Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Revere Pewter for the Win!

We finally, finally, finally have completed our first wall paint project here at Casa de Bees.  Revere Pewter was an excellent choice, although I'm not going to lie, I was TERRIFIED when I first started painting the walls.  It looked very, very white and I had a huge sinking feeling in my stomach.

But as it dried, it turned a nice rich color that is anything but white.  I adore this color and have threatened to paint every room this color if we can't pick other colors soon. 

It only took two coats and the ugly khaki yellow color (and Seal in one corner) disappeared! One gallon was just enough paint for the room..

We have a few other things to tackle but this room is coming right along.  We spend the majority of our time in this room and that is why it was high on the priority list.

Sorry I couldn't do some more wide open shots.  I've been trying to take pictures for this post for a few days but the weather (rain, clouds, etc) made the color not show accurately.

So today, I pulled out some things to work on and of course, the sun comes out in our large picture window.  So I seized the opportunity but I had to take tight shots to crop out the mess in my floor.  (Organization projects always make things look worse before better!) 

This is the corner that was Seal.  (The same color as the fireplace.) 

We plan to have built ins on the fireplace wall and we'll be mounting our TV over the fireplace. 

I especially love that the white trim really pops with the Revere Pewter.  (Yes, I still have some trim work to do.  There are miles worth of trim in this house...) 

This is the other wall that we plan to do built ins on.  (Same wall, other side of the fireplace.)

One room painted... feels like a zillion and five more to go. 


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Just Swell...

In the last few weeks, we have had massive amounts of rain. Our yard is a jungle because everytime we get ready to cut the grass, it rains. 

The children have been more wound up than usual because of the rain.  They had all gotten used to playing outside.  We all love it.

But there has been a bigger issue with the rain.

We have a wooden door.  It's not 100% our style to be honest, but was very low on our "to do list." 

Some of the door knob and lock finish is coming off.

And the gold really isn't our thing.

But with the humidity the door is stuck.  Seriously!  It has caused the door to swell making it very hard to open and close.

For now, we are considering it an added security feature and we are hoping that with fall soon approaching and then winter that the door shrinks back.  We are going to try to make it to next summer before replacing it with some other kind of material. 

Just another quirk.  An annoying quirk, but just a quirk.  *slow deep breaths*


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Pepper Allergic Cook Cooks Peppers

Let me explain.

I have this little problem with raw bell peppers.  I can't touch them.  If I do, I start to itch very badly.

I can eat cooked peppers, which is a good thing for a fajita chow hound like me.  But actual preparation usually takes place when my husband is home.

But I was desperate to use the peppers I got for .33 each.  The typical "on sale" price here in Richmond is .50 a pepper.  So I snagged quite a few when I saw them for .33 each!  I have this complicated method of using a produce bag to cover my hands so I can actually buy the peppers.  But I 'git 'er done!'

And then they sat on my counter for a few days while we made peach jelly etc.  After a few days I got nervous we were going to waste my savings.  So I loaded up the crew and headed to Target.  I had an idea.

Yes, that is my babiest facing the wrong direction in the cart.  He likes to see where we are going.

I went to the pharmacy section and bought a box of these.

Don't worry!  No obgyn exams going on here!

Instead, I used gloved hands to take care of my peppers!  I had plenty of benadryl on hand in case things went south.

First, I chopped off the tops of the peppers using an old cookie sheet with an edge as my cutting board so that the pepper juices would stay in place.  I cringe when I watch cooking shows and they throw the tops directly in the trash.  I'll show you why in a minute. Just know I saved them!

 Then I took the seeds out.

And then I boiled the pepper cups.  I can eat bell peppers but they must be cooked to soft.  Sometimes when you make stuffed peppers they don't get soft enough to change whatever oil I am allergic to.  So I parboil them to help out with the softening process.

And I started a pot of rice and started browning some hamburger and onions.

While the peppers and rice were cooking, I turned my attention to the pepper tops that I see thrown away on almost every cooking show!

We use peppers in various things.  They appear in our spaghetti and our meatloaf among other dishes.

So I dug out my most favorite kitchen gadget (besides my Keurig-- who can argue with 30 second coffee?) 

Introducing the Vidalia Chop Wizard! 

And I went to town chopping the tops!

Then I measured 1/2 cup portions and put them in regular sandwich bags after labeling the date and marking that each bag was 1/2 cup.

THEN I put the sandwich bags in a large freezer bag.  I do this for a few reasons.  First, sometimes peppers and onions make your freezer stink.  Secondly, freezer bags cost more than regular sandwich bags and I was putting a small amount in the bags to make it more convenient for grabbing a single bag.  I didn't need to waste 5 larger freezer bags. Plus now my five bags are corralled in the craziness we call our freezer. 

By the time I did this my peppers were boiled enough!  I took each pepper cup out with my tongs and poured the extra water back into the pot.

Then I mixed the other ingredients into the rice to make the filling and filled the cups and topped them with cheese. 

I had more filling then I needed, even after I made a small casserole for Xander (since he will not eat the peppers and cannot have cheese) so I froze the extra filling.  Next time I buy peppers I can skip making the mixture!

I had extra browned hamburger so I put it in a container.  It will be a starter for another meal.  (Tacos? Spaghetti?)  

After the stuffed peppers baked long enough to heat everything through and melt the cheese, I took them out of the oven.

Dinner was ready!

In the time it took me to make one meal, I also prepped the stuffing mixture for another meal, processed 2.5 cups of chopped peppers (from the tops), and browned meat to start another meal.  All in ONE hour!

And I'm pleased to report that the vinyl gloves worked beautifully!  No need for a side of Benadryl to be served with my stuffed bell peppers.

Now that is success!


Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Georgia Peach makes Peach Jelly!

Last weekend I made my weekly run through the grocery salvage store.  It's quickly becoming my favorite place to shop.  I've gotten great deals there.  You just have to look carefully at expiration dates and such although I don't buy much of anything with an expiration date.  I have bought cases 

But the true gem of shopping at that store is that they get a ton of produce in. I got flats of strawberries (12 cartons) for $1.50 each.  Yes, they were super ripe.  A few had a "bad" berry in it.  But to be honest, I have had the same thing happen at other grocery stores while spending top dollar.

The thing about this store is that you never know what they will have.

This past weekend, peaches and peppers were the stars of the show.  Peaches were .88/lb!  The cheapest I've seen in the sales papers were .99 a lb and they were tiny and rock hard when I got to the store to check them out. 

I quickly grabbed a produce bag and started picking through the peach bin. I got about 6 lbs of peaches.  They smelled amazing but I decided that these weren't to eat fresh.

My very, very, very favorite kind of jelly/preserves/jam is PEACH.  And I wanted to try my hand at making some jelly.  One issue though, if I did the waterbath kind I had nothing to pull my jars out of boiling water with.

I asked around for a recipe and was told to follow the directions in the box of Sure Jell.  There is a chart for different types of fruit and different ways to process it. 

I didn't intend to get the low sugar kind.   But oh well. 

The first thing I did was wash and peel the peaches.  I put the peels down the garbage disposal as I wondered if there was anything I could do with the peels.  (Turns out there is!)

Then I put the peaches through my favorite kitchen gadget (well second to the Keurig!) our Vidalia Onion Chop Wizard.

Then I mixed the Sure Jell, sugar and water like the directions said and stirred, stirred, stirred waiting for the mixture to boil.  It didn't look to appetizing. 

Then I mixed in the fruit and stirred for about a minute.  I ladled it into jars while being mindful of the "fill line" so that there was room for the jelly to expand in the freezer.  (There were multiple warnings about making sure you allowed space.  My jars had a marking for the "fill line.")

I sealed the jars and admired them on the counter.  I had enough peaches for two batches of Sure Jell.  It made 7.5 jars. 

After 24 hours, the jelly had set and we moved one jar to the fridge where it will be good for 3 weeks.  I put the rest in the freezer, where they will be good for a year.  We already gifted a jar to one of Brandon's coworkers. 

This was my first experience actually doing the jelly-making.  I watched my aunt and mom often when I was little girl but I was only an observer.  Next thing to tackle is water bath canning.  Those jars won't take up room in the freezer.  Thumbs up!


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Go Back to the Beginning

Ever since I finally found the perfect color for the fireplace, I've been on the hunt for the perfect gray for the walls in our living room.

Our fireplace is painted Seal by Martha Stewart.  

Our living room walls were a yellowy-khaki color when we moved in.  (We have yellowy-khaki, yellow, sherbet lime green, powder blue and white left from the previous owners. EVERYTHING needs paint!)

Grays are funny creatures.  First, they have really showy undertones.  Now look, I'm not fancy art person, but even *I* can see the undertones in the various grays we have tried.

Some looked blue, some looked purple, some even had a GREEN undertone.  It was just weird, weird, weird!  Some were silver and your really couldn't see a color in the bright daylight.  It just gave a funny glow to the walls!

If gray paint swatches were money I'd be a rich, rich woman.  I've grabbed a zillion grays during every home improvement store trip we've taken for a long, long time.

Nothing sang to me. 

So then I thought.. Hmmmm.. maybe if I did that whole wall in the living room in Martha Stewart's Seal... maybe it would work.  And I'd only need to paint the other three walls.

And I tried it.  But it was no bueno.  It's too much for our room.

So I left it.  I periodically cruised different home blogs looking for THE perfect Gray.  That corner of the room looked terrible and every now and then it really bugged me.

Especially when we hosted company one weekend. *blush*

Anyway, so I've been doing some smaller painting projects and using up some of my sample pots.  Sample pots are the best thing ever!  First, paint usually looks different than the card.  Second, you can try it without huge commitment and third, they are cheap and work for small projects.  Sample jars are usually less than $3!

So I was painting a wooden magazine holder I picked up at Goodwill that was $2.12 after the 50% discount.  (They discount by sticker color here.)

I pulled out a sample that I had gotten color matched to Benjamin Moore's Revere Pewter.

Anyway, I've been painting this little piece off and on for several days.

Last night I was sitting in the living room moseying around Pinterest when I jumped up and practically ran to the garage.  Brandon followed closely behind asking if there was something wrong.

I picked up my sample jar and came back to the living room where I asked Brandon, "Do you think this would work?"

He had the most bewildered look on his face.  "All of that... was about paint?"

*blush*  Yes dear.

He asked me to paint some on the walls in different areas.

And we really liked it.  But it was night time and the lighting is bad in our living room.  I couldn't help taking a picture though.

The dark gray on the left is the same color as our fireplace.  Revere Pewter is next and then the white trim. 

Tested on another wall.  Next to the floor lamp.  You can see the yellow-khaki that the walls currently are.  Well.. most of them. LOL!

So we waited until morning to see it in daylight.

And I dare say, we LOVE it.

Wanna hear a funny story?  This is the color I had picked for the foreclosure home that we gave up on.  Seriously.... sometimes you just have to go back to the beginning.

Hopefully, we can carve out a bit of time to paint the walls.  We have company coming at the beginning of next month.  And I'd really appreciate not having to creatively crop pictures.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Thrifting Makes Me a More Understanding Mama

It does.

Let me share a real life example:

Disclaimer:  I'm sure someone out there is tempted to say, "OH my children will never ruin anything."  Here are my thoughts to that.  Perhaps you have no children and no experience with children.  Perhaps you are in denial. Or perhaps your precious child has never been rough with anything. 

I was once a perfect parent too-- before I had children.  I once had a child (two even!) that had never broken anything really until they were maybe 4ish and even then I am pretty sure it was an accident...  Go on... keep telling everyone how perfect everything is.  Either they can see through it or you'll humbled soon enough.  And maybe they will be nice enough to laugh when you aren't around. 


I'm all about keeping things real! 

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.  I thrift a good bit especially here lately when I happen to have a bit more time on my hands than what I am used to.  

We found an amazing neighborhood yard sale early in the season and got quite a few things in mint condition for cheap.  

I bought a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Book for $1.  It retailed for $19.99.  I happen to have two Mickey Mouse Clubhouse fanatics in my home so I scooped it up.  No brainer. 

Well.. imagine my surprise when I walked in the room during naptime and found this: 

Yes. The child shall remain unnamed.  

But let me tell ya.  I was NOT pleased with what I saw.  Books are treasured in our home.  I was bummed.  But I reacted a whole heap nicer than I would have if I had actually paid retail and it had only lasted less than a week in our home. 


Anyway.  I've noticed that an added plus of thrifting is that I'm not near as upset when things are broken or even abused. Yes, I still taught my son that we should take care of our things and that we shouldn't tear things up. 

Heck.. we even got a little religious teaching in when the same son said, "You can fix it? You make it new? All better?" 

Honey.. only God can make all things new again.  He can even make our hearts new.  And thank God for that!


Monday, July 15, 2013

The Gym- A 6 month check in

Brandon and I have steadily been using our gym membership.  I'm so impressed.  This is the longest we have stuck with a gym membership while actually using it!

My weight has fluctuated alot with my illness.  :(  Several weeks of steroids and being told I couldn't work out took a toll, not to mention, I started to stress eat.. again.

At first I was reluctant to return to the gym.  Then I finally did it (with blessing from my medical team) and I was really shocked how well I did when I took the ActivTrax assessment again.  I was fatigued but stayed at the same settings for almost all of my exercises.  I'm trying to think if any of them changed and can't think of any, but don't want to be untruthful.

I've started checking in weight wise and I'm not seeing much progress... but then I'm also having symptoms of low vitamin D again. :(  I should have that level redrawn.  My energy and hair both improved on it.  And it seemed like the weight was melting off. I also haven't been logging all of my food... I should get back to that!

I am feeling much better and am starting to notice some changes in my body.  My arms are more toned, and I feel stronger when I lift children and other things. I sleep better at night when we go to the gym.  My energy level is better and most of all, my stress management is amazingly better! 

I am a bit more balanced now with my gym commitment than I was in the very beginning.  Most of that is because I have other things I really want to get done this summer and I've been spending time on house projects (painting, painting, painting.)  Right now I'm getting Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday in with Brandon.  But I should really do something Tuesday-Thursday during the day.  Maybe I should just schedule Wednesday mornings as a regular gym time. 

The staff has always been helpful and polite except for one circumstance that we dealt with recently but that was dealt with swiftly. 

The gym has become a comfortable place for our family.  The children ADORE the childcare workers and really appreciate their time in the kid's zone and Mommy and Daddy greatly appreciate two hours of adult time.  I don't feel as intimidated as I used to when I work out and I have quickly learned my way around the machines.  A few days ago, one of the personal trainers made a comment that I always have really good form and THEY can see how hard I work.  That made me feel good. :) 

We'll see where I am in another 6 months or so.  I'm definitely not where I want to be, but I'm certainly closer than when I began in January.  


Pssst... I actually log my gym time here

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Very 1st Furniture Redo Project

I was surfing around Craigslist one day during naptime when I saw an ad for a dresser for $15.  I sent the link to Brandon and asked if maybe he could look at it after work.  There was no picture which can be rather suspicious but I figured for $15, it might be worth a look.

He made arrangements and sent me a text saying it was sturdy with mistmatched and missing hardware, but he thought it would be good for what I wanted.  "Please buy it,"  I messaged back.

He loaded it up in his van and brought it home and I nervously met him in the driveway.

He was right.  There was mismatched hardware, a drawer track needed some work and there was something sticky on top.

I jumped up and down and snapped a picture.  It sat in the garage for a bit while I looked at different colors.  I finally found a picture of a red dresser that inspired me.

I ran across this post on a blog that is local to me.  And I knew that was THE red I was looking for.  I picked up a color chip the next time I was at Lowe's.  I stared at it periodically over the next few days.  Then I bought a quart. I also bought some gray tinted primer to help with coverage. 

You might recognize the red from my fireplace decoration... I really like it!
Finally, I set to work in the garage.  I had Brandon help me move it a bit (our garage is REALLY full these days) and set to work taking off all the hardware and scrubbing it down.

The front of the drawers were uneven.  It looked like whoever put the hardware on did it with wet paint.  There were grooves where they had been.  So I sanded them down.

I also sanded the top of the dresser because there was something sticky on it that I couldn't get off.

Then I wiped down the dust with a wet washcloth.

When the dresser dried, I primed the drawers and the dresser.

And slowly and carefully painted the Posh Red paint on the dresser.  I worked in little bits of time usually during naptime or after the children went to bed.

Then I started hunting for drawer pulls and knobs.  I wasn't sure which direction I wanted to go.  

So every time I went into a store that carried hardware I looked around and I checked out online retailers a few times.  Nothing really screamed, "I'm it!"

 At first I was drawn to the black and white hardware.. I really loved the flowered knobs but I couldn't find any handles to go with them.  I thought the black and white stripes would detract from the other details in the dresser.

And I really loved the one that we nicknamed the "mustache" but I couldn't find any hammered knob pulls to go with it.  I really wanted some hammered swirls, but just couldn't find any.

I needed the space in the garage, so Brandon and I heaved it up the stairs and it fit perfectly in between our closet door and our bathroom door.  But it was hardware-less so it wasn't really functional yet.  

One weekend we were walking through Home Depot and I told Brandon I just had to go check.  He kind of sighed.  I'd checked every hardware section everytime we had been into a store.  But I still went.  And then I didn't return super quickly so he came to find me and I had an armful of knobs and pulls!

 They weren't cheap but we both loved the birdcage design.  As soon we got home I started installing them.  The knobs were perfect.  We twisted the knobs around trying to decide if we liked them horizontally or the vertically.  Horizontal won.

But I ran into a problem with the drawer pulls.  I needed something to hide the holes because the holes had been drilled too big over time. It was hard to take a picture of that, but was really obvious in person.

So I put them back in the bag with the receipt so that I could return them.  A few days later I was in the shower when I realized that I could use knob pulls for the other drawers too.   So I made the return to Home Depot and bought more knobs.

The hardware wasn't cheap for this project.  In fact, I have more invested in the pulls than what I spent for the dresser and the amount of primer/paint it required!  But I really think they complete the piece.

I think this project will always hold a special place in my heart as my first furniture redo.

Is it perfect?  Nope.  But most people don't see the "flaws" I do.

Am I proud of it?  Heck yeah!

As soon we got the project finished up, I started cruising around Craigslist again.  I had been bitten by the furniture makeover bug.  And that is when I found the bedroom set for $50! 


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Monster University! And the cardiologist

Solomon has a heart murmur that we've heard off and on over the years.  Recently, at his 3 year check up our doctor said that he was old enough now that it was reasonable to have a check up by a cardiologist.  Since we have dealt with heart murmurs we weren't too worried, but he thought it would be prudent to go ahead and have a listen. He also said to let the cardiologist know that we had met our maximum out of pocket for our insurance in case he thought we needed further testing.  Then we could schedule it and have it done this calendar year.

We got in really quickly with the pediatric cardiologist and I was SO pleased with our experience.  He spent quite some time talking to me about how hearing it periodically is actually a good sign (as opposed to hearing it all the time) and he explained to me what can cause it to only be heard some of the time.

He spent some time talking to Solomon and said that he wished his practice was full of three year old boys just like Solomon.  I beamed.  He got TWO stickers from the cardiologist. 

Turns out, that Solomon has a Still's Murmur and it is harmless. Julianne had one too.  We don't have any follow up to do with the cardiologist but he said that sometimes it will be heard on sport's physicals and if that happens, make an appt and he'll take a listen and fill out the paperwork.

Easy Peasy.  I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief.  If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you just know that things that are supposed to be easy are usually... not!

After lunch, we all piled in the van and went to see Monster University 3D with our FREE tickets!

It was a really cute movie and everyone did really well!!!  I was so shocked that the little boys did as well as they did.

They were SO funny about the seats though.

They were both bound and determined to kick back like a recliner, but we had to help them hold their seats open. 

And our three day weekend came to a close.  It was so much fun....


Monday, July 8, 2013

Weekend Ramblings: Saturday, June 22nd

Saturday, I woke up to an email that a set of furniture I saw on Craigslist was available.   

The house was about 3 miles from us so we stopped by to take a look at it.  We were interested in it but were on the way to the gym.  We made arrangements to pick it up that afternoon.

It was pretty beat up, but I have a new obsession with repainting furniture.  I have some pictures of a previous project that created this little obsession that I'll be sharing soon. 

Here are some befores of this bedroom set.  It was a headboard, a footboard, two under bed drawer units, a dresser and a chest of drawers.  I paid $50.



 Chest of Drawers:


One of the two under bed units:

Apparently, the previous owners of the house left a good bit of furniture behind and the new owners didn't want to take the time to redo it.  Perfecto!


Friday, July 5, 2013

Weekend Ramblings: Friday June 21st

June the 21st was marked on our calendar for a few months.  It was National Flip Flop Day and Tropical Smoothie gives you a free smoothie if you come in wearing flip flops.

We also had an Adoption Connection event to attend at Brandon's workplace.  It was on a different campus than the one that he works at so we picked him up from work and stopped by Tropical Smoothie on the way across town.

I was really nervous because Brandon's big boss is in charge of the Adoption Connection and I've never met him.  Also, all of the kids were going with us and when you put 5 children in a new environment you never know what you are going to get.  Before I left the house, so I snapped a picture and said, "Here we go!"

 Brandon sent me a message back saying I looked beautiful and we'd all do fine.  

The girls were all dressed up to go to Daddy's work.  Here they are waiting in line for their smoothie.

Then the boys went in with Daddy.  Isaiah was sleeping so we took turns.  Xander is not wearing flip flops... remember the whole shoe fiasco?  And Solomon is wearing sandals but the gracious owner let them both have smoothies.

When we got to the adoption event, the girls were thrilled to see that there were craft activities set up all around the room.

Here is a picture of Daddy introducing everyone to his boss. 

Jason has a large family too so he was pretty good at keeping up with their names.

Everyone had fun painting.

The girls went to the cupcake decorating station.  The boys did not do this due to food allergies. 

And they did a layered sand art project.  I kept telling them to fill it ALLLLLL the way to the top so that the sand wouldn't shift and the layers would stay neat.  Some listened, some did not.  Such is life with five.

We had some appetizer type foods and the children played some games.  Then we packed up and grabbed their treat bags and headed out.

On the way home, we stopped by Whole Foods to use a giftcard we had.  

It was an excellent start to the weekend. I love the opportunity to chat with other adoptive families.  I loved seeing all the different skin colors.  The girls really enjoyed seeing other families that looked similar to ours. 

There are some rumblings of the company changing their adoption benefits for the better.  Right now they have a $5,000 reimbursement and 12 weeks leave after placement.  (6 paid!) We are eager to see what will happen!