Sunday, September 23, 2012

Above-the-Bed Shelves

One of the many things I am glad that Simon and I have in common is our style.  We both like old or worn out things, making things ourselves, refurbished furniture and woods, etc.  I am also really thankful that he is gifted at building.  It had been a wonderful asset to our lives even in the mere year we've been married.  So when I told him I wanted to build some shelves above our bed with my birthday money he was immediately on board.  

First step: Find the right wood.  
We have this awesome Habitat for Humanity Restore right up the road from us and we go there first for all of our building needs.  I wanted some worn wood that had character.  The downside to such a store is you never know what they will and will not have.  We were lucky and they had the perfect board.  
$4.  no tax

Second step: brackets.  I knew I wanted some rod iron brackets but I wasn't sure where to buy them.  We looked online and in a few stores but I went with some from Hobby Lobby.  They were only $6.99 plus they were 50% off.  Cheap! We ought 4 (2 for each shelf)
$14,  plus tax

Then, using painters tape, we mapped it out on the wall.  We based it on the length of the board and how much space I wanted to take up on the wall.  We were really anal about them being level because we used these lines as reference points for the bracket attaching. 

Then, after deciding how far apart we wanted the brackets to be in respect to each other and the sides of the board, we put up the brackets.  It is important to secure them well,  Screws NOT nails, aim for a stud but if it just isn't possible, stabilize with dry wall anchors.  It is helpful to know before hand if you will be hitting a stud or not.  Simon bought a stud finder off of Amazon when he built the pipe shelf and we use it for almost all our projects.  We spent about $7 on 1lb of screws (we only used 10 but it was the smallest amount we could buy; It was important to me that they were black.  I didn't want them to stand out)

After we had attached the brackets for the first shelf, Simon cut the board accordingly with the circular saw.  We don't have the ideal space for these kind of projects.  A flat surface to cut on would have made the whole thing easier but he managed.   

Then, after placing the board on the shelf, Simon drilled upwards to secure the board to the bracket.  

Then we did the whole thing over again on shelf #2.  

The spacing of the brackets.  Initially I had planned on spray painting them a different color but once I saw them, I decided, in this room, they look nice just rusted and black.  But I like the possibility of changing them later when we move if I want to.  
Up close shot of the wood.  One side of the wood-this side- was more worn than the other.  Because of how high the shelves were, we decided to put the pretty side of the wood down to be seen. On lower shelves, obviously, we would have wanted it up.  

Finished shelves with decorations.  
  Finally all put together!
 Aslo, random side note.  Don't expect to be able to burn candles if you put them on the top shelf.  Fire hazard :)

Overall  this project cost about $25. (not including decorations although several of them we already had)  We are both pleased with the outcome.  It is what I had hoped for! 

Thanks Simon for helping me build this!! Couldn't have done it without you!!

Home Improvements #3

Nothing TOO crazy, but a couple of new home improvements/additions to report. 

We saw this clock at Hobby Lobby (when we went in to see how much it would cost to frame the watercolor painting I mentioned) and we both really liked it.  It is kind of huge but because we have such high ceilings we have a lot of extra wall space to work with.  It was way too expensive, like $150 or so. But, I realized it was broken (the hands, at a certain point, would interlock and the be left unable to make their rounds) so, because Simon thought he could fix it, he talked to the manager and asked how much he could take off of it.  Apparently it had been a bit of a thorn in the managers side because he took off 80% and sold it to us for $33! Score!! Simon was able to fix it, so that has been an exciting addition to our living room.

  Side table lamps!  Lamps were top on my list of needed items when we moved in but, as we discovered, lamps are kind-of-super-expensive.  Especially when you are buying two.  So between our budget and trying to find ones we liked (a big problem as, apparently, we are picky lamp buyers... who knew?) we are just now getting them- 4 months in.  But it makes them all the more appreciated! They are just the right size and match really well with our room.  They are kind of bronzy brown (hard to tell in the picture) and the glass lamp cover is kind of orange-brown.  Professional description, I know, but it's a hard color to describe!  Anyways, we found them at Hobby Lobby as well and all there lamps were 50% off so it was under our budget and we both liked them! 

The painting Simon got framed for me for my birthday is now hanging in our bathroom.  We also moved the orange clock we had in the living room into the bathroom because the new huge clock does enough time-telling on its own.  Orange matches better in the bathroom than the living room anyways so it worked out well.  

 It may seem silly but my inspiration for the color pallet for our bedroom came from this pillow. :)  It was given to me by Jessica, Simon's cousin, because she won it and it is not quite her taste.  It is, however very much mine!   All our bedroom walls are plain so when I went to buy curtains, and then later decorations, I loved this pillow so much I decided to just go with it as the theme.   Again, hard to see colors clearly: Burnt orange, mustard yellow and turquoise-ish blue.  

 Here is how that turned out.  The shelves have been great!

That is it for our recent home improvements and additions.  As you can see, at this point, we are definitely just adding fluff.  We don't have any big needs.  We are blessed to be able to have "fluffy" things that just make life... prettier.  
A big thanks and I-love-you to Simon for hanging all of these things for us!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Great Birthday!

This year I had a wonderful birthday thanks to lots of loved ones!
Leading up to my birthday, I'm never good at knowing what I want.  Simon and my parents asked me, and this year I decided to really think about it and come up with something.  But let me start at the beginning.  

 I was awoken at 7:30 am by my wonderful husband and presented with this delicious birthday breakfast in bed!  Candle and all!  I felt very loved and was definitely surprised!  Also, Simon gave me a beautiful bouquet of flowers!!

After breakfast I opened all of my birthday cards.  Thank you Toni, Mom and Dad, Nannie and Papa, Irene and Martin, and Jess and Grant for the sweet birthday wishes!

And thank you to everyone who sent me birthday wishes via textmessage or Facebook!  

Now back to what I was saying about the presents.  :)
When I went to Italy sophomore year of college, I got a watercolor painting of Venice.  I have been wanting to get it framed ever since and just haven't.  So, THAT is what I asked Simon for.  It is in the lovely wooden frame behind all of the cards.  I am so excited to finally have it up (will post more about it later with our most recent home improvements).  Thanks honey!!!

From my parents, I asked for the pitcher/vase that goes with the nice dishes we have slowly been acquiring since we got married.  It is holding the birthday bouquet on the left.  I love it and was happy I was able to use it today!! Thanks Mom and Dad!!

The Choffy (will try that ASAP) and cute flower earrings in the front (difficult to see, sorry) are from Jess and Grant! Thanks guys!! 

The first gift I got, yet kept in box until my actual birthday, was my dream food processor.  This was my birthday gift from Henry and Amelia (aka Mark and Kim) the family for whom I work.  Firstly, I was shocked because I had heard NOTHING about this and Henry and Amelia can't keep a secret to save their lives.  and Secondly... this is my dream food processor and I could never have guessed that this is what I would be getting.  Kim is a sneaky, yet good, listener.  We had chitchatted about food processors on our way to the beach and she was so sweet to remember.  Thanks Henry and Amelia (and Mark and Kim)  for my wonderful food processor!

 After opening presents and cards we went on with our typical Sunday: Church, lunch at home, laziness etc.  Then we went out for a birthday coffee at Starbucks.  Pumpkin Spice Latte! YUM!

Okay, now for the final birthday event of the day:
With birthday money from Simon's parents, I decided to decorate the big empty wall in our bedroom.  I had been thinking of what I wanted to do with the space and just never made a decision, and this seemed like the time to make it happen.  
I am going to blog later about the making of the shelf because the shelf itself was easy and cheap and I want to share the fun incase someone shares my love of refurbished wood and rusty rod iron.  But here is the finished result!

 Rod iron brackets

 Finished above-the-bed shelving unit
Close up on decorations.  I still need to put pictures in the yellow frame but here is the "finished" result.

Thanks everyone for the best 23rd birthday I could have asked for!!!  

Visits From Family

Living so far from family has it's pros and cons.  Pro: We've gotten the chance to be super independent and figure out our own new lives here in South Carolina.   Con: Visits are definitely more complicated and further between.  One such complication is that we live in a one bedroom apartment.  Difficult to be a good host when in such tiny quarters;  But, we hope to house as many of our guests as possible.  So, we bought an air mattress in preparation for all our upcoming visitors.

First, my parents came to visit the last weekend in August.

We didn't do anything too crazy exciting but it was nice to just spend time together and relax.

 We took them to see the downtown area, went for a walk in Falls Park and showed them the waterfall.

 We took them to eat at The Mellow Mushroom- a yummy pizza place we discovered the first couple of weeks we were here.

But mostly we just relaxed at the house.  I made a couple of meals: the stuffed peppers and this meal- Sesame Chicken (with a big help from Sarina and Tanya for the Asian asparagus and gyoza recipes and directions).  

It was a short stay but we had a lot of fun.  We ate at Don Pablos, played some dominoes and skip-bo and walked down to the ice cream place across the street.  Overall it was just nice to catch up and spend some quality time with Mom and Dad.
Thanks for driving all the way to see us! We love you!!

A couple of weeks after their visit, Simon's sister Lea came to see us.  
I felt very special because she took a weekend, out of her long awaited trip to visit friends in Searcy, to stop in and spend some time with us.
Lea arrived friday night and spent all day Saturday with us and headed out early Sunday afternoon.
Saturday we enjoyed a relaxing morning and then went to Frankie's Fun House (yes it is for adults) and played mini golf.  
We all were kind of awful but by the end of it had gotten the hang of it.  

We went to church on Sunday and then Lea left for Searcy to spend 4 weeks with her friends.  
Thanks again Lea for making time for us! It was great to see you and to catch up!! 
We love you!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Chicken & Orzo Stuffed Bell Peppers

I found this recipe online a few months ago when I decided I wanted to try my hand at stuffed peppers. Simon loves bell peppers and so I thought it would be nice to find a recipe we both really enjoyed.  It only took one try and we are set on this one!!  I have now made it twice and both times they turned out well.  The original recipe called for a red, orange and yellow pepper  but... these are cheaper.  A set of 3 for 99 cents at Aldi! 
 The first time I made 3, like the recipe calls for.

With my parents here (they visited last week- will post on that later) I altered the recipe to make 4.  
The recipe is long and there are a lot of ingredients but over all I think the recipe is worth it and doesn't take as long as one might imagine.  It really is enough food on its own.  We ate it with some flat bread but only because I wasn't sure how filling it would be the first time.  I also like that I am able to clean up during the recipe's down time so there is little mess afterward.  
Okay, so here it is:

Ingredients: (there are a lot)

 (I chose not to halve the peppers but rather to cut off the tops because I served 1 per person to 3 people rather than 1/2 to 6 people like the recipe suggests. 

-3 bell peppers; halved, seeded and stemmed. 
-1 Tbsp butter
-2 Tbsp olive oil
-3 green onions; sliced
-3 cloves of garlic; minced
-1 boneless, skinless chicken breast cubed (the smaller cubes the better)
-1 tsp pepper
-1 tsp ground cumin
-1 cup orzo; uncooked
-1 (16oz) can chicken broth
-3 Tbsp parmesan cheese

2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp butter
1/2-1 cup portobello mushrooms chopped
1 green onion; thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375.
Spray inside of peppers with cooking spray and place in bake pan (I used a loaf pan).
Bake peppers until slightly tender.  15-20 minutes

Heat 1 Tbsp butter and 2 Tbsp olive oil in large skillet over med heat.  Stir in 3 green onions and garlic until fragrant (2-3 min)

Add chicken, pepper, cumin and cook until chicken is no longer pink.  (4-5 minutes)

Add uncooked orzo and chicken broth; simmer until orzo is cooked though but firm to bite.  (10 min)

Spoon chicken/orzo mixture into peppers and sprinkle with cheese. 
(You can pack them full, just don't go over the top- need room for mushroom mix)

Bake in oven until cheese is melted (7 min)

Heat 2 tsp olive oil and 1 tsp butter in small skillet.  
Cook and stir in mushrooms and the remaining (1) green onion until tender (5 min).  Season with salt and pepper.  

Spoon about 2 Tbsp mushroom mix onto each bell pepper.

Serve immediately 


We discovered this frittata and have made it 3 or 4 times now.  Both for lunch and breakfast.  
We really like it and so I thought I would share.  It's not beautiful bit it is really delicious!


2 cups baby spinach
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup diced  onion
pinch of salt 
(be sparing.  It is better to salt later than over salt- did that once.  Ruined it)
1 cup mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1 very small russet potto, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
4 large eggs
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
Serve with salsa and sour cream

Preheat the broiler to low.
Heat an 8-10 inch oven proof skillet over low heat. (I recommend non stick)
Add spinach and 1 Tbsp water to pan.  Cover and steam for 1 minute until spinach is barely wilted.
Put spinach onto a paper towel to dry as much as possible: set aside.  Wipe skillet clean

Place olive oil into skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and salt.  Cook, stir occasionally, for 2 minutes.

Add mushrooms and cook. Stirring, another 2 minutes.  

Stir in potato and bell pepper, cover and cook until potato is tender (5-7 minutes)

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until lightly beaten.  Stir in reserved spinach, oregano and black pepper.  

When the potato is cooked, pour the egg mixture over it.  Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook until the eggs are set around the edges, about 10 minutes.  Occasionally tilt the pan so the egg gets distributed.  

Place skillet in oven for 2-3 minutes until the top of the frittata is puffed up and lightly browned. 
let cool for 5 minutes.

Slide frittata onto plate.  
Seriously, it is so much better with a little bit of salsa on the side!

We each eat half and it fills it up.  When I made it for my parents we each had 1/4 and served it with bacon and some zucchini bread.  It is a little quicker if you leave out the potato because that is what takes the longest to cook but, obviously, it isn't as filling.  Both ways are good.  

Home Improvements #2

One of the downsides of moving into an apartment so much bigger than our last is, we have a much larger lists of wants/needs than we did before.  We're slowly accumulating things here and there, but it will be awhile before we are able to afford all of the major pieces we feel will make it complete.  The first of our upgrades was the pipe shelf Simon posted about.  We are hoping to add on to that in a couple of months.  We have a monthly home improvements budget so maybe we can do that in October or November.  

We definitely have all of the true necessities so even our "needs"are really just slightly more-needed than the wants.  Here are the improvements so far.  

 Night stands.
They are not ideal because they are a little short and don't have much added storage space, but were really reasonably priced and are great for now.  I think I am going to buy some cheap baskets or something to put in as drawers atop the "X".  Once we get lamps, which are the next thing on our list, there will be very little room left on the surface.   Lamps are pretty necessary, because the lighting in our room is really not great.     

 Curtains in our bedroom.  

 Curtains in the living room.
  It is hard to get a picture because of the weird lighting, but these were my best attempts.  The curtains are green

Area rug. 
 This is the September purchase.  It is the one thing I wanted more than anything (definitely a want, not a need) because our living room didn't have a lot of color.  So I am really excited about this!

We are still loving our apartment and have enjoyed the three months (can you believe it has been that long) we've had to get settled.