Recently I got into making chocolatey treats for a few gatherings. I made strawberry shortcake kebabs (delicious and easy)… … chocolate covered strawberries (much better than my poor photography would suggest)… … and white-chocolate-crasin cookies (no photo ‘cause they got eaten too quickly). But there was one chocolate creation that went terribly wrong:...
For various reasons I’ve been taking a long hiatus from home improvement. I have, however, gotten back into the kitchen. My most interesting achievement as of late: quinoa muffins. I adapted this recipe to suit my tastes. Ingredients: 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil 1/4 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 1 egg 2 Tablespoons honey 1/4 cup milk 1/8 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon baking powder...
Thanks Offbeat Home! →
A belated thank you to my beloved Offbeat Home for sharing my caramel recipe!
Soup in a Jar
Life has been a little too… crazy to write lately (or do much of anything else). But I did have fun with one little project this weekend. My mom’s family exchanges homemade Christmas gifts for each household. Inspired by a brownie mix in a jar that I was given last month, I decided to make soup mixes. I chose a recipe that was vegetarian and was simple for the recipients to prepare...
The Porch is Done.
Our carpet job yesterday was quick and dirty, but it’ll do. We used a remnant piece that we got on sale for less than 40 bucks. At that price I don’t care if it doesn’t last forever. Thank goodness that furniture has a way of distracting from carpet and paint flaws. I just tossed the furniture we used to have in the porch back in there; eventually we’ll figure out how...
Apple Cider Caramels
When I spotted a recipe for Apple Cider Caramels on Pinterest I just had to try them. They were delicious and well worth the work! The ingredients are quite simple: 2 cups high-quality apple cider 1 cup heavy whipping cream (divided) 1 tsp. ground cinnamon Pinch of nutmeg 1/4 tsp. allspice 1 1/2 cups sugar 1/3 cup light corn syrup 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter The recipe advises using...
I recognize that I just showed off my pretty bathroom closet. However, I still believe that some decorating and organizing is just ridiculous. Pinterest has opened my eyes to this whole new world of decor and organization fetishizing that kind of cracks me up (when I’m not falling prey to it). Laundry rooms seem to be a hot Pinterest thing right now. I can get that having an attractive and...
$10.73 Well Spent
We’ve only got three small closets in our house, so our bathroom closet holds a lot. And it had gotten just a little out of control… Part of the problem is that the closet is really narrow, so getting things from the back of the shelf is a challenge. The shelves are so full that reaching for one thing inevitably knocks three others onto the floor where they get lost. I tore into...
I like Minnesota’s seasons best when I embrace them and try to live in seasonal rhythms. Our fall has been long and beautiful; I’ve tried to take full advantage of it. I did many miles of hiking (much more than I did all summer), enjoyed one last bonfire with friends, cooked hearty comfort foods, and tried to appreciate the natural beginnings and ends of autumn. Fall also means putting...
I am slowly Pinteresting! →
The Carpet is Gone!
The slothlike work on the porch continues. This weekend I got the carpet out. We intended to do it last weekend, but decided to have an impromptu bonfire with a few friends instead. Carpet could wait for another weekend—like this one. Unfortunately when they laid the nasty gold shag however many decades ago, they nailed down the carpet and pad with a lot of nails (I wish they had used...
I didn’t have much time to work on a Halloween costume. With less than 20 hours before I had to be at a party, I managed to squeeze in a quick thrift-store trip. I walked in with a few loose ideas and walked out as a women’s suffragette. The vintage suit, ruffled blouse, and awesome hat were easy to find. But I still needed a “votes for women” sash and didn’t have...
This summer I began volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters, which means that I get to hang out with an awesome 13-year old. We have a great time together and I’d recommend it to anyone. Last night we carved our pumpkins. Mine is on the right and M’s is on the left. As we were scooping out our pumpkins she muttered under her breath, “This looks like snot.” And thus...
We’ve been too busy to get around to much over here, but I did at least make my first centerpiece last night. It leaves something to be desired (especially in the proportions), but it took five minutes and stuff I already had. In that first photo you can see a glimpse of the liquor cabinet we did indeed score. I’ll show it off more when we have figured out how to accessorize it. ...
Inspired by two timely posts on my favorite home blogs, Offbeat Home and Young House Love, I’ve set a new little goal for myself. I like decorating for the seasons but I don’t have much and don’t really want to acquire more clutter. We do decorate for Halloween (Sam’s favorite decorating holiday—we’ve got to get around to it soon) and Christmas/Hanukkah, but...
The porch is finally painted! It took me quite a while to do the ceilings and walls—a couple of weeks, mostly on Sundays (I didn’t get much done during the week because I rarely got home with enough daylight left). I had it allllmost done when we went out of town for a week, but I had to save the last of it until we got home on Sunday evening. But now it’s complete and it looks...
Houseboat meets camper | Offbeat Home →
This is so awesome! If we had $20-30,000 just sitting around, the Sealander would be perfect for us. Sam isn’t a big fan of tent camping, but I love to get outdoors. He dreams of owning a simple camper and a houseboat (yes, both). This combines both in a cozy, lightweight pod that even has a retractable roof to really make you feel back to nature. Amazing!
I was pretty excited to try this whole-wheat beer bread. It certainly is quick and easy because it doesn’t involve yeast. It took less than ten minutes to mix up. But it isn’t good. I couldn’t even finish the first slice because it was so weird and beery. Subsequent slices have been better, but not great. I used a lightish lager we had in the fridge; perhaps I should have used...
Our kitchen is pretty good-sized and we’ve made careful use of the space. However, our cupboards are still overflowing. This area is the culprit: The upper cabinet holds some bread, but mostly booze. The base cabinet is our recycling center. These all seem like things that could be stored elsewhere, freeing up space for all of the crap atop the fridge, all of the food falling out of the...
The Big Chill
Well, my hopes of a good long fall growing season (to make up for the late spring) may have been dashed by last night’s 36-degree low. Only in Minnesota would the temperature drop over 50 degrees in roughly the same number of hours. I guess we’ll see how my tomatoes come out, but I’m optimistic. They were just starting to really grow a lot of fruit so it would be a pity to...
Our porch project has taken us a while because we’ve been so busy, but we’re making progress. After careful consideration, we decided to remove the lower windows. The frames were rotted, some of the panes were cracked or missing, and most of the windows didn’t raise or lower properly. We have storm windows on the outside that are in better shape, so the interior windows were...
We haven’t had much time for home improvement lately, so instead I’m stuck writing about my minor culinary pursuits. Recently it’s been bread, which I’ve made from scratch a few times but not in years. I was inspired by our visit to Round Barn Farm Bed & Breakfast & Bread in Red Wing. The weekend was a gift from my parents; Sam and I had a great stay. One of the...
It may have taken until September, but I have finally harvested my first tomatoes, broccoli, and green pepper (probably the only bell pepper I’ll get this year). I celebrated by tossing the fruits of my labor into one of my favorite dinners: stir-fry. I love sauteing vegetables because it’s fast, easy, healthful, flexible, and preserves the fresh flavors. Sometimes I make it...
We had another backyard movie party last night; the feature film was Jurassic Park. I got pretty excited about serving some prehistoric-themed treats. The entire menu also ended up being kind of a throwback to childhood parties, which works since the movie is circa 1993. Here’s what I whipped up: Triceratops Treats I wasn’t sure these Rice Krispie bars would work well, but they...
Homes of Yore
I’ve moved a lot in seven years since starting college: in and out of two dorm rooms, two apartments, and four houses (including several short stints back with my parents). Being in one place that’s fully mine feels pretty dang good these days. However, it’s fun to look back at my other homes, especially during this back-to-school season. Overall, I’m surprised at how few...
I can’t believe it’s August 22 and I haven’t harvested a single tomato! I have plenty of green ones, but not a hint of ripening. That’s too bad; tomatoes are my favorite. In better news, my cucumbers (second attempt) have gone gangbusters. I might have to send them home with people at our party on Friday. Everything else is coming in very slowly… it all looks...
Saturday was my only day off until at least September 4. I spent six hours of it working on the porch and yard—exactly what I had been looking forward to all week. It seems backwards that I like to work on my days off, especially when I get so few of them between two jobs. But I find much of the work around here relaxing. I don’t love all housework: I will always loathe laundry and I...
I haven’t had much time for writing lately thanks to some weekend getaways, but this weekend’s trip up north afforded me a chance to browse the Ikea catalog. Sam and I might have found the perfect bedroom storage solution to supplement our small room with a smaller closet. Behold: Two wardrobes like this would fit the limited space we’ve got, while serving as the nightstands...
How do we fill a free Sunday at the O’C/T household? With 5000 pounds of gravel, of course! We had two projects to do with all of that gravel. The first was pretty urgent: our alley. The alley behind our house is actually an easement alley, meaning that each of the neighbors owns the section that runs across their property, and we agree to let the others use it. The six houses have to do...
Porch Mini Makeover, pt. 1
Our porch is not pretty. In fact, it’s beyond ugly. It’s the one space we haven’t really touched at all, except to take down the awful bamboo shades we inherited. We haven’t worked on the porch for several reasons. First, it’s literally falling off of the house. At some point it will need to be completely torn off and replaced. That’s a big and expensive...
I recently acquired a free leek. I am pretty sure I have never cooked with leek before, so I dove into my cookbooks to figure out what to with it. Turns out leeks are usually paired with potatoes, which is super because I love potatoes. I was drawn to a soup in Vegetarian: The Best Ever Recipe Collection because I liked that it included other veggies, not just leek and potato. Here’s my...
Just like the house, our yard was really neglected when Sam bought the place. The only good thing it had going for it was our enormous lilac bush on the front corner of the yard. The other houses in our little matching row have extremely small yards, but we lucked out by having a double lot. We have alleys along both the back and side, so it’s not a super-private oasis. But we have a...
Outdoor Movie Party →
We had a movie party in our yard last weekend, and it was really fun. Offbeat Home published my write-up about how other people can host one, too.
Slowly but Surely
The garden is still far behind where it should be by this time, but it’s looking better. Blossoms are popping up here and there, especially on the peas: The peppers look the deadest, but they are sporting some blossoms nonetheless. The broccoli is the only veggie variety still flowerless (but even it is looking healthier than it used to).
Gourmet Jell-o Cocktails →
Wow… this site is inspiring! I want to become a Jell-o shot gourmet now. I especially like the idea of Jell-o and fruit kebabs.
Home Energy Audits →
We pride ourselves on having an energy-efficient and fairly green house. The house may be old, but we installed efficient windows, siding, light fixtures, and Energy Star appliances. When our neighborhood recently sponsored free home energy audits through the Center for Energy and Environment, we signed up although we didn’t think we needed much help. We actually learned a lot! Although we...
Time for a Headboard
As I wrote earlier, our bedroom sorely needs some love. It’s about time that the mattress gets off the ground! We have a few criteria for a bed frame: Cheap. Thin profile and no footboard. The distance between the foot of the bed and the dresser is already only about 15 inches. If we give up much of that floor space, we won’t be able to open the dresser drawers. Bold. This room has...
Cream o' Potato Soup
I love soup. Soup is healthful, comforting, and simple to cook in its endless varieties. A pot of soup is a great way to use up leftovers; you can toss in nearly anything. My very favorite soup to make is cream of potato. Sam and I made it together early in our relationship after a particularly delicious bowl at Axel’s (which may have been my first cream of potato ever) and I still make it...
Drab to Fab
Our old dining room set was indeed really old. It was a hand-me-down antique from Sam’s family. I never really found it attractive or comfortable, though it was kind of funky. It was also free; therefore we used it. However, after 120 years of life and many moves, the table just wasn’t standing up to daily use. The dining room is really the hub of our small house and we spend a lot...
Fruit of my Labor
The garden has produced its first harvest! Sam and I split it Lady and the Tramp style. Like most in Minnesota, my garden has been late this year. The only edible to come out of it so far this year is this one tiny strawberry and some lettuce. I might not get any more berries from my two container plants; the other berry that was coming along has disappeared. Must be a critter afoot. Once the...
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I love Offbeat Home for inspiration, energy, and support. Our home was one of the first profiled on their site!
Our second bedroom is no bigger than the first, but we have a lot going on in there. The office is the only room with defined “mine” and “yours” space. Neither of us spends too much time at our desks (Sam’s is on the left, mine on the right) but they are our personal storage and organization areas. The bookshelf is full of our books and games, the tiny closet is...
Ah… the room I find most challenging. In a perfect world, the bedroom would be a sanctuary of rest and comfort. Ours? Not so much. The main problem is the space, or lack thereof. The bedroom holds a bed and a dresser; that’s about it. We share one small closet. We also share a strong dislike for doing laundry. On any given day, the limited floor space is strewn with clothes and the...
Why homemaking? →
I often find myself doing matronly, homemaking-esque tasks on the sly, for fear my 21st century liberators and peers might deem me regressing to an inappropriate era… Personally, I like the apron, red lipstick, laundry, and occasionally the strappy heel. I vote the bra, floor mopping, ironing, and dishes-immediately-after-dinner off the island. We share the chores and manage delgation by...
The kitchen was the largest undertaking in the renovation. Not only was everything disgusting, but the layout was terrible. We put a lot of thought into how to redesign the space and make it more functional. Sam rebuilt the ceiling, moved the window, and widened the doorway to the dining room. I love our kitchen. I wish we had a bit more storage space, but we do pretty well with what we...