Wednesday, January 27, 2010

my master plan

I'm just having one of those weeks, I tell you! Or group of days. I'm not sure what to consider them anymore. My life's schedule is well... strange. Moving on.

Again, I've had a fabulous idea. My mind has sorted itself out, and I now have a beautiful plan in mind for my "master suite". It's currently the unused daylight basement containing one bedroom with two closets, one half bath and one large laundry room. We plan to move downstairs this year, and hopefully before summer. The bedroom we currently occupy is so hot in the summer (and we're daytime sleepers). No one likes a 95 degree bedroom folks.

I'm a lover of black and white. I'm not ashamed to say my favorite color is black. I've heard the strange concept of such liking, and I think it's silly. When we first updated our current bedroom, this was still my husband's home. I didn't live here, and I was only helping his creative genious in making his place more comfortable and inviting. The bedroom was designed very masculine, and rightfully so. He's a manly man. Now that we're moving downstairs, I get to pick. I consider my style modern and more on the masculine side anyway, but we're going to throw in some feminine touches for good measure.

Thank you again, belle maison for making my life wonderful and giving me the much needed inspiration I needed.

She posted this picture in a series of black and white decorating photos. If I remember correctly, this photo graced the cover of Country Living magazine last year. Now, I don't love country. I don't love country living. I don't like horses, or cowboy hats, or any of those country things. However, I loved the look of this bedroom. And seeing it again sparked my creativity. I plan to paint the walls a soft white, and add black furniture. The accent color is still to be determined, though I know my husband would like this green.

We had chosen a while ago that we would combine the spaces and give the downstairs one overall theme. The bathroom is only a half bath, containing a toilet and vanity. There is a little extra space in there with a window, and we had chosen to put a few plants in there. But now I'm realizing there is room for a vanity and bench. How cute!

I was originally thinking of beadboard in the bathroom, along with an espresso wood floor and an espresso vanity. The room is smaller, and I think a floral wallpaper would be simple and beautiful. I mentioned wallpaper to my husband and I was sure his eyes were about to bug out of his head. It's ok dear, I know how to wallpaper.

The laundry room is a really great size. It currently holds our washer, dryer, a bar to hang dry clothes and a large folding shelf. It has plenty of room to house a built-in to be used for extra closet space. Half way up the wall is a strange shelf that sticks out lining the entire room. I plan to put up beadboard and a larger crown molding along the top to extend the shelf area. Above that I'd like to use another patterned wallpaper similar to below to add in another element.

I love the light fixture too. What great character for a closet. I'm struggling with the decision over painting the trim black. Though we plan to be in our home for many more years, we will eventually sell and move elsewhere. Not everyone loves black trim, I can almost promise myself that. And would the choice of black trim be worth it given I'd probably choose to repaint, even if it's five years down the road? But I surely love it.

It's a very elegant look. And I even love black walls, but again it's the repainting issue. More work than it's worth?

This project is our first order of business, even over my previously posted dining room project. Now that I have idea and direction, I'm very excited about creating a new beautiful bedroom to spend my time in. We have hopes of completing it in the next couple of months, starting on our next weekend. The commitment to change is worth it, our hard work has always paid off.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Truly & Honestly (Weeks 2 & 3)

I avoided this post last week. Why you might ask? You know why. You know darn well I'm FAILING at life. Ok, not life. Just a few of my resolutions. Or all of them... or, nevermind.

I haven't worked out in the last two weeks. Or even run. I feel like a bad person. I wish I could say I'm trying, but I'm not. I allow mental defeat to take a hold of me. I'm tired, you hear? I can't be tired or lazy anymore. It's just not healthy. I'm continuing to eat better and I'm cooking on point but my body is suffering from lethargy. I've prepared myself for a great week of eating well, and hope to pump out a few workouts. It's going to take a few before I get back in the habit. Most of all, I'm not helping support  my husband. He has a very important physical to take March 16th and really needs to be on his game. Me sitting around isn't helping.

My cooking and cleaning are on point. I still hate laundry, and am struggling on getting caught up. But it seems like it's coming together. I've gotten my shopping habit under control. I've spent a total of $8 this month, and that was on a tank I really wanted. I haven't even bought myself Starbucks this month. And the two times I had a coffee it was bought for me.

I've got great renovation ideas running through my head right now. It's great because we're gearing up to start a project next weekend. I'm excited to create a "master suite" in our daylight basement. I love the challenge.

Here's to motivation and success in week 4!

sweet coffee style

I frequent belle maison almost daily, and she really has a wonderful eye for style. The pictures are always bold and inspiring, giving me ideas on how to transform my own home. She covers anywhere from an entire room, to the smallest detail that gives you a personal touch.

I'm a coffee drinker, and I don't think I could live without it. I think the caffiene plays a big part for a lot of people, but I truly enjoy the taste. I love trying new roasts and bold flavors. I also enjoy visiting Starbucks and trying new coffees and flavors.

During the winter months we all want a hot cup to warm us up, and a hot cup means a sleeve for your paper cup! Now, I don't know about the Starbucks (or any coffee shop at that) where you live, but the ones here are awfully stingy with their recycled sleeves.

Thanks to belle maison I found these beauties!

Cozies by Wayside Violet

These are sold on her Etsy shop, and she has tons of different ones to choose from. If you haven't shopped Etsy before, please do. It ended my Ebay addiction, and opened my eyes to a new world.

She even has little sweaters for your coffee mug! A perfect way to tell mugs apart at home.

One of my goals this year was that I would only purchase Starbucks once a week. So far, I've only purchased coffee out once this whole month. That's a huge step for me! I'm also seeing a huge difference in the amount of money I'm saving. However, it doesn't mean I wouldn't pick up one of these cozies to stash in my purse for those special days. Not to mention, they'd make a great gift for any coffee lover in your life. Adorable, sweet and stylish.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The ideas are turning inside my head.

As I sit here at 2:54am, the ideas of improving my house are in full swing. It's been a while since I've felt any sort of creative genious, and I'll admit I was actually attempting to clean the kitchen. I've found it's more fun to sit and day dream (day? or night?) about what I can do to make my not so fabulous house more fabulous.

My house is by no means big, but it's plenty of space for the two of us and our two small dogs. Honestly, the house very well could  be big enough for four, if the additional two were children. We wont be growing out of our house any time soon. To say we'd ever grow out of our house would just be silly. My parents raised three children in a 1000 square foot house and even though I shared a room with my sister, our house was comfortable and we didn't have any silly unused space.

Our house was built in the 1970's as a two bedroom, one bathroom house with a one car garage and an unfinished daylight basement boasting about 800 square feet of living space. Prior to my husband purchasing the house 12 years ago, the previous owners finished the basement turning it in to an additional bedroom, laundry room and half bathroom. This gives us roughly 1200 square feet of living space now.

We currently only inhabit 800 square feet of our available living space. We use our upstairs bedroom and bathroom, and the second bedroom is a guest room (and my current closet). Our main floor has a small living and dining room that wrap in to a small kitchen with a bar. There is a door in the living room to the downstairs bedroom (the door opens, and there's the bedroom). Off the bedroom are the laundry room and half bathroom. Right now the entire downstairs is being used as storage with tons of furniture and boxes everywhere.

In June 2008 we started remodeling the house. Nothing had been updated since he had moved in with the exception of a little paint. We've made amazing progress and our house is quite cozy compared to it's prior state but we still have a long way to go. Our space isn't personal by any means. We have new paint, new wood floors, new furniture and that's about it. We don't really have pictures gracing the walls, we haven't finished the trim and we have horrible popcorn ceilings that need scraping, texturing and painting. My kitchen cabinets need to be refinished and need new doors, and my dining room needs a lot of help. I still have a huge hole in the wall I hide with a lamp from when we tore out the baseboard heaters.

I've been browsing blogs like crazy lately, and thanks to Mrs. Southern Belle my creative gears began turning again. She's got a great house, and she's very creative when it comes to decorating. My first house had bead board in the entry way and the living room. I absolutely loved it. I've been wanting to add bead board to our dining room, but I've been nervous because I've never done it on my own and I didn't have a full plan. Mrs. Southern Belle's DIY Pottery Barn chalk board was exactly what I needed.

After seeing this, my vision was complete. My entire project includes the dining room and kitchen. I'm happy to say it will be relatively inexpensive, but very time consuming. But I'm already excited about it.

The kitchen and dining room are one space. I split them by painting them two different colors. I've chosen to paint them the same creamy taupe color and combine the spaces again. My kitchen cabinets are currently black. I thought this was going to be amazing, but I was wrong. I've decided I'm going to repaint the cabinets to a soft white and purchase new doors, drawer fronts and hardware. We really like the shaker and bead board looks, and my first house had bead board cabinets and I loved them.

I have bar seating in the dining room that is hosted by my kitchen cabinets. The blank side of the cabinets facing the dining room will be covered with bead board. The bead board will continue on the wall throughout the entire dining room (like in the picture above) and be painted to match the kitchen cabinets. I've also been wanting a buffet in my dining room for extra storage. It's the biggest thing lacking in our kitchen, and it would be great to have a large piece that I could store some of my nicer appliances and serving dishes in. We plan to build one that covers one entire wall with plenty of shelving. It would be built he height of the bead board, and the back would be left open so that the bead board would be seen through. Imagine the picture above with a buffet lining the bottom half of the wall.

We'd finish trimming out the space, as that's one item we have and haven't finished in the house yet. I'd like to get a bamboo shade for the kitchen window, and I'll move my linen curtains from my living room window to my slider window in the dining room. I'll be sure to document my progress, and of course will post before, progress and after photos. The vision in my head is spectacular, and I can't wait to get working on it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A little healthy comfort food

I love to cook, but I usually just follow recipes I find online or in magazines. I have a coworker who is really creative and has the ability to make up recipes on a whim. She brought in a home made tomato soup that I really loved. When I asked her for the recipe, she couldn't really tell me anything more than what she usually puts in to the soup since it's something she's made up on her own.

At home that following weekend, I began to experiment. Tomato soup has to be one of my favorites, especially with a great grilled cheese sandwhich. I love to eat, and I love to indulge and if I can find a recipe to make that tastes amazing, but is super good for me I'm on board. Here's my recipe for my home made roasted tomato soup.

I've doubled the recipe here because we're going to eat some now, but I wanted extra for my lunches this week at work. We love garlic so I've added more than what I would if I was making this for dinner guests. This recipe is a little bit of heaven. It's an incredibly low fat comfort food. Who would have thought?

Roasted Tomato Soup

You'll need the following ingredients:

1lb tomatoes

1 yellow onion & a few cloves of garlic
(I doubled my recipe, hence 2 onions)

1/8th cup of olive oil

Salt, Pepper & Red Pepper Flakes

1 cup Chicken Broth

First, start by cutting up the vegetables.

Cut the tomatoes and onions in to quarters.

Whack the garlic with your can of broth, peel it and cut it in to quarters as well.

Toss them in to a bowl, generously salt & pepper then drizzle with olive oil. Stir the vegetables until they're evenly coated with the oil and seasonings.

Pour the vegetables on to a baking sheet and spread evenly.

Then sprinkle with red pepper flakes, use as little or as much depending on how spicy you'd like your soup.

Now pop the baking sheet in to the oven and bake at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes. You're wanting the tomatoes to be mushy, the onions soft with brown crispy edges.

These look perfect! You also could use sweet Campari tomtoes for a sweeter soup, or keep an eye out in the summer for heirloom tomatoes, they make the best soup!

Now toss the vegetables in a blender and add 1 cup of chicken broth. Then blend until you're satisfied with the consistency. Blend longer for a smoother texture, or add more broth for a thinner soup. It's all up to you!

I like mine really smooth, and just a little on the thick side. Now that it's finished, it's lost a lot of it's heat. Pour it in to a soup pot to reheat.

Reheat to your desired temperature and it's ready to serve!
(The clock is reads 3:16 in the background. 3:16am!)

And there you have it. Deliciously ready to eat. It would have been so much tastier with a grilled cheese sandwhich. Melty cheddar on sourdough... Yum.

Roasted Tomato Soup
1lb tomatoes
1 yellow onion
2-3 cloves of garlic
Olive oil
Red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken broth

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Rinse your tomatoes, cut in to quarters and set aside in a large bowl. Peel your onion, cut in to quarters and add to the tomatoes. Peel 2-3 cloves of garlic, cut in to quarters and add to the tomatoes and onions. Generously salt and pepper the vegetables, then drizzle with about an 1/8th cup of olive oil. Stir to coat all of the vegetables in the bowl. Pour vegetables on to a large baking sheet, and sprinkle with red pepper flakes to taste (depending on the level of spice you're looking for).

Pop the baking sheet in to the oven at 400 degrees for about 35-40 minutes. You want the onions to be soft and browning.

When the vegetables are done, pull them from the oven and allow them to cool to room temperature. When the vegetables have cooled, add them to a blender or food processor. Add 1 cup of chicken broth and blend. You can blend for less time for a more chunky soup, or blend longer for a more creamy soup. You can also add more chicken broth if you'd prefer a thinner soup.

When you're finished blending, pour the soup in to a soup pot and heat again. You're ready to eat!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fashion: I'm ashamed to say it

Throughout November and December I did a little shopping for myself while out and about shopping for Christmas gifts. Where I live, the only store available to us that has clothing is Walmart. It's a 45 minute drive to the closest mall. Though I left the island (I live on a very large island) a few times to complete my shopping it didn't stop me from buying a few inexpensive clothing items from our local Walmart.

I'm ashamed to say that I like the new Miley Cyrus & Max Azria line. The clothes are rather trendy, decent quality and very inexpensive.
One of my favorite pieces right now is this knit cardigan vest.

It looks adorable over a longsleeved shirt with a pair of skinnies and boots. At $14 it's worth trying even if it only lasts a few months. So far in my opinion it's holding up better than a knit cardigan I purchased at Old Navy for more.
I also picked up this Chiffon Pintuck Tunic for $12.

I bought it in black and it layers perfectly over a tank. It could be worn with a pair of slacks and a cardigan for a dressier look, or with a pair of jeans and a cute scarf. I wore it to my brother's family birthday party the other night and got a ton of compliments on it.
I picked up this Plaid Western Shirt for $12 for my sister at her request for Christmas.

She looks great it in. She wore it open over a long black tank with a great chunky scarf. she's always been one to dress well, and though this was a dressed down look from her usual she looked fabulous.
How about this great piece? The Crisscross Ruffle Tunic in charcoal for $10.

This is totally my style paired with a black cardigan and a pair of skinnies, and I just snagged it last night for $8! I hadn't seen it at my local store, but had made a quick run for a few household essentials and buzzed through and there it was. Yes, I bent my shopping rule this month.
I'm just like the next girl, and do enjoy splurging on the more expensive designer items now and again. But I really find I feel accomplished when I can pick up a few great looking pieces for a fraction of the cost and pair them with some of my nicer stuff. I encourage you to take a look and try a piece or two out. I think they're definitely worth it when you can compare them to the price of two lattes at Starbucks!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Review: Week 1

I've officially finished my first full week of night shift, a full 7 days. I was so thankful my first week back was only a 3 day week. It made the adjustment a lot easier. Here I am wide awake at 5:15am, which is exactly what I want before I go back to work tonight. I'm pretty excited about maintaining a decent night schedule over my weekend even with my 11:00am dentist appointment thrown in on Monday morning.

I've decided to review my weeks progress based on my objectives for the year. I'm not succeeding in every area, but I'm getting better at managing it all. I thought back to the simpler days of when I was able to finish everthing with ease. I didn't work 12 hours days then. I worked 6-9 hours, which left a lot of room for a lot of things to be accomplished. That's when 2 day weekends worked. Not so much anymore.

  • Running- I've run once in the last week. I posted how wonderful and enjoyable it was but I only managed to get in one day. It's not that I didn't have time, it's that I just had no motivation. I was sore, and I absolutely hate being so sore it hurts to sit and stand. The chairs I sit in at work for 12 hours are the least comfortable chair you can imagine and I was just feeling really stubborn. I think I let my husband down even though he wont admit it. He's my biggest fan and expresses he just wants me to be happy and he knows the joy running brings me if I don't let my mental block get in the way. Here's to a better week starting this morning.
  • Cleaning- I'm rocking the chore chart, as well as picking up after myself. We're hitting the items on the list together daily and it's keeping the house picked up and comfortable. We had a last minute guest over the weekend and besides picking up what part of my closet exploded on to the spare bed, we were ready for company. I've been cleaning as I cook and making sure the dishwasher stays unloaded so we always have a place to put our dishes. I cooked a new chili recipe last night and my husband sat at the bar in the kitchen and kept me company and loaded the dishwasher for me after we were done eating. It was a date night right in our own kitchen. I loved it.
  • Cooking- This has been the easiest part of my list this year. I'm learning at least 2 new recipes a week, and I love it. When people want to be fed, they encourage you learning new things. I still have one more new recipe I hope to crank out today before I get to bed for work. It's an amazing looking beef and cranberry stew I can't wait to try. It's going to make a great lunch for work this week. We'll do a little shopping for our healthy lunch items this morning, and I'll bake up chicken breast, veggies and pasta for our work week. We both have 4 days ahead of us and we'll need good healthy food to fuel our bodies for running.
  • Shopping- Though I haven't dedicated objective posts to #4 & 5 as of yet, I am succeeding in the no shopping area. I've only spent money on essentials like bills and groceries. One of my points was to buy less Starbucks. WAY less. It's really a waste to be buying coffee once a day. I've opted to buy coffee once a week, and I've done exactly that.
  • Home Improvements- Nothing to report as of yet. We've still got a lot of organization to do before we can start venturing down that road. Nothing we're in a huge hurry to start, as we're waiting to be ready to file our tax return to see what kind of projects we'll be able to tackle.
I'm not nailing all my points, but I'm doing better than I was this time last year and to me, that's what matters. I'm still striving to be an organized and successful adult and I feel I'm making great progress.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

4. Brussels Sprouts

Now before you go throwing up in your mouth a little bit, hear me out on this one. I'm now convinced as an adult that small children are convinced to believe terrible and horrible and scary things about a lot of stuff. Brussels sprouts just happen to join that list (along with fillings at the dentist). I think if cooked right, they're totally delicious.

I had heard they tasted and smelled terrible, and they weren't something my mother ever made. That's probably because my dad hated them. I didn't try them until the ripe old age of 23. I was living with a coworker at the time, and the sweetheart would pack me lunch for work every day. She was a fun mother to one fun child, and a mother with a new onset of dementia. The three of them liked cooking together while her husband was on deployment. This particular summer day her son had helped grill up a killer flank steak, along with baked beans and brussels sprouts. They came off the grill, and they were salt and peppered to perfection. They smelled awful, I'm not gonna lie, but I was really impressed with the taste.

That was the first and only time I had eaten these little sprouts, and after that I never tried them again. While at the grocery store last weekend I passed them in the produce department and asked my husband if he liked them. Score! He did! So I grabbed up a decent sized bag and decided I'd try making them at home. I've been trying to eat better (trying is the key word, fancy macaroni and hot dog rolls don't help) and love roasted vegetables. I usually throw my choice of vegetables out on a baking sheet, drizzle them with olive oil, salt and pepper and sometimes add a few cloves of peeled garlic. Because I feared them tasting terrible, I Googled brussels sprouts and came up with this easy and delicious recipe.

Ina Garten's Roasted Brussels Sprouts

These are so good. The only change I made to the recipe was just cooking them a bit longer than suggested. I think it could just be my oven, as I'm pretty sure I cooked them just how they were supposed to be. They were melt in your mouth tender. We were both impressed. I made them with asparagus, sweet Campari tomatoes and onions. My favorite collection of meals this week had to have been the roasted vegetables, wheat bowtie pasta with the roasted Campari tomatoes for the sauce, a little roasted onion and a baked chicken breast, and the left over white chili I made last weekend. Eating well (and healthy) is so very easy and so very affordable if you know how to do it the right way. It takes practice but you'll thank yourself for it. And I hope you may consider giving sprouts another try.

3. Kayotic Hotdog Rolls

It's really been 6 days since my last post? Where does time go? In the last 6 days I've made two new recipes, with two more on my list to be completed today (at a time that is not 4:45am). I've got to have something for dinner, and I love the left overs for lunch.

This recipe was seen by my husband and was required to be a must-have as soon as humanly possible. We agreed I'd make them this weekend, and lucky for him a buddy of his came over and they drank beer, played Xbox and munched on hotdog rolls. They loved them much more than I. And I'm beginning to notice a trend. Those things in which I like, are perhaps a little better for you than the things he likes. I'm just throwing that out there.

I don't have a picture this time around, they weren't pretty. I tweaked the recipe to fit both an American grocery store (this blogger is from the Netherlands) and to be a bit cheaper. I wasn't about to break the bank on these dang hotdog rolls.

Kayotic Hotdog Rolls

The recipe called for puff pastry sheets. 6 of them. At $5 for a box of 2, we chose to use Pillsbury pizza dough in those great little cans that pop open. I also didn't brush them with the beaten egg before popping them in the oven. It was a great recipe. They were tasty, if done right they could be pretty cool looking when they come out of the oven. It was an awful lot of hotdog, bacon and cheese for me, but if I tried them with little smokies for Super Bowl Sunday? Sure, I think they'd be a big hit. At least it kept me busy in the kitchen and that's all that matters.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Running. It's almost like I never quit.

Today was my first run of 2010, and it felt amazing. I have a small 2 1/2 mile loop around my house that I like to run on work days, and on weekends I drive to a trail head a few miles away for a longer 4 1/2 mile run. Well, I say this like I do it all the time. But I used to!

I ran from about February 2009 up until August 2009 when I completed my first 10k race. That race was the longest distance I had ever run, just over 6 miles. I'm not going lie, it was hard and I can't necessarily say that I loved it. I did however love the accomplishment of it at the end. The race benefit something very dear to my heart, and I don't regret doing it. I did decide after the fact that maybe competitive running isn't for me. I like running for myself, and with others. I like the daily accomplishment, to prove the strength my body has and I really enjoy the opportunity to run with friends for some good quality time.

I stopped running in September because my shift at work had changed (day time hours). My daily running partner is my husband and he continued to work his same schedule (night time hours), leaving me less than motivated. I'm not saying I can't run alone, I can. However, it seemed as though the odds were stacked against me. It was dark when I woke and dark when I came home. I wasn't keen on running alone in the dark. I also live outside of the city limits, which means there are no street lights and half the time no sidewalks. I don't think a blinky light and a headlamp would have really made me feel all that secure alone.

Needless to say, even though I have 3 days a week off at least, I couldn't even manage the motivation to run on my days off. So I just quit. I pretended like I hadn't, but when people asked about it I was definitely disappointed in myself. I've found for me that running is more mental than anything else. Our bodies are amazing machines that can do just about anything we ask of them. It's whether or not mentally you're going to support that.

When I left for my run today, I concentrated on all of the positive points that running brings me. Happiness, stress relief, self confidence, quality time with my husband and most of all this incredible feeling in my muscles that I can't really explain. I just feel so darn good right now. Today was a beautiful day for running, and I'm so glad I just sucked it up and went. I was really worried about losing my "skill" after the months I've taken off, but I ran my whole loop with no problems. I know my pace was slower than what it was back in August, but I still made it to the end with no pain and no complaints. Success at it's finest.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2. Simple, Hearty White Chilli

Tonight I tackled another new recipe, again courtesy of the Pioneer Woman. That being she's my favorite food blogger, and that she happened to post two very good recipes within a week or so time.

Actually, I can't remember quite when she posted the macaroni bit, but my husband aparently remembered and had continued to bother me about it. Hence it being made yesterday.

This white chili was much more time consuming than my regular recipe, and tasted very different. It was thicker, and the taste was much more simple. Weird.

This recipe had a few less ingredients than what I normally use, but the biggest difference was the masa flour used at the end as the thickening agent. I've never used masa flour, but I'm glad I made the effort to buy it this time around. The taste is incredible, and it offers a more authentic flavor than an all purpose flour does. With masa flour I will have the oportunity to make my own corn tortillas and venture down the road of tamale making.

(Now I understand I suck at "food photography" but I'll blame half of it on the fact that I'm using my iPhone, rather than making an effort to find my camera. At least I took pictures)

Monday, January 4, 2010

1. Fancy Macaroni

Tonight I started my quest to cook one new recipe a week. The first contender, Fancy Macaroni a la Pioneer Woman. I love her. I fell in love with her in May of 2008. She was introduced to me by a fellow Knottie on the Seattle board. Her and I have become life long friends.

This recipe was chosen by my husband. He loves anything with cheese. I wouldn't have chosen this, but that's because I'm allergic to dairy products (not lactose intolerant, it's an actual allergy). But because I can't cook something and not savor my hard work, I'm currently suffering from sore throat and headache. It's all in good fun, right? Sure.

(Forgive me for what I am about to post, as I know not what I do... Hopefully my pretty links and pictures turn out, but for now if they don't, please don't judge me.)

This is an incredible 4 cheese macaroni with caramelized onions and bacon. It's not by any means good for you, but it tastes like it should be. The 4 cheeses were quite the challenge for me, as my smaller remote city doesn't provide me with an abundant option of grocery stores, and the one I choose to shop at doesn't carry a lot. I used Parmigiana, Feta, Gruyere and Fontina cheeses. It gave it a great cheesy texture with a little bit of a bite to set it apart from the regular macaroni's. It's really easy to make, and would be awesome with some burgers off the grill.

Resolution Objective #3

Cooking is my ultimate hobby. Like mentioned previously, I didn't really feel like I had a hobby to be named. But I will say this one truly makes me happy. I can stand in the kitchen and just cook for hours. I'm completely content. You'd be surprised to know that I only own two cook books. Both of which are new to me within the last year. Many of my signature dishes are those that I've created on my own or adapted from things I watched my mother cook as a child.

I follow quite a few cooking blogs, and a lot of the new recipes I began making mid-2008 are all courtesy of the interwebs. I've yet to come across one that I was truly disappointed in after making it. I've also hosted many dinner parties off of recipes I've found on my beloved blogs, that have been great successes.

In the spirit of my 2010 objectives, I've chosen to add cooking to the list. I want to make cooking more of a priority for a few reasons.
-First, to save money. We love to eat, and we love to eat out. But I've found lately that everything I have, I've probably already cooked at home. I'm disappointed in the dish, and generally comment that I could do better on my own.
-Second (which I've kind of already touched on), I'm a great cook. I'm not trying to ring my own bell here, but as a young girl I decided that I wanted to be a great cook when I grew up. I wanted to be a wife that cooked for her husband.
-Third, I want continue to learn new recipes. To branch out and explore cooking in other cultures. I'm a meat and potatoes kind of girl, and I love good American cooking. But I'm also loving some of the recipes I've found that touch on French and Indian style dishes.

I've decided I want to cook a new recipe once a week. That's 52 new recipes for the entire year. I'm going to try and cover everything from healthy foods, comfort foods, to exotic foods. I struggle with bread, so I'll throw a few of those in there while I'm at it. I had come up with an idea to gift home made cook books to my family members that contained my favorite recipes to cook. Maybe this year I can make that happen too.

This weekend I've got "Fancy Macaroni" topping my list, requested by my husband. No one can resist a 4 cheese macaroni with bacon, caramelized onions and a crumbly top!

Resolution Objective #2

Let's start by talking about bad habits. I have plenty of them. Plenty. NOT cleaning happens to be one of them. I like cleaning about as much as I like exercising. That statement would make my husband spit out the coffee he was drinking and laugh out loud. I'm just stating the obvious here.

I had a time in my life when I was a very clean person. I cooked, cleaned and completed laundry on a daily basis. This would be on top of working a 12 hour shift (and commuting an hour each way). Now I can say that time in my life ended on a less than pleasant note, and after I chose to boycott cleaning and laundry (eating is mandatory, and I rather enjoy cooking). And what I used to find funny, and now just completely pathetic, is that I used that as my excuse to be flat out lazy. FOR 3 YEARS. I'm literally embarrassed right now.

I've used the excuse that I was once the only person that ever did anything around my house, and that I deserved a break. I've used the excuse that I'm busy and work long hours, and when they're over I'm simply just tired. I'll tell you that I've used them both, sucessfully (for 3 years), even though my husband could rightfully use those same excuses, he doesn't. He works hours just as long, he gets much less sleep than I do, and he manages to bust his butt to keep the house and laundry caught up. Again, I'm embarrassed.

And then suddenly this revelation hit me! A chore chart! I'm acting like a child, right? So why not treat myself like a child, right? A friend of mine has two young boys, and they are a huge help to her due in part to a chore chart she created for them (and they get stickers!). Why not just take all the basics that keep my house clean, break them down to cover a weeks time and go from there? That's exactly what I've done. I've listed everything I do to deep clean my house in a single day. I've take those things and broken them down over 7 days, doubling some things. It shouldn't take us any more than 30 minutes a day to get it done and it saves me from wasting a whole weekend day cleaning. My cute little chart now graces my fridge.

We started yesterday off with a field day, that is going to continue over our 3 day weekend. I'm deep cleaning the house from top to bottom, and on Wednesday the chore chart will commence. I'm starting with a clean slate. I have faith that only a couple weeks time will engrain a habit that I can continue with. Look Mom! I'm a big girl now!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Resolution Objective #1

I don't think there is a single person who doesn't top their resolution list with some sort of health & fitness goal (if you say you don't, I secretly don't believe you). Our reasons stretch across the board. You've slacked for months, or even years. Or maybe you're a hard core athlete looking to increase your work load. We're all looking to make a change.

I'll admit, I don't love to exercise. I don't get the hype. Though I'm slightly competitive (slightly?), I've never been one to participate in sports. I'll also admit I'm a little vain. I like to keep a nice appearance, and I like to have a relatively good looking body. This is where good diet and exercise comes in to play given my body chemistry doesn't set me up for doing nothing and still looking amazing.

Last year, my resolution was to find a hobby. I literally had none. Couldn't say I was an avid reader, I just wasn't. Couldn't say I collected something, because I didn't. When people asked me, "What do you like to do?", I honestly didn't have an answer. And even though I don't love to exercise, I came to this choice: RUNNING. Weird, right? I thought so (but I'm also a firm believer that I'm just plain strange). I decided that I would take up running as a hobby. But not just running, to run as far as I could without stopping. There was no reason behind it but stamina and distance. And instead of choosing to run for the health benefits, I just decided that if it happened to better my physical appearance and made me healthier, that would be a welcomed bonus.

To my surprise, I LOVE RUNNING. I absolutely love it. I like the challenge and the daily accomplishment. When I tell people I run, I get really positive responses. I'm sad I didn't commit to it when I went to day shift in September, even though it would have required me to run alone half the week. So in the spirit of resolutions, my number one goal of the year is to run again. I discussed with some friends what they thought a reasonable goal would be. They felt I should make a series of smaller goals that might be more attainable and more gratifying. With that said, I've incorporated short term and long term goals.

For 2010 I want to run 520 miles. That's 10 miles per week. However, for a shorter term goal, something I can find personal accomplishment in on a weekly basis, I want to run 15 miles per week. I can run it in as many or as few days a week as I choose, just so long as I run 15 miles. And if I don't, I wont succeed that week, but it still leaves me on track to meet my goal for the year. It may seem like a small number for seasoned runners, but given I've only been at it a year (and not even that with a 4 month break), I think it's admirable and I'm excited to get my feet back on the pavement.