the full price of around $35 a box (including tax), using this laminate flooring was significantly less expensive than it would have been had we decided to go with a real or engineered hardwood.

Old CarpetAfter all of the furniture was removed and we were preparing to tear up the carpet, I realized how much obvious wear the carpet had sustained throughout the years. Even though it wasn’t the worst carpet in the history of mankind, I was a little embarrassed that we’d hosted friends and family with it looking that bad. Whoops. I had actually already listed the carpet on Freecycle (a sustainability group that I’m involved with) and had someone coming by to pick it up later that day. I’m sure with a little hard work and a great carpet cleaner, this made a decent rug for the new owners (hopefully).

Goodbye Carpet

Carpet RemovalAfter the carpet was completely gone from the living room and hallway we were ready for the new flooring to go down. One thing that I learned when planning out new flooring is that you should always account for potential cutting errors. I purchased a little over 10% more than the measurements for this space just in case we needed it and ended up with one extra box of flooring. Since the laminate needed 24+ hours to acclimate to its new environment (to account for humidity and temperature in the space), I really didn’t want to run the risk of needing to buy a brand new box last minute.

New Floors

New Flooring

Laminate Flooring

We left the carpeting on the stairs (awkward, I know, but we’re lazy and stairs are hard) and in each of the bedrooms in the house so we ended up purchasing all of our transition strips (along with the shoe molding that went between the floor and trim) from Home Depot mid-way through the project.

Upstairs RedoSince the shoe molding was white and the existing trim was a different shade of wood, we decided to go ahead and paint all of the trim and door frames white (this part is still a work in progress). I really think that the new color adds a little character and elegance to the new flooring and I’m happy we made that decision.

Upstairs redo 1

Even though the space is not 100% finished, I’ll go ahead and share pictures of what the living room looks like today:

New Flooring Pictures

New Living Room

I should mention that all of the accessories, including the new rug, were purchased on clearance at Hobby Lobby & Target for less than $150 total. I’m so happy with how it looks that it might just be my favorite room in the house!

The upstairs of our house looks so vastly different with the changes that we made and the transformation is so easy I definitely recommend this type of project to anyone looking at projects around the house. The biggest advice that I can give is to make sure whatever you’re doing with your house is worth the time and investment you’re putting into it. The laminate flooring we went with has the look of hardwood flooring but is a much better option for our current home.

Next on the docket: An updated office and guest bathroom. Stay tuned! 

DIY, Parenting

Creative Gift Giving For Kids: Idea #1 (For Less Than $30!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

gift ideas for seven year olds

It seems like everyone in our lives celebrates a birthday (haha), am I right or am I right?!  I absolutely love coming up with creative ideas for gift giving and I thought I’d share some of my ideas with all of you.  Today, I want to talk about gift giving for the six, seven, or eight year old in your life (this might also work for children who are slightly younger or slightly older, depending on the child).  I should mention that this idea is one that I think would be absolutely perfect for children who will be staying home during summer break since it provides daily activities that inspire creativity and encourage imagination. That said, I bring to you the Super Sleuth Spy Kit. The best part?! This gift can be assembled for a little less than $30!

We were recently invited to a birthday party for one of our sweet friends who was turning into a seven year old. Although the theme was “Monster High”, I knew I wanted to do something a little out of the box (I love unique gifts) for our gift to her.

gift ideas for a seven year old

 

The inspiration for this gift idea came to me when I was perusing my local Target for gift ideas.  While walking around the book aisle, I came across Judy Moody’s Mini-Mysteries and it was there that the lightbulb went off in my head. Why not create a Super Sleuth Spy Kit for her?!

 

Creative Gift Ideas for Kids

The book (which retails at around $6.00), provides some great suggestions for items to put in your very own spy kit. With only a couple of exceptions, I purchased everything the book suggested and separated them into gallon size zip lock bags based on which type of sleuthing the items would be most appropriate for (because you all know how important staying organized is to me).

Super Sleuth Spy Kit for Kids

The first bag included all of the materials a seven year old would need to collect evidence during an investigation: Composition books, a magnifying glass, pencils (and a pencil sharpener), and tweezers.

Disguise Kit

The second bag included some materials that could be used as disguises. As you know, a super sleuth can never be too careful. The book recommended also including a hat but I figured she probably already has a few around the house she can use.

Lock Pickers

No detective is complete without their lock pickers (bobby pins), of course!

Spy Material Kit for Kids

Some of the other items included in the kit were a mirror, lipstick (chapstick) for writing secret messages (sorry Mom and Dad ;)), a ruler, tape for picking up fingerprints, and a cup for listening through walls.

Spy Snacks

And because spies often get hungry on the job, I also included some fun super sleuth spy snacks.

Super Spy Kit Gift Idea for kids

I put all of the items together in a large case and wrapped them together in her gift bag. I will admit that I was nervous when we gave her the gift at her party. I wasn’t sure how it would go over with someone her age (especially after she got a series of new dolls from other guests) but her mom tells me she’s had a lot of fun collecting evidence all around their house.

Culture, Daily Life, DIY, Food, Parenting, Pictures

The Graham Cracker Death Trap (A Gingerbread House FAIL)

Gingerbread House Fail

I’ve been dreaming about this day for years.  

The day we would sit together as a family, creating beautiful gingerbread houses that would make any Pinterest goer green with envy.  Oh, yeah. I got this.  Except not.

Gingerbread House

I was so excited to be able to share this special time with my toddler, making gingerbread houses for the first time.  Something I hoped we would be able to turn into an annual tradition. But now, my hopes and dreams have been forever ruined because I realize that I suck at making gingerbread houses.  I mean, I’m terrible at it.  I mean, it’s pretty bad. Like really bad.

Gingerbread House decorating

Let’s backtrack to earlier in the weekend when I  braved the crowds in hell at our local Walmart for some wine and gingerbread house making materials.  Somewhere in the store, nowhere near the candy and graham cracker aisles (because, you know, it’s Walmart and nothing makes sense), I saw actual gingerbread house decorating kits. “Pffft! PAH-LEESE,” I said to myself, “That’s for idiots who don’t know how to decorate their own houses. Not me!” And so I spent more than I care to admit on candy, frosting, graham crackers (which I used, instead of making gingerbread, to save time), and various other little treats that we could adorn our lovely homes with.

Its An Ordinary Blog

As we sat down at the table to start decorating our homes, I was thrilled.  Mostly at the idea of documenting our awesome journey in gingerbread house making to gloat about on Facebook (yeah, I’m awesome) but also because it’s our first year doing this.  I actually cannot remember the last time I decorated a gingerbread house.  It may have been never.  I consider myself to be a relatively crafty person so I had no doubt in my mind that I was going to rock that shit.

Gingerbread House Decorating

My toddler lovingly placed rainbow sprinkles across her rooftop.

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She was so careful and meticulous about placing the decorations on her house.  I was so proud.

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My husband’s craftsmanship.  He is, perhaps, one of the least artistic people that I know and in this particular case, it worked to his advantage.  He was extremely proud that he created something that looked somewhat like a house and actually remained intact as he completed the project.  HOORAY lowered expectations.

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Pretty quickly after I started constructing my gingerbread mansion, I realized that I’m not cut out to be a contractor.  I have no idea what it means to create vaulted ceilings and it’s safe to say that no gingerbread men will be hiring me to play a part in the construction of their homes.  I opted for a flat roof with Kit Kat solar panels on the roof (because, you know, being environmentally conscious is important to me and it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I was incapable of making a structurally sound roof).  It looks more or less like a safe house that would harbor a wanted terrorist for interrogation rather than a comfortable environment for any loving gingerbread family.

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At some point, through no fault of her own, my daughter’s house came crashing to the ground. Presumably crushing all of its gummy bear residents under mounds of sweet, sweet rubble.

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Here they stand…our condemned gingerbread neighborhood.

Next year we’re buying a kit.