Saturday, March 31, 2012

sneak peak

Today's task is not tackling that spring break to-do list, but instead tackling a fun photo project I've been thinking about for the past few weeks. {after seeing this one}

I mentioned recently that while traveling Southeast Asia we took over 3,000 photos {3,352 to be exact}.
When we first returned to the states, I was eager to sort through the photos, to create slideshows of our most memorable moments and share our travels here and here and here.  I only got through day 15 of our 48 day trip, never even touching the photos from the last three countries we visited.  Somehow in the craziness of moving home, job searching and starting a new position, along with house hunting and finally buying our first home, these photos have been on the back burner for over a year.

Until now.  Now have the time and energy, along with the motivation and excitement to sift through these photos and sort out our favorites.  Now I'm trying to fit those photos into a measly 440 page book.  Now I'm up for the challenge!

Friday, March 30, 2012

it's officially spring break

And what better way to celebrate than with a tasty treat?

Tonight I enjoyed a little one-on-one time with my mom for her birthday.  After great dinner at Casa's Grille, we headed to YumYum's {yogurt U make} for dessert.  It's so refreshing to get to spend time together, just us.  Happy Birthday Mom, love ya!

I'm looking forward to a week away from work and doing some serious damage to our never ending to-do list.  But, tonight I think I'm going to just veg out and enjoy a nice glass of wine and read my book, I've earned it and the list can wait!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

12 in 2012 // Q1

4 breads - 
I got a slow start to baking breads due to my sugar-detox in January and February.  However, these past few weeks I've enjoyed baking and have some awesome recipes lined up!

1 book - "The Help"
We love books - one of the selling points of our house was the lovely built-in bookshelves in the living room.  As I unpacked box after box of books, I realized that there were a number of books on our shelves that I had yet to read {hand-me-downs from family or gifts}.  So far I've only read one.  It's so hard to find time to read.  There's always something that needs done, from dishes and laundry, to sanding and painting.  I tried listening to an audiobook for a while, but was too distracted, I had to keep rewinding to listen again because I'd miss bits and pieces.  I have a stack of magazines and a few books to hopefully read over spring break.

18.25 miles
When I set this goal, I allowed myself flexibility in when these 365 miles were completed.  I hate the gym and knew that most of my miles would be logged in the warmer months.  I tried the gym for the first few weeks in January, but wasn't enjoying it one bit and the goal of 365 miles seemed so daunting.  In February, the weather allowed for a few trips to the park where I was able to walk Mei Mei.  She loved being able to run a bit and I loved the fresh air.  This week, Dan and I dusted off our bikes and went for a lovely bike ride one evening.  I'm far from meeting my goal, but each day I add to my total feels good.

Dan is the king of recycling and repurposing.  He saves everything and isn't afraid to trash pick {we trash picked the chair and boards to create the desk in the picture above}.  He inspires me to think outside the box and get creative with what we have rather than go out and purchase something new.  

A few weeks ago we turned some of the old windows we removed last fall into cold frames for our spring garden and I recently started a new sewing project with 100% recycled material.  There are a few pieces of furniture left by the previous owner {including the chair I'm sitting on right now} that we hope to paint and reupholster soon.  

Well, I started out the year with good intentions.  By the end of January, I was attending a yoga class once a week and even doing a little yoga at home here and here.  However, February brought with it a much busier schedule and cold after cold after cold.  (I'm currently nursing my fourth cold of the year - thank you preschoolers!)  When March rolled around I again had good intentions and attended a few classes before coming down with the flu.  So here I am three months into this goal and my mat is gathering dust.  I will get back to it.  I need to get back to it.  

This is easier said than done.  My to-do list is every changing and constantly growing.  I often have to stop and remind myself to "smell the roses."  Sometimes we're in such a rush to get it all done, that we forget that life is about the journey, not the destination.

Over the past few months I've attempted to remove some clutter from my life.  I love reading blogs and surfing the net, but I have narrowed my daily readings to just a handfull of blogs and websites.  I spend much less time online {aimlessly wondering facebook and pinterest} and feel better for it.  When I am online I have intention, I'm either working on the blog, a project, or researching an upcoming home improvement project or recipe.

I'm striving to take some time for myself each day, and to not fret over an untouched to-do list.  I'm making more time for friends and family, being intentional about fostering these relationships.  

This is one area that I feel I've improved on significantly over the past few months.  While we were traveling, the camera was around our necks every single day.  We took over 3,000 photos while backpacking in Southeast Asia (the photos above are from our travels), but I have yet to take that many in the 17 months we've been home!  I'm trying to be more intentional about bringing the camera along while we're working on the house, or if we head to the farm or park for the afternoon.  I also have a few photo sessions line up for the coming months.  Many of the photos I take are for the blog or documentation and comparison purposes (home improvements), I intend to start taking more pictures of us, just being us!

Open.  Not for business just yet.  I'm kind of stuck and unsure where to begin and deciding what to list.  More on that later. 

This has turned out to be one of my loftiest goals.  While teaching, it's hard to find time to just sit and be creative.  Most of my creative energy either goes into lesson planning or working on our house.  My first project brought with it a number of roadblocks. After a few discouraging weeks, I was able to finish my first crocheted blanket.  I loved the pattern so much that I'm now in the middle of a second one.  I've also begun a completely new project that I hope to share soon.

Since returning to the states, Dan and I have been on a quest to fill our diets with real, unprocessed foods. (read more about that here)  Last summer we joined a local CSA to bring in some additional produce as our garden was quite small (see it here and here).   It was a great way to add fresh and local produce to our diets.  Unfortunately, this particular CSA only operates in the summer and early fall, so in October we headed back to the grocery for our fresh produce.  That was, until we joined Green Bean Delivery in February.  Best. Decision. Ever!  We have loved the quality and variety of the produce.

While none of this has anything to do with growing our own food, it's been a great journey to eating more fresh and local  produce.  We will never be able to grow 100% of what we eat, but it's nice to know that there are options available locally to add additional real food to our diet. 

As for growing our own, we have started our garden, which is more than double the size of last years.  We've started seeds indoors, and even planted a few things outside thanks to the warm weather we've been having.  We currently have spinach and three kinds of lettuce sprouting, along with garlic we planted in the fall.  A few weeks ago we planted some blueberry bushes, and asparagus crowns, although these will not be harvestable until next year.

We're looking forward to a summer full of our own produce and plan to supplement it with produce from our local farmers market at Salomon Farm.  

Dan and I work opposite schedules.  We spend all of about an hour together each day {unless we're lucky and evening schedules allow us an extra hour for dinner together - rare!}.  Most weekends we spend working on the house together - though important, it's not nearly the same as taking time to just be together.

Lately, we've taken time out of our busy schedules for a "date" at least once a week.  Some days it's stopping at Starbucks for a pick-me-up on our way home from one of our many trips to Lowes, or a quick trip to YoYo's for a tasty treat after a hard day of working on the house.  Other days it's simply cuddling up on the couch for a How I Met Your Mother marathon.  Whatever it is, it's always refreshing to hang out with my husband.  To just be together.

{looking forward to a little getaway coming up next week...stay tuned for details}

We started this blog over three years ago to chronicle our adventures and share them with family and friends.  When we started blogging, we knew that there would be some big life changes that would take us far from home and the blog seemed like the best way to keep us connected to home.  Between our move to Taiwan and our backpacking adventures we were never lacking adventures to share.  However, now that we have returned home, it's become harder and harder to find things of interest to share.  

When I started to think about my goals for the coming year, I knew that I wanted to be more intentional about sharing our every day life on the blog.  I love looking back over past posts and reliving a particular time in our lives. 

Over the past three months I've tried to be more intentional about blogging what's on my mind, be it recipes, crafts, or just daily ramblings.  Though some postings may seem uninteresting and possibly even boring, this blog has become a diary of sorts, chronicling our life together as a married couple.  Blogging has become fun again, I enjoy sharing our daily life and especially updating those family and friends who are still so far away.  

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

pickin' wildflowers

Aren't they lovely??

Couldn't believe how beautiful it was this evening when I got home from work.  Mei Mei and I decided to take a little walk in the woods and returned with this lovely bouquet of daffodils for my kitchen.  I love having fresh flowers around and especially love that I can go for a walk in my woods and pick them for myself - so much better than buying them at the store.

I spent the evening outside working around the house, thankful for another wave of warm weather to get a head start on my ever growing spring break to-do list.  As I worked outside I dreamt of our future gardens and all the beautiful flowers that I'll be able to have right outside my door...someday!  But for now I'll enjoy the wildflowers that pop up haphazardly all around our property!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

40 breads // whole wheat hamburger buns

the bread no.4 : whole wheat hamburger buns

our changes : I replaced unbleached flour with white whole wheat flour, because that's what we had.  When we made them the second time we used unbleached flour.  The result was basically the same

our thoughts : A mixer with a dough hook makes the process much quicker.  Also, don't forget to allow the dough to raise the second hour, it helps to create a lighter bun.  We forgot the frist time, and though the buns were still delicious, they were more dense than the second batch.

the verdict :  Awesome.  We loved them so much that we made them again this weekend for my mom's birthday.  They pair great with anything...burger, chicken, veggies...they're even sweet enough to eat as is!  Definitely plan to make these again.

Monday, March 26, 2012

a special treat.

As a rule, I try to cook as much as I can from scratch rather than from a box.  So, in celebration of my mother's 50th birthday, I decided to try and bake some delicious German Chocolate Cupcakes from scratch.  I've never tried to bake a cake from scratch, so I figured cupcakes were a good place to start.

The recipe I used is from The Cupcake Project.  This fun blog by Stef is filled with incredible cupcake recipes, featuring a new one each week.  She also has a great "Stef's answers" section that gives detailed answers to some of a new baker's biggest questions.  Totally recommend checking it out!

I followed the recipe, with the exception of using 100% Ghirardelli Premium Baking Chocolate.  I figured an extra dark chocolate would help to balance the sweetness of the cake AND the frosting.

I was especially excited to use my homemade vanilla for the first time in this recipe!  {for sale in my etsy shop}

I made these the day before, which turned out to be necessary as the frosting needed to sit overnight to thicken.

Stef points out in her recipe that the frosting isn't that pretty - and I agree.  She suggested topping it with more coconut and some shaved chocolate - brilliant.  I opted for a sweeter chocolate for this and I think they look spectacular.

Such a hit with the family!  Definitely going to have to do these again sometime soon.

ps. this recipe makes A LOT of cupcakes...I got 39 out of it!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

family time.

Today we celebrated my mom's 50th birthday!

We headed out to the farm this morning to spend the day with my parents and my brother and his wife.  Emily, my sister-in-law's sister, was gracious enough to stop in and take some great family photos of all of us.  Thank's Emmy, they turned out beautifully.

After a delicious cookout, we headed outside to do some work around the house.  The girls spent the afternoon cleaning up mom's flower beds, planting some new bulbs, and putting down fresh mulch.  Meanwhile, the boys finished building the greenhouse Dad bought Mom for her birthday.

It was the perfect way to celebrate Mom's birthday, and spend such a beautiful Spring day together as a family.

Happy Birthday Mom!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

the journey home.

Few people know that two years ago, we were in the midst of the lengthy application process to become Peace Corps Volunteers.  We both had dreamt of joining the Peace Corps for a number of years - moving to Taiwan was kind of a trial run for us in living abroad together.  While in Taiwan, we decided that the Peace Corps was indeed the next adventure for us.  As we left Taiwan we were told by Peace Corps that we'd be moving to the Caucuses region in Eastern Europe sometime in April '11.  We planned on staying with our parents for the holidays and possibly getting part time jobs while we waited for our departure...we had it all sorted out by the time we left Taiwan.

Or so we thought.

While traveling through Southeast Asia, we learned of a job opening at Sweetwater Sound {Dan's current employer}.  They were hiring in the studio - Dan's dream job!  After a few weeks of trying to ignore this opportunity {and failing - it was all we thought about}, Dan decided to go ahead and apply online and just see what happened.  Little did we know that 48 hours later we'd be sitting down to a breakfast in little cafe in Siem Reap, Cambodia making a decision that changed the course of our lives entirely.

So here we are, a little over a year later, working on the little blue house we bought just 10 months ago!

Funny how things change!

While moving back to Indiana may not seem like the most glamorous adventure, to us it's been quite the journey.  We had set up roots in Pennsylvania before heading overseas, and were sure that we'd end up back there when we returned stateside.  It was hard to come "home" but not actually be home!

A lot has changed over the past year or so.  We moved around the world, then across the country.  We started new jobs - after spending months searching.  We got a dog - the best one, I might add!  We bought a house - and moved again.  We changed that house - we're still changing that house.  We started attending a new church.  We've made friends, and lost friends.  We've learned a lot and been stretched and challenged.  We are different.

It may not be on par with a Peace Corps experience - but the journey home has been nothing short of a life changing experience.

And all I can say is....It's good to be home!

Friday, March 23, 2012

my cup of tea.

Evenings like this are my cup of tea. 
Snuggled up in bed with a warm cup of tea reading a great book.  
The perfect way to spend this rainy and cool evening.
Especially after the week I had and the lack of sleep last night.
Did I mention that it was totally worth it?!
Sure was!

currently reading "Save Me" by Lisa Scottoline - highly recommended for fans of Jodi Picoult

Thursday, March 22, 2012

it's movie night!

Tonight I'm headed out to see the midnight showing of the much awaited Hunger Games with some friends.

I got hooked on these books last summer...reading them instead of working on my house!  They're so good that I read all three books, The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mocking Jay in just three afternoons.  If you haven't had a chance to read this series, I highly recommend it.  Scholasitic lists it at a 5th grade reading level, but the story is appropriate for all {older}ages!  It makes a great discussion topic for teens and young adults, and if you're like us - a fun night out with some girlfriends!

Looking forward to reading the trilogy again over Spring Break!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

perfectly imperfect

A while back I shared a crocheting project I've been working on and ran out of's what knot to do!!  Well, despite a few roadblocks, I've finally completed it!!

This project was instantly a favorite and I was super bummed when I hit a roadblock.  The yarn I ordered online turned out to be a near perfect match in one color and a close-enough match in the other - however both yarns were a much smaller gauge.  I had considered starting over and using only the new yarn, but because it was a smaller gauge, it did not create the same look when knitted.

I decided to put the project on hold again and keep looking.  Because I was itching to knit, I went through my stash of yarn to see what I had to work with.  To my surprise, I had a decent sized ball of this lovely gray that was the same gauge as what I was using for the project and matched beautifully {I have no idea how much I had, or where it came from}.  I immediately got out my blanket and went to work.

You can see that the color and texture is slightly different, but because of the stripes, it's not extremely noticeable.

Once I had used up all that yarn, it still wasn't quite as big as I wanted, so I decided to double up the yarn that I had purchased, hoping to thicken it up enough to match the gauge of the first yarn.  I had to change the pattern just a bit to make it look just right, but I think I was able to blend the yarns well.
All in all, I think it turned out great...a little haphazard and imperfect, but I kind of like it that way - it's unique!  The size is just right for a baby, or even to be used as a throw blanket on your lap, very warm and fuzzy!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy Spring!

Hard to believe that today is the first day of Spring... the past week has been filled with lots of sunshine and warm weather - not at all typical of a late Indiana winter.  But who's complaining?!?!!

The warm weather has brought with it GRILL SEASON!  We've been enjoying a lot of our meals on the grill, especially all the wonderful produce that we've been getting through Green Bean Delivery!

I've always just thrown whatever vegetables I have onto a piece of foil, added some butter and seasonings (usually salt and pepper), then closed it up and plopped it on the grill.  Easy peasy.

But last night I was in the mood for something different, and I'm so glad I did...oh so delicious!

{Balsamic Peppers}
sweet bell peppers
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
sea salt
garlic - minced

1. cut up peppers - about 1/2"-1" (don't want them to fall through the grill).
2. place in bowl and top with oil and vinegar - enough to coat your peppers.
3. sprinkle with salt, garlic, and pepper - toss to cover.
4. allow to marinade while grill heats
5. cook 5-10 minutes directly on grill - smooth side down, turn/flip every couple of minutes
6. enjoy as is, on a salad, or even on your burger!

They were so wonderful that I picked up some more peppers on my way home from work tonight in order to make some more!! 

Yummm.  I LOVE Grill Season!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Amazing progress.

Thanks to my incredible husband, we have five new beautiful windows in our upstairs bedroom.  
All in a day's work!

Up next, living room windows!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

around here.

Loving the sun and warm weather and all the beauty that comes along with it.  Can't wait to see all the daffodils, tulips, and daylilies in bloom in a few weeks...unless winter decides to make a last minute appearance again.

Mei Mei has also been loving this weather - allowing her some much needed outdoor time and lots of relaxing in the sun.  She especially enjoys taking rides to the farm to visit my parents.

I'm soooo ready for summer!  {only 2 weeks until SPRING BREAK!!}

Saturday, March 17, 2012

diy upholstered headboard

A while back I shared our new headboard with you...

A few months ago we bought a new mattress and frame.  I knew at some point I wanted to try my hand at upholstering a headboard for it, but had yet to find the right style.  If you remember, I started with a bit of a bird theme, with lots of colors.
I still love the curtains and plan on using them for the spare room when we get to decorating in there {along with that fun pillow}.

But after a trip to IKEA, I found these great curtains that I thought would work beautifully with my bedding and make a great headboard!  So I went for it...and LOVE it!

*quilt batting &/or foam
*spray adhesive
*staple gun
 First, cut your plywood to size - ours is about 3'x5' - I wanted it to be the same width as the matress, but you could make it wider if you wanted.
 Using spray adhesive, glue foam and batting to plywood - the spray I used needed to be applied pretty heavily to stick, consider doing outside or near a window as it can smell pretty bad.

Ensuring that it's all stuck together well!

Next, wrap sides of batting around edges and staple - be careful not to pull as the batting will stretch and lose its thickness.  Gently wrap and staple

Then do the same with the fabric - this time pulling tight to create an upholstered look.  Take note of your pattern when doing this!!  Because my pattern is essentially stripes, we wanted to be sure it was as straight as possible.  We started with one long side in the center, pulling tight and stapling where we wanted.  Then worked our way to either end stapling ever 6-8", then went back and stapled every couple of inches to keep it from having a rippling effect.

This project can definitely be done alone, but having a helper is great when you want to step back and check your work - see the lines at the top, would not have gotten it that straight without having a partner!

Once the long sides were finished, we laid the board down and trimmed the edges - unfortunately because it took both of us to get the fabric tight and to lay just so, we didn't get any pictures of the corners.  Essentially, you want to create a boxed corner like you might wrap a gift.  You can do this by folding the point in and stapling on either end, then fold the entire length of the side in and stapling.  I suggest starting in the middle when you do this to keep it as straight as possible.

Remember - no one is going to see the back, you don't need to make it look pretty!  Just ensure that the fabric is stapled all the way through to the wood!

At this point you could hang it on the wall above your bed by finding two {maybe even three} studs and using brackets.  We opted to add legs to ours using some scrap 2'x4's we had.  

The finished product!

Easy as that!  All in all, the project only took about 2 hours start to finish {that's including cutting the plywood to size}.  It was so easy, and I love the finished product, I'm thinking I just might have to do another one for the spare bed.