Sunday, January 29, 2012

Valentine's Decor (just a little)

Hello!  I figured it was time to get in the Valentine's mood just a bit since this week will bring us into February.  In deciding to do some decorating in anticipation of V-day, I also set a goal of just shopping the house for the decor.  Cost= ZERO!  :D

First up, I had this old country style heart hanging in a lonely place in the garage.  I looked around the garage for some red paint, but did not have any.  However, I did have silver.  :)  So it went from this:

to this (just added some red and silver ribbon that was leftover from Christmas and hung it above my front door): 

I then looked at the mantle...(which I am in the process of attempting to redesign.  I don't love the look of our fireplace, but I am very grateful to have one.).  I added some faux flowers and the same red and silver ribbon to my wreath, and then added some red accents that were laying in other spots around the house...

Not my favorite look, but hey!  It's the Valentine look.  :D  Once I am able to re-do the fireplace, it will be primarily black and white and will go with everything from Fall to Easter to Christmas.  For now, I'm ignoring the orange-y brick.  :D 

For some reason, I thought my planter bust should go on the mantle as well....she is still trying to grow hair, though.  Be kind.  :)

Here is another look...

Just a few things by the front door for fun....a little glam to the big topiary...

a small wreath hung on an architectural piece...

and my "new" silver heart.

Hope it is a LOVE-filled month for everyone.  Remember, it starts with YOU and with gratitude.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Real Cooking with What You've Got

I will be the first to admit that, for the first time in my life, I am cooking nearly 100% from scratch.  It has forced me to be creative and I am finally confident enough to NOT use a recipe.  This has been crucial as I am working to use up all of our CSA box each week and I have been very motivated to improve the health of one of my children.  Here are a couple of things I threw together without much thought that turned out to be big hits for this COLD (for us) time of year:

First up...
chicken, veggie and wild rice soup:

Simmer diced onion, garlic, carrots, finely chopped swiss chard, diced cooked chicken and wild rice in chicken stock for an hour or two with some Italian herbs.  YUM.  Healthy, low cost and tasty.  Low carb too.  With veggie stock and added black beans (minus the chicken) it easily becomes a yummy vegan recipe.

Next up...
 tortilla casserole:

Mix up a chopped onion, large can of green chilies, one can of healthy request cream of mushroom soup (or make your own) and about half a soup can's worth of milk.  Grate some cheese- whatever you've got is fine.  Layer cut up organic corn tortillas (I think I used about 8 total of the thick variety) and alternate layers of the soup-milk mixture and then top with cheese and bake at 325 for nearly an hour.  The casserole above is just about to go in.  I had about a cup of leftover cooked chicken which I also threw in for extra protein, but this could easily be strictly vegetarian.  A little more sinful than the recipe above, but a definite comfort food on a cold evening and very low cost.

I hope you enjoy my little cooking capers.  I have a long way to go in my cooking skills (I love baking and that has always been more my thing but I am trying to get sugar out of our lives forever), but I feel like I am getting there!  :)

Another easy and inexpensive treat lately are my Olive Oil Muffins.  I have tweaked the recipe a little by adding a little less oil and 1/3C of splenda baking blend plus putting about 5 frozen blueberries atop each before baking.  This cold weather sure has me in a soup and muffin kind of mood lately.  Enjoy!


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Organization and Zero Waste

 (no, that's not my pantry!)

Hi Friends!  The picture above is from Bea Johnson's Zero-Waste kitchen (please, please visit her amazing blog here, in which she documents her family's journey to a zero-waste lifestyle).  I have been reading Bea's blog for about a year now, and have been heavily influenced by it. 

Last month after a series of doctor visits and tests we learned that one of our children has some issues that require a diet adjustment.  I changed some of my commitments to make more room for helping my son. He has done a fabulous job so far. On my end, I have been studying more about nutrition, testing new recipes, and getting anything potentially harmful to him out of the kitchen. It is all still a work in progress. For some time now, I have been working to simplify, declutter, and to live more sustainably, and my child's unique issues have given me the push needed to take things a step further.

First up, removing nearly all processed foods, replacing the "whites" with the "browns" and "wheats," and focusing on a whole-foods diet.  I began shopping in bulk with reusable bags, cooking daily, and serving more fruits and vegetables (please read my post about Community Supported Agriculture here). 

I have a ways to go, but here is the pantry right now:

I have replaced some of my baking supplies, but remain on two baking committees for my kid's schools, so I will have a few unhealthy ingredients around for a while longer...fortunately I can buy them in bulk now...

Same with the grain section...I still have some white pasta for my other son, but he is adapting to the whole wheat variety very well too.  And the whole family loves quinoa.  :)

As far as snacks and cereal, we are making progress.  Pretzels, nuts, and air-popped popcorn are pretty much eaten daily around here by one or both boys.

As an aside, since we have been working to reduce our level of trash we have done a great job as a family.  We compost what we can, reduce what we buy with packaging of any kind, and recycle what we must.  I am working to further reduce the recycling, but the trash for a family of four is down to about one small grocery-sized bag each week tops.  That is a big improvement for us!

Thanks for reading and please visit The Zero Waste Home for further inspiration.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Copycat: Dining Room Table

Look at this beautiful dining room!

This is Diana's dining room from  If you are unfamiliar with this amazing woman, please go visit her beautiful blog.  Diana and her husband and family live in a turn of the century charmer (really, my dream house!) and they have made it so beautiful in large part due to Diana's talented eye and carpentry skills.  Please visit her blog to check out the hand-crafted bread boards that she lovingly makes.

I have been admiring her dining room table for some time.  She made this table herself!!!

Well, since my home is not a charmer, but more a circa 1970s cookie-cutter special, I do not think I could completely replicate this look.  However, I did rearrange a few things so that my dining room table top would resemble hers.  Let me know what you think.

Diana's at Christmas (just looks magical to me)...

And mine for now  :) ...

I added my vintage dough bowl and two hurricane lanterns to the table top, along with my simple runner from IKEA...

Yes, we are eating all that citrus.  We have an organic navel orange tree in our backyard.  :)

I would REALLY like to slipcover these chairs since I am not yet ready to replace them.  Any thoughts?

Thank you for visiting! 

XO, Steph.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Homemade Baked Apples: Dessert

Hi Friends!  Here is a quick, easy and low calorie dessert that is perfect for the colder months.  It is also a fantastic way to use up any apples that look like they are past their "raw" prime.  I am trying very hard to waste nothing these days.  :)

First, start with about 5-6 apples and chop them up (compost the stem and core portions)...

Spray a casserole type of dish with cooling spray and spread the apples out...

Next up, mix about 3T of whole wheat flour, 1/3C Splenda Baking sugar mix (you could use regular sugar or honey here, but we need to do sugar-free in our home), 1/2-1 t. cinnamon, 1/2 t. nutmeg, plus 1/4 t. cloves and pour over the apples.... 

Finally, pour 1/2C nonfat milk over everything...

Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour.  When finished, they look like this.  The house also smells amazing.

I served them up with light (low carb) whipped cream and they were fantastic.  Tastes just like apple pie without all of the guilt...



Friday, January 20, 2012

Organizing a Bookshelf

Hi Friends!  A few years ago I had a built-in bookcase made from a 1970's style "wet-bar" in our family room.  Thanks to a bit of creativity on my part and a fantastic carpenter, this lovely bookcase became a reality for us.  The back of the shelves are beadboard, with some great detailing on the posts.  :)

However, the other day I was looking at it, and it looked pretty so:

The surface was piled with random objects, books and just a few of the charging cords that seem to lurk all over the house (argh)...

So I took a few minutes, removed a few things and found proper homes for the others and within about 15 minutes it looked like this:

I know nothing of restyling shelves.  I realize that these could look even more awesome and coordinated, but frankly I have never understood the need to go purchase things for shelves just so that they look pretty:  aren't they REALLY made to be functional?

Big payoff for a small bit of my time...

Thanks for reading!


Monday, January 16, 2012

Word for 2012: SIMPLE


Definition of SIMPLE

1: free from guile : innocent

2a : free from vanity : modest b : free from ostentation or display...

3: of humble origin or modest position

4a : lacking in knowledge or expertise

5a : sheer, unmixed b : free of secondary complications

6: free from elaboration or figuration

7a:  not subdivided into branches or leaflets

8: not limited or restricted : unconditional

9: readily understood or performed

All of my Personal Goals for 2012 embody simplicity:

1. Be Thankful. Be Grateful. This means thanking my Creator and it means thanking people more and more. Being grateful for all I've got.

2. Be more Present for my Family. This means less busy-ness. This means helping my two children to overcome the unique challenges that they currently face. I have recently made a decision to give up a huge commitment so that I can dedicate more to them.

3. Live Simply. This means living closer to the Earth, more sustainably. Cooking and eating simply. Not over- scheduling myself. Taking more time to reflect upon what is really important. Not trying to keep up with anyone in any way.

4. Be Healthy. This means improving my fitness slowly as my injury heals. Losing another 6-10 pounds and then MAINTAINING that (no more yo-yo-ing for me!). Eat whole foods. Get sugar out of our lives.

5. Love More. Want Less. Enough said there. :)


simply and gratefully linking here:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Toward a Green(er) Life...

For Christmas, my husband got me this great stainless steel coffee mug.  I have become a pretty "green" gal over the course of the last few years, thanks in large part to my older son's interest in environmental issues.  But, as far as I still have to go (our family trash is down to about one very small bag each week, but the recycling is often out of control), I realize how different we are than others, too.

Here is the deal:  Once you begin wanting to reduce landfill and make more ecologically sound choices in life, there is really no going back....

As an example, my younger son wanted to go to the bagel shop this morning.  I brought my trusty stainless mug because I knew I would want coffee there.  My son got a breakfast bagel, served on a paper "tray" along with disposable napkins.  In fact, all of the items at this shop are served in disposable containers, all of which are recyclable. are my questions:

1.  why cannot little cafe shops like this spend a little more time/energy serving food and beverages in real (reusable) dishes?
2.  at the very least, why can't there be a recycling bin/container for this disposable serving set-up?  

As I watched countless other folks dispose of their trash on the way out of the bagel shop, without any commentary from me, my younger son looked at me and said "let's bring this stuff home and put it in our recycling container..." which we did.

Again, I have a long way to go.  I am not yet ready to be an activist!  The first step is AWARENESS.  And with awareness comes responsibility.

Here are the steps we have made so far (again, we are at the beginning of this mission):
*  we reduce our purchases of anything in plastic (buying more in bulk and with reusable containers)
*  my husband and I drive two hybrid cars (my current hybrid will be replaced with a Prius soon)
*  we refuse any plastic bagging at any stores, ever.  NEVER buy water bottles.
*  we use biodegradable bags for our dog's waste (not sure how great this is, but we are trying)
*  we use Community Supported Agriculture for our produce (no packaging, no pesticides)
*  we try hard to waste NOTHING
*  we installed a low water landscape in our front and back yards
*  we are beginning to use a composting system (more on that later)
*  we are looking into solar

Is anyone else out there on a similar mission?  I would love to hear.  :)


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Master Bedroom Reveal

Back in November of 2012, I posted some master bedroom inspiration (apparently I deleted this post, though!).  Our master bedroom is actually quite large, which is nice on the one hand...but on the other, it tends to become a clutter of books, papers, laundry, and other loveliness.  ;)  I wanted a more streamlined look, something cleaner.

The former color scheme was primarily yellows and reds, a bit on the country French side, with a dark green four poster bed.  The room took a while to transform, as I first tried staining the bed and then when that wasn't working well I realized that I needed to start over and sand and paint it.  My husband and I also painted the room, and then I hemmed and hawed about the bed linens and art for quite a while until I made some decisions.  This was a slow project for me, as I love to transform a space and get impatient!  But I think (hope?) the patience payed off. 

Here is what we have so far!  It is a more simple, glamorous and clean space.

 The bed and mirror are the focal point.  I like how the mirror reflects my white bathroom as well!

 Bed linens and mirror on sale from Ballard Designs (I should have stock in this company for sure!)...

Below is a shot as you enter the room.  There is one very large window in the room.

My desk below which was a gift from my husband for my 29th birthday!  Funky lampshade from HomeGoods.

My bedside table...I realize that a black or even white table would look much better, but I cannot seem to bring myself to paint this wood (*yet anyway*)...

On my husband's side, I re purposed an old pillow's fabric to recover his desk chair (not showing anyone his desk piled with papers at the moment! ;)  The chair was purchased in an antiques shop in Ft. Worth, Texas many years ago...

That's about it for now!  I will be adding more art to the opposite wall and I am considering some kind of organizational piece for my husband's clutter, perhaps something with a door to close!



My old bed linens were donated and much of the art was moved to other portions of the house and/or room.  Please let me know what you think?  Just looking at these photos makes me want to make even more improvements to the room, but I want to be careful with my decisions as I hope to move to a small cottage-like home in the future (preferably by the beach or with a view of some mountains!).  ;)

Thanks for stopping by!

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