Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Kitchen fun!

The kitchen is in the center of our home.  It's where we cook, eat, and craft.  It's where homework is done and brownies are baked.  Life happens in the kitchen and so, I thought I would share how our kitchen has slowly (VERY SLOWLY) been made into a space that makes me happy.  This space started out as my least favorite spot in the house and has turned into one of my favorite spots.  I still have BIG plans for the kitchen, but they involve demo and a construction crew.  That's not going to happen anytime soon.

I just spent the last hour searching for pictures of our kitchen when we first moved in.  I was just reminded of how it was not my favorite pick when we first looked at it and it took a lot of convincing from my husband that this was the house for us.  I wrote a lot about our house in this post last year. It was a good house, in a good neighborhood, with a great school . . .it just needed some TLC.

When I finally found pictures, I remembered why we didn't take a whole bunch.  It was really, really bleh.  The walls were covered with some cream wallpaper with ivy leaves all over it and then topped with a coordinating border.  The trim was painted green to match and the linoleum was crawling up the sides of the wall and had a large spliting line down the middle.  It was also brown and yellow.  The kitchen cabinets were in great shape, just not the ideal color.  And there were lots of cabinets, which was a great selling point because I like kitchen stuff. I found some pictures from when we first moved in and 6 weeks after moving in when I hosted my MOPS table for a playdate.
 A few weeks after that playdate, I sort of snapped one day during Ethan's nap.  I could not take the green leafy print any longer.  Out came the spray bottle and a scraper and down came the wallpaper.  That's how Jon found me when he came home from work. 

I knew from the moment we started looking at houses that I wanted grey walls.  I thought I had the perfect color until I started painting it.  We woke up the next morning to purple walls!  Not exactly the color I was looking for.  So, after some serious grey analyzing, we found the perfect color.  The color ended up being Mountain Pass, by Valspar. 

We learned a very valuable lesson on grey.  Grey is hard.  It can be too purple, too white, too blue, or too black.  This is definitely a color you should test out before you paint and in all light settings. Lesson learned.

So for several years, the walls were grey and that's it.  We also had a baby and got a new oven during that time.  I eventually started to paint the cabinets while the boys napped.  The goal was to get it done before we tore out the flooring.  But, I was slow.  I mean I was blogging, running our MOPS program, two boys under 4, homeschooling preschool for Ethan . . . there was a lot of stuff happening. 

Anyways, we finally did the floor two years ago and put in the wainscoting and molding along the ceiling.  What a difference that made.  Then, this past Christmas, I finished the last of the cabinets.  I painted them with Annie Sloan Graphite Chalk Paint and dark wax.  It gave them nice matte finish and they have held up really nicely.  

 This wall is one of my favorites.  All of the paintings on this wall were done by Jon's aunt.  She is amazingly talented.  They are all on newsprint and tie in perfectly with the grey.  Also, if you are wondering about all the index cards with words on it, I promise that's not some new decorating trend.  Those are Weston's sight words so that he can practice while he's emptying the dishwasher or running through the halls.  It has really helped this year!

So, that's our kitchen. We just did a few cosmetic changes on the little space to give it a whole new fresh feeling without gutting it.  Eventually, we will look into new counter tops, a farm sink, and maybe taking the wall out behind the toaster to open things up (the dining room is over there).  We have lots of ideas, but other things are in line first. 

Let me know if you have any questions about details that I may have left out. . . I would love to answer your questions! 

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, May 19, 2017

What's for Dinner {April Edition & When you don't want to cook}

 April came and went.  When I looked back to see what I made, there really wasn't anything new or really that impressive.  Between Spring Break, Easter, and a weekend away we really just ate the stuff to get by.  I think we ate out a lot, too. I'm not sure. The weather was wonderful, so there was a lot of grilling and eating fresh produce.  We ate a lot of dinners outside and the kids played soccer and badminton.  So, this month instead of linking up to other recipes (because apparently, we didn't eat anything new last month), I am going to share some of my quick and easy dinner ideas.  These ideas are great, because when it gets super hot I don't really want to cook. . . or heat up the house! 

1.  Use the grill.  We are charcoal grill fans, but a few years ago, My husband bought a gas grill and taught me how to use it.  This has saved me on so many nights, because it doesn't dirty up pots and pans, cleans easy, and I don't have to watch it all the time.  Perfect for multi tasking.  I try to do as much on the grill as possible. . . including the veggies.  Nothing beats grilled veggies!   Just grab some meat, pick a marinade, and grill away.  Sometimes, I will come home with meat and mix my marinade and then toss it all in a bag with the chicken or beef and freeze it.  Easy and delicious!

2 Sandwiches. 
There is nothing wrong with having sandwiches for dinner.  Sometimes we have French Dips and I pick up some fresh cut Roast Beef from our local meat market.  Other nights we have Paninis and Grilled Cheese.  We always keep a jar of pesto in the fridge and try to have a loaf of sourdough slices laying around.   I always try to have Bacon in the freezer, because it defrosts quickly and you can't have a BLT without it. 

3.  Wraps. 
Wraps are another thing we like to have ingredients for.  Some chicken tenders, cheese and BBQ sauce and you have a great wrap.  I've been pinning lots of new wrap ideas because it's just so simple!

4.  Quesadillas.  
Tortillas and cheese are a must have at all times kitchen staple.  This keeps the kids happy and the hubby.  I like to keep the individual containers of guacamole laying around to make things even tastier.  You can even change things up and make buffalo chicken or BBQ chicken quesodillas.

5.  Breakfast for dinner. 
My kids love eggs.  My hubby does not.  But, it makes a super easy dinner when we need it.  Last night, Jon was working late, so we had scrambled eggs, sausage, and hashbrowns.  Other options that are Klassen kid approved are breakfast burritos and eggs and toast.  Or even egg salad.  I almost through a party when I realized my kids would eat egg salad a few months ago. 

6.  Hot Dogs and Hamburgers.
 Nothing beats a delicious hamburger and my kids could live off of hot dogs.  So every now and then this make it into the menu.  I'm obsessed with the Shake Shack smoke stack and since we don't have one of those here, I whip up my own copycat version of their sauce and cut up some sweet peppers from trader joes and wah-lah deliciousness.  Jon likes to copycat a Weston Bacon Cheeseburger. . . which I am sure is way more healthy than eating at Carl's Jr. 

7.  Spaghetti Nights. 
A guaranteed dinner that my gets both my boys attention is Spaghetti.  I keep a jar of Trader Joe's sauce laying around and some Penne and we either eat it with Italian sausage or meatballs.  There are no complaints on these nights and it's super easy!

8.  Crockpot Meals. 
Take advantage of your crockpot.  Buy the liners. . . best thing ever!  No crusty clean up!  I like to make my black bean chili, chicken tortilla soup or pulled pork.  Sometimes, I just buy some pollo asado from Trader Joes and throw it in or find a quick recipe on Pinterest for pulled pork.  Last week, I put a pork loin in and topped it with a jar of Apple Cider Starter from Williams Sonoma.  Sometimes you can find them on sale and they are awesome!

9.  And have a list of go-to quick dinner options. Here's my list. 

Indian Chicken Simmer Sauces with chicken and rice - I buy the simmer sauces at Costco and use the microwavable white rice from Trader Joes.

Trader Joes Orange Chicken, Kung Pao Chicken, Walnut Shrimp and rice.  Again. . . I just keep these on hand for a quick dinner option.  And those microwavable rice things. . . amazing!

Trader Joe's General Tso Sauce.  It's always in my pantry.  Just cut up some chicken breasts or thighs, cook on your skillet, and pour sauce over and continue cooking until warm.  Serve over rice.

Taco/burrito/bowl nights.  Always a big hit.

Teriyaki Meatballs and veggie stir fry.

BBQ Chicken Salad

Simple Sesame Noodles

 Build your own pizza.  If I don't have time (or energy) to make pizza dough, I stock up at Trader Joes.  Their dough freezes well and is wonderful!  We also keep naan frozen and english muffins to make pizza quickly. 

I also like to keep Trader Joe's frozen mac and cheese, Daiya mac and cheese, Annies Bunny O's, and Chicken nuggets in the fridge because there are some nights where we get take out after the kids go to bed (like every Sunday Night!).

I hope that helps you.   It helps me to get in into one spot.  What's your favorite quick and easy dinner option at your house? 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Spiced Coffee Cake

 My sister sent me a beautiful picture of snow in her front yard this morning.  SNOW!   I replied back with a picture of our clear blue sky and almost dead grass (that might have been a little mean?)  We have had the most amazing weather lately.  The kind where you open all the windows and breathe in the fresh air.  The kind where you can still wear a sweatshirt most of the day, but if you didn't you wouldn't be cold.  It's May.  It's not going to last.  Next week, I will send her pictures of us melting as summer will truly hit.  I will be sad.  The cool, windows open weather reminds me of the beach.  Weather-wise I have been in my happy place. 
We have three weeks of school left and things are really starting to slow down.  Commitments are dropping off one by one and I have found myself sitting and drinking coffee and enjoying the quiet of the house before the kids are home every day.  I dislike summer heat, but I love the quiet.  The time where there are days with no plans, where we can just sit and veg all day.  Where we can be spontaneous or learn something new.
So, while I am sitting here drinking my coffee and writing (and enjoying the quiet!), I realized there there really hasn't been any food posts recently and that needs to change.  I've mentioned my love for the Bake from Scratch magazine and this one comes from their One Layer Cakes Special Edition.  I may have flagged every single page in this magazine!  I mean, one layer cakes are minimal effort deliciousness.  No worries of frosting layers upon layers of cakes. . . but delicious one layer goodness.  Easy Peazy.  And, what is one of the best one layer cakes?  Coffee Cakes, of course! 

I've had to explain to my kids that coffee cake actually is not a cake made with coffee, but a cake to be enjoyed with coffee and good conversation.  It's a easier than making muffins and scones and they come out so impressive that your company will think you went out to the local bakery and bought a fancy schmancy cake. I made this one for my family's Easter Brunch and it was a hit.  My hubby is a fan of all things bread and has added this to his "You can make this again" list. 

Spiced Crumb Cake
from Bake from Scratch

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 cup buttermilk*

3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup butter

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a 9 inch round cake pan with baking spray with flour. 

In your mixer, beat butter and sugar until nice and creamy.  This will take about 4 minutes.  Stop it every minute to scrap sides of bowl.  You don't want to make your coffee cake and realize half your batter is still on the sides of the bowl! Add your eggs, one at a time.  Then beat in vanilla and sour cream. 

Slowly add dry ingredients and buttermilk alternately.  Beat until just combined.  Like most muffin-y recipes, you don't want to over beat or else it will turn out dry and bleh.  Trust me.  Pour batter carefully into your baking pan. Set aside and grab a small bowl (bigger than a cereal bowl, but smaller than a mixing bowl).

Add your crumb topping ingredients.  Grate your butter with a cheese grater and mix with your fingers until nice and crumbly.  Sprinkle over the top of your cake batter. 

Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Then take a knife and slide it around the cake to loosen the sides.  Flip it over onto a plate and then back onto the wire rack so it is right side up.  Do this very carefully, or you will have to half circle cakes instead of one beautiful round one. 

Let it continue cooling and then sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Dig in.

If you are making this the day before you need it.  Store on wire rack with a piece of bread on top. . . this keeps the moisture in the cake. 

*I NEVER have buttermilk.  It's just not a thing I keep in my fridge.  You would think that as many recipes that use it, I would.  However, I find that if you add a TBSP of vinegar to your measured milk and let it set for a few minutes, it will sour it enough that you get that perfect buttermilk taste. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Flashback Friday: Quick Art station for kiddos

I took last week off from blogging because it was just crazy with Teacher Appreciation Week fun, and then it took me almost all week to get back into my routine!  Crazy how that happens.  On the plus side, the school year is winding down and things are getting quieter.  I am also realizing how much I actually need to get done before the kiddos are home for the summer.  One of those things is reorganizing our art closet and figuring out what needs to be restocked for the summer and what can wait til July when all those lovely back to school supplies slowly make their appearance (It's like Christmas for this crazy mom!). 

So, today let's flashback a few years to this fun art station that I made the kids.  I am going to make it a few times this summer because it creates open ended fun.  I am also looking forward to what they will make since they are older.  I might even add regular Elmer's Glue because I think that they can handle that now.  

You can find that post over here.  Go read it. 

Do you fit in art with your kids?  What are some of the things you do with your kids over the summer? 

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Backyard Roads

 I love social media. Sure it has some yucky drama, but if you ignore that (like really ignore it) and enjoy the fact that it connects you with friends that you haven't seen in ages, even though you live in the same town, it's a really good thing!  Dorothy is the sweetest and she was one of my first college friends and eventually we became roommates!  She has a such a heart for others, especially little ones and she has recently started writing about it.  She is seriously one of my favorite people!

I am super excited about today's post because I'm over at Dorothy's blog sharing the ins and outs of our backyard roads that I built last month.  I know a lot of you were asking for details. . . you can head on over there and find out how! 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Connection Time!!!

 I'm doing some serious procrastinating right now.  The to-do list is outrageously long. . . except I haven't made one.  I should.  There's a lot going on right now around here and throw in a quick beach trip and family pictures (when we get home) is enough to motivate me to get things done.

This week, we have been so busy with spontaneous play dates with friends, sweet friends dropping by and some shopping.  Plus, it's perfectly spring.  Overcast mornings and breezy afternoons are enough to send us all outside.  We just love it! 
During Spring Break, we headed up the mountain in search of snow.  We've been getting a lot of rain lately, so we new we should be able to find some.  The snow was crunchy and it made quite the slippery sled ride, but we had a blast!  We only had to go about an hour from home.  I seriously live in the best place. . . snow and beach so close!  I am a serious California girl!
Has your Target gone Mario Kart crazy?  Mine has and I kind of wished I had the kids with me to race around the store in our "Mario Karts."  ha ha!  It might be a good idea that I was alone!  Also, how creative are they that they made the game start sounds when you walk through the doors.  My favorite part!  (side note:  I am NOOOO good at video games! But no matter how bad I am, Mario Kart is my favorite!).
I love avacado toast and I love a good runny egg, so when my friend Jenna posted what she did with the new everything bagel spice mix from Trader Joes, I knew I had to make it.  Seriously.  It's amazing!  I've eaten it twice this week for my lunch.  So satisfying and delicious!  And super easy! 
Here's what you need (bread toasted (I used sourdough), 1/2 avacado (smooshed into the bread), a sprinkle of salt, fried egg over easy, everything bagel topping. 
Make it.  You will thank me.  I'll pass it on to Jenna!
Sunday Nights are my favorite.  The kids go to bed a smidge early, the hubby grabs take out, and we watch a movie together.  We've been doing this for over a year and it's the best.  We get kid free time without having to pay for a babysitter.  We try not to work on projects (sometimes it happens), because we want this time to be focused on just hanging out and spending time with each other.  It is so hard to get date night's as parents and while we are so blessed with parents who love to watch our kids, we wanted to make this a weekly time that is set aside for just each other.  This past Sunday, I made a quick batch of carrot cake for two.  Seriously.  Amazing. Probably good that it makes 2 perfect servings and there's no leftovers, because carrot cake is probably my top cake choice!  I'm drooling just thinking about it! 
I've been doing some reading and I finished Bread and Wine, by Shauna Neiquist.  I got my copy from the library and had to take it back yesterday.  I was so sad.  It's filled with tons of delicious sounding recipes and so I think that I need to buy myself a copy.  Plus, she said some pretty profound things about food, life, community, and hospitality.  My favorite thing is probably not most people's but, I loved when she talked about using her friends (and husband's) food allergies as a way to challenge her in the kitchen.  She talks a lot about showing her friends love while making sure they are comfortable and have food to eat.  It spoke to my heart in so many ways! 

On Sunday, I just laid around the house reading.  At one point my oldest came and joined me and it was the best.  Really.  When your kids get old enough to sit and read chapter books on the couch next to you, it really is the best!  Then I think about how is growing up and I am just like "make it stop!"  He is growing into such a kind and loving kid that just takes life by storm.  I can't wait to see what God has in store for him! 

Each month, I try to do a Connection Time post where I just share my heart and what's going on in my life.  I want this blog to be a place where you come and feel encouraged and feel like you are connecting somewhere.  I love to hear from you and hear what kinds of things you are doing around your neck of the woods.  So, grab a cup of coffee or your favorite drink and join me for some coffee time. 

Outside my window there is a gentle breeze blowing, which is a welcome addition to our day because it's been really muggy today.  That and a gentle breeze is way better than crazy wind blowing and knocking baby plums off the tree! 

I am thinking
of how much I need to get done and how to do it quickly.  And also, if I should make a cup of coffee to make it through the afternoon.  I've hit that point in the day where I think I need a nap.  grr. 

From the kitchen
not much is happening right now.  I attempted some gluten free muffins this weekend that looked fantastic in cyber space!  I bought all the ingredients, baked them, and they were beautiful.  They tasted great.  I just could not get past the texture.  It was weird and wet and almost slimy.  So, I made these.  They are probably no where near as healthy as the gluten free, sugar free, dairy free ones I attempted, but they always make my tummy so happy! 

I am wearing
jeans and a t-shirt.  Super comfy today.  I am working on getting laundry done for a quick trip to the beach and family pictures on Saturday.  I am trying so hard to not shop for myself and just shop from my closet.  That's hard when there are so many cute things out right now!

I am creating stuff for Teacher Appreciation Week next week.  That's kind of where my brain is right now.  I will be posting stuff all week on instagram if you need inspiration to spoil your child's teacher.  Also, if you use any of my printables, use the hashtag: #outoftherightbrainblog  on your post so we can see what you are doing!  I love to see what you all do!

I am going
crazy. No. Not really.  I am headed to the beach for a mini vacation and by vacation I mean KID FREE!  It's just for one night, but me, my hubby and the beach are going to be having a wonderful 24 hours! 

I am reading
absolutely nothing right now.  I am waiting for a book to come in the mail and then I will start on that.  If it doesn't come, I will grab a fiction book from my stash and devour that while listening to the ocean waves. 

I am hearing
kids playing. Trying to ignore the occasional argument, but it's so hard when they are in the room next door. 

Around the House
things are everywhere.  That sign that says "excuse my mess, my kids are making memories" would be the perfect way to describe my house.  Perler beads and quixel projects are on the counters, coloring books and colored pencils are on the coffee table and dining room table, and legos. . . well, those are just about everywhere.  Dishes need to be loaded in the dishwasher and bags need to be packed.  Oh, and laundry.  There are currently piles of laundry in two rooms and I am going to do it all tonight.  Wish me luck!

One of my favorite things
hmmm.  This one took me a minute, but I honestly think it's that book Bread and Wine.  I just loved it and was so encouraged by it!  Go read it! 

A few plans for the week
beach, pictures, and prep teacher appreciation.  I think that covers it for now.

Now, it's your turn.  Go ahead and pick one, two, or as many as you want and comment in the comments, on Facebook, or instagram.  Let's connect and have a conversation! 

Outside my window
I am thinking
From the kitchen
I am wearing
I am creating
I am going
I am reading
I am hoping
I am hearing
Around the House
One of my favorite things
A few plans for the week
What I am listening to 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friday Favorites: Instagram Loves

I love taking pictures and documenting the things my kids do and the things I create.  It's one of the reasons I started this blog and it's one of the reasons I started an instagram account.  It's also a way for you all to follow me along on this journey of motherhood.  Pictures tell so much.   So many of the instagram/blog accounts I follow post very beautiful things, but they are also very real people and so I thought that today, I would share 4 of of favorite places to go for inspiration or just for fun. 

1.  Baked Bree
I've been following Baked Bree since I first started reading blogs and doing a lot of baking.  That's probably since I was home on maternity leave and had nothing better to do but sit around and read blogs.  Now, I read them every now and then and I haven't stopped reading hers.  She posts the most beautiful pictures of food, her home, and her family as they live life as a coast guard family.  They have lived in some pretty cool places too!
2.  Smitten Kitchen -
I fell in love with Smitten Kitchen not long after Weston was born and she is one of my go-to places for some of my favorite recipes. . . especially chocolate chip cookies and brown butter rice krispy treats.  She doesn't use crazy, weird kitchen gadgets and so you don't have to worry about not having something to make one of her yummy recipes.  That and she has a shake shack copycat. . . and I might be kind of obsessed. . . a little bit. 

 3.  Jones Design Company
This is one of my favorite bloggers.  She is so down to earth and lives in one of my most favorite places.  She has wonderful design tips and someday I will get my house plants to grow just like hers.  (i think her's do better because she's in the pacific northwest and we just have scorching hot sun. . . but I could be very wrong).  Her design style tends to be very neutral, where I prefer a bit more splash of color, but I love watching her go through her process of design.

4.  The Nesting Place
I found this blog a few years ago and the way she styles her home is just beautiful.  She's more of a risk taker than me, but her home is gorgeous! This is a great place to go to style your home without spending a lot of money. . . she has some wonderful tips!

And those are just 4 of the bloggers/instagramers I follow.  Who are your favorites?  I am always on the lookout for something new to read and be inspired by.  I hope you have a great weekend and you get to relax and maybe check out some of these creatives and read about them. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Teacher Appreciation Week is Coming! {Apple Theme}

 It's hard to believe that the school year is almost over and yet, there is still so much to do.  While we are in the middle of making our plans for the summer, I am also trying to finish a couple of projects before the kids get out.  First up is Teacher Appreciation Week in 2 weeks.  Our school celebrates it the first week of May, and we are planning some super fun things to spoil our teachers.

 Teachers work so hard and deserve all the encouragement that they can get.  They work hard both on and off the clock, spend their own money on our children, work hard to meet the requirements the district, state, and country place on them despite the demographics, learning styles, and other things that come into play.  Having been a teacher, I think that making sure they are loved on and encouraged is important to me, because I've been in their shoes. 

So, I love that I get to be a part of this amazing week the school, where my kids attend. As I was planning this year's theme, I was looking at pictures from last year's fun and I thought I would share the printables so that you, too, can be inspired to love on your child's teacher. All of the things were very inexpensive to do and so our teachers had gifts in their boxes all 5 days and then a Salad Bar Buffet lunch on Friday.

Last year, we did an Apple theme and I designed tags that went with everything.  It was pretty simple compared to a lot of the themes on Pinterest, but I loved how it came out.  We have some really talented parents at our school, so I found one that made amazing sugar cookies and decorated them beautifully.  It was one of the most loved treats during the week, too!

 We enlisted the help of many of the parents at the school, by having them volunteer to bring items for the Salad Bar and boy, were they generous!  We also bought a few items at Costco.  The teacher's loved it!  The same mom that made the cookies, made cute cupcakes that looked like apples to go with our theme. 

 I hope that you get to spoil your teacher's just a little in the upcoming weeks. . . they deserve it! 
 Please use these for personal use only and if you feel like it. . . snap a pic and use the #outoftherightbrainblog or tag me @jolieklassen so I can see what you are doing! 

Here are the tags and banner:

You can print the tags here.

You can print the banner here

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Office update {part 2: almost done}

I can't believe that we are over halfway through April and I am finally getting around to posting the almost finished office.  Not everything is perfect. at. all.  I think that's why I am showing you this.  The reality is that life happens when you start a project and things always take longer than you think.  I'm okay with that, because it has been fun redoing the office.  It's been a lot of work, yes.  Lot's of purging, organizing, rethinking things.  It has been full of hunting for deals and saying goodbye to some things that we just don't use anymore.  There are still piles to be dealt with and solutions to be thought of, but we are getting there. 

When we started this project, the goal was to make it a place where Jon and I could both get work done and relax in.  After showing him lots of pins on white offices, I finally talked him into it and we agreed on a paint color for the walls (thanks HGTV magazine!).  It also worked well that we got to fit in an IKEA visit on a recent trip to Los Angeles.  It happened to be the first month the new Burbank location had opened.  It was HUGE.  It's probably the biggest one I have ever been in and we thought we would never make it to the bathrooms, once one kid said he had to pee. We made it and found what we wanted and it fit in the car, which was an added plus.  

We ordered two IKEA Alex drawer units and a Lack table top to make the table.  We are really happy with them so far.  Eventually, the table top will probably be replaced with something longer to span the width of closet to wall space that we were hoping for.  We also want to replace our fun folding chair with a more comfortable chair that can double as another place to turn and watch TV. 
We decided on the Ekby metal brackets with white shelves, however, in our exhaustion (it was the end of our fun adventure), we brought home the wrong shelves for the brackets.  They went with another Ekby bracket and are about a half inch thinner than the Ekby Bjarnum shelves we were supposed to get.  Of course, we didn't notice it until we had them up and noticed the gap.  And we are probably the only ones who really notice it.  These shelves are actually ending up to be a bit more sturdy. . . they are real wood as opposed to hollow.  So, I think we will keep them instead of trying to find the right pair on our next trip to IKEA, which probably won't be until we start the kid's bedroom re-do.   

We also bought some cute white pots and some of their fake plants to add a bit of color.  I haven't had much luck in keeping houseplants alive so, for now, we will just enjoy the fake ones.  The boxes and picture frames I found at Hobby Lobby and love the simplicity of them on the shelves.  

We bought a couple of IKEA Kallax bookcases to put around the room for storage and to put the TV on top of. We even found some cute crates and metal baskets to add some color and texture to the room to store things in the bookcases.  We will eventually put our diplomas on this wall along with some other art work . . . maybe a collage wall of some sort? 
And finally the couch.  I need to make some covers that will make the room pop a little more and I have just the right fabric for them.  That will probably happen when school gets out for the summer.   

Under the couch, in flat storage containers, is where I am hiding all of my fabric.  We found this couch at Cost Plus just after the new year (and on sale!) and we couldn't resist.  In fact, that's the whole thing that got us on this crazy adventure!  I found the curtains at Home Goods. . .they are my favorite place to find great curtains! 
Well, that's all for now.  The next step is to slowly add some color that makes the room pop.  I am still on the lookout for a fun rug and someday we will replace this ugly carpet (the bedrooms are the last rooms to have the floors updated).  And do a bit more purging and organizing to get rid of the random piles around.  I am on the lookout for maybe some narrow end tables for each side of the couch. . . not 100 percent sure about that one though.  

If you are curious about the before, click over here to see part 1 of this adventure. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

On Preparing your family's heart for Easter

I took my 8 year old shopping today to get all the stuff we needed to host our family's Easter gathering this weekend.  I love it when it's just the two of us and we can act goofy and just talk.  But this morning, was different.  As we were heading out the door, he tells me, "Mom, today's the day Jesus died."  and then walked away.   The tears well up as I write this because despite the busy and the chaos that screamed today, he slowed down and remembered.  He reminded me to slow down and remember, too. 

We can't forget. 

We've been trying to get our Resurrection Eggs done and we've been slacking off, because we are busy.  It happens.  But, when we do them, I am seeing lights turn on in my 6 year old's eyes. I see the excitement my 8 year old gets when he remembers specific details.  Sometimes I think that it would be easy just to not talk about the hard stuff with our kids.  Jesus's birth.  Easy.  But death.  It's hard.  And Jesus' death isn't even a fun one to talk about.  It's gut wrenching, painful, and bloody.  It's hard.  It would be easy to throw that on the shelf for when they get older. 

But then I remember.  Jesus said, "let the children come to me."  They need to hear it and I need to be reminded of it.  Jesus's death is painful.  It's hard to talk about, but, as I watch my kids get excited and remember, I, too, am excited.  I pray that this stays with them.  That they remember that Jesus, long ago, died on a cross, with them in mind.  He knows them and loves them. He died so we could be forgiven.  There is nothing like the Love of Jesus.  Our kids need to know this.  We need to be reminded of this. 

Sharing the story of the resurrection, or any story really, isn't always perfect. Sometimes it's just downright hilarious and full of tangents that make you wonder if they even care.  Last week, we were opening the egg with the cup, talking about the last supper and my 8 year old decides we need to reenact the last scene of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  I was frustrated and laughing.  My husband joined in the fun and reminded me that I am a mom of boys.  My 6 year old closed our time in prayer that night, and I am pretty sure that he prayed about zombies.   It's not perfect.  It might not even go like you envision it, but they do get it even when it seems hilariously hopeless.  Don't give up.  It's important. 

So, here's a few things that I have found over the past few years that have helped us usher in Easter.  We don't do them all anymore, because now both kids are in school.  And some, we cram in despite the busy because the illustration is beautiful and yeilds a tasty treat!

1.  Resurrection Cookies -
These are one of our favorite treats.  They only take a couple of minutes the night before, but they give a sensory lesson of the cross.  From the sweetness of sugar to the bitter taste of vinegar, these cookies tell the story of the cross in a wonderful way.  They also, are dairy free (because they are pretty much just meringue cookies) so it's a serious hit with Weston. 

2.  Resurrection Eggs
There are 12 color coordinated eggs that each have an object inside of them.  They have a book, with a verse and a little story about why the object is there.  We have found this to be a great before bedtime activity and offers and easy way for kids to remember little details about the story.   I found mine at Lifeway after Easter for 75 percent off. . . a price I could not miss!  So, if you don't have them, I encourage you to keep your eyes out next week for cheap ones.

3.  Books.
I am a lover of books.  Beautiful picture books with beautiful words are one my favorite things to collect.   I had found another one to add to the collection, but it is not available anywhere!  Hopefully next year, I will share it with you. . . it's a good one!  Some of our favorite Easter books are:

The Parable of the Lily
I also wrote a blog post on this one here.

The tale of the three trees

Benjamin's Box - this is the story of the Resurrection Eggs

The Story of Easter

What is Easter?

I hope you all have a wonderful Easter! 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

What's for Dinner {March 2017 edition}

 Spring Break is happening as we speak and it has been wonderful.  Slow mornings, sleeping in, basketball, movies, and a few spring cleaning chores thrown in here and there.  We even fit in a snow day.  So, I thought before we head to the movies, I would fit this blog post in. . . it's easy. . . and we still have to eat, right?  

 If you are new to the blog, this is a post I try to do monthly, where I share recipes that we tried from magazines, internet, cookbooks, etc.  If we liked them, I share them with you, so you can try them, too.  If I made something we didn't like, It won't make it onto the blog.  Call me your own personal guinea pig.  or not.  No one really likes being called a pig.  (I wish I could put a silly emoji right here.  because.)

My goal is to try at least one new recipe a week.  Sometimes it happens, sometimes it's a flop.  Sometimes we just don't have time to try something new and we just wing our way though the week.

Crispy Southwest Wraps
This recipe was one of our favorites and will probably be on the menu many, many more times!  It was easy, inexpensive, and quick.  It also lasted us 3 nights!!!  I made an avacado crema to dip it in and it was perfect. They were loved with the cheese and without.  The next time I make these, I think I am going to try to freeze a batch, so we can have them for quick lunches and crazy night dinners. 

Honey Sriracha Chicken
This chicken was delicious! We cooked it on the grill (which I try to do as much as possible to limit dishes. . . that's how I roll). It came out so moist and juicy that we couldn't wait for leftovers the next night. 

Pretzel Dogs
This week we are celebrating the end of indoor soccer classes.  While they have been fun and perfect for the boys, the 2 days a week of dinner time classes is getting old.  Miraculously, we have only gone out to eat once as a whole family and once to get a treat for the boys.  Because of our crazy schedule, I have been on the lookout for fun food that I can throw at our boys on the way out the door.  This one was a HUGE hit with everyone!  The homemade bread dough and hot dogs were just wonderful!  I think I might even make a batch of these to freeze for future quick meals, too!
We also had Jambalaya, but I that's a blog post coming soon!  I can't wait to share that one with you, it was delicious.

Other recipes that we ate were carne asada tacos (on another what's for dinner post), spaghetti and meatballs, French Dips with our local meat market's deli roast beef, chicken and veggie skewers, and paninis. 

I hope that inspires you in the kitchen this month.  Is there anything that you've tried that should be on our table next month?  Anything you want me to try with my family before you try it with yours?  Feel free to comment or send a link to me.

Happy cooking!

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