Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Menu Makeover: Hot Wing Burgers

Hot Wing Burger

Oddly enough I discovered this turkey burger variation on my honeymoon back in April 2010.  I know, why were we watching TV on our honeymoon?  It was just that afternoon gap between being on the beach and getting ready for dinner, and while I was sitting on the bed putting on makeup I watched the Rachel Ray Show.  She was cooking her Adirondack Burgers and my new hubby said, "make me that" - in a loving, not demanding way of course.  Shortly after returning from Caribbean bliss I gave it a shot; I edited it some since then and below is my adaptation. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday in Suburbia: One of These Things is Not Like the Other...

House Hunting Tip of the Week: Don't buy the Nicest House in the Neighborhood

The other week a new listing came on the market.  While the exterior was rather blah, the interior appeared quite lovely.  New kitchen with GE Profile appliances, lots of wood floors, big open floor plan with an additional office space on the main floor, and I was thinking "hey, this could be it."  Then I did my homework and searched for what was going on in the rest of the neighborhood.  Well, this is odd...this listing is 35% higher than all the other listings.  Now in this market there's a lot of variance within neighborhoods depending on when the people bought, how much they owe, did they take out a second mortgage to finance that renovation?  However there was one other odd factor in play here - all the other homes were less than 2000 square feet, while this one was over 3000!  Whaaat?!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Faithful Fridays: Truth

The other morning I was watching the Today show, and the segment about Demi Moore's breakdown was airing.  I was thinking, "surely I heard that wrong."  They mentioned something about her stating she felt unworthy of love because she felt something was wrong with her.  I don't think it was in reference to a recent statement she made, but rather something she used to feel.  The reality is that so many people feel similar emotions; however, our emotions can, and will, lie to us.  So much of society is telling us to go by our "gut feeling."  We have to be aware of the difference between a "feeling" and a nudging from the Holy Spirit.  They are two different things, and one will lead you astray, but the Spirit will only lead you towards God.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday Menu Makeover: Mac & Cheese with a Kick

Well, I was going to make yummy turkey burgers last night, but it didn't happen...maybe next week.  Luckily I have a few backup photos of food I have made recently; however, this one was with my old camera.  Sorry it is not as fancy looking as ones taken with my fancy new Canon T3i.  (Apparently I'm like the girls I kidsit and enjoy using the word fancy.)
Mac & Cheese with a Kick
Mac and Cheese with a Kick - Take the good Betty Crocker Red Book recipe and spice it up a bit.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday in Suburbia: DIY Fabric Rosette Wreath

Well there is no update on the home search, so I decided to try my hand at a DIY decorator project.  Personally, it was a little too time consuming for a "Hallmark holiday" wreath, but at least I'm not as upset at how poorly it turned out since it's not a real holiday.  Hopefully the wreath I do for Easter will be less embarrassing...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thirsty Third Thursday: Peppermint Schnapps Mocha

Peppermint Schnapps Mocha
I don't know about you, but I love Starbucks Peppermint Mocha.  Do you know what would make it even more delicious?  Trade that peppermint syrup for some peppermint schnapps.  Probably not to start the day, but definitely a good way to end one!  You can use coffee instead of the hot chocolate listed below...and if you want nonalcoholic: use 1/2-1 tablespoon peppermint extract + another 1/2 cup milk instead of peppermint schnapps...or use the syrup from Starbucks: Peppermint Syrup

Monday, January 16, 2012

Monday Menu Makeover: Veggie Lasagna Rolls

Sometime in the past year I saw a recipe for lasagna rolls.  I thought it seemed like a good way to change up lasagna for a more aesthetic presentation.  I do not remember where I saw it, so I just created my own version.  Below is the recipe for 12 rolls.  When I did it I just did it for 5 rolls.
Veggie Lasagna Rolls

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday in Suburbia: No Progress

Yesterday we viewed 3 1/2 other houses.  Yes, there was a half.  When we view a home we roam around the first floor, then go to the backyard to take a good look at siding, roof, soffits, gutters and AC units before heading to other floors.  This house was cute, and a great location.  After walking around the first floor we were pretty happy; good floor plan, kitchen open to two story family room, needed a few updates, but nothing was offensive (ie: hot pink paint or red carpet).  Then we stepped out onto the screened-in porch (which I was super excited about having)...I knew this house backed up to another road rather than a neighborhood, but on Google maps it seemed to have a decent set back.  Not so much.  We actually had to raise our voices in order to talk to each other over the sound of cars going by on the road.  The fence was literally five feet from the back of the porch, and I could see the yellow lines on the road through the gaps in the fence posts.  Not because the fence was bad, but because the road was right there.  "I think we can just move on to the next one," I said.  "Deal breaker."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Faithful Fridays

...delayed to Faithful Saturday...opps.

I started off writing this post about my obvious control issue (see the house hunting posts) and how it is my way dealing with anxiety over the unknown.  While it was a good post, it's rather deep for only week two of these Faithful Friday posts, so I decided to do a rewrite.  However, I do feel compelled to write about anxiety because I feel it is a common emotion many struggle with, and it is even more prevalent due to the current economic and political climate.  I'm going to try to keep it a little more surface level, but I'm not all that good with that...

I remember as a little girl watching a show with Psalty - the character was a big blue book.  The book of Psalms to be exact.  I'm not sure exactly how many of these I watched, but I only remember one (sorry Psalty).  There was an episode where a church group goes camping, and two of the kids go off to collect firewood.  They are suppose to stay on a clearly defined path, but they wander off and become lost in the woods.  As the sun begins to set they grow scared and anxious.  One of the children remembers a song based on 1 Peter 5:7, "I cast all my anxiety on Him because He cares for me."  As silly as it may sound, this song continues to provide comfort to me. 

This week has been particularly anxiety ridden.  In two weeks we will have to give our 60 days notice to the apartment complex if we plan to move out at the end of our lease in late March.  If we do not give notice than we are at minimum locked into one extra month at the ridiculous month-to-month rate that is about 45% more than what we are paying right now.  I know it is better than most people who are stuck with a home they are trying to get out of while trying to buy something else.  However, I began this week drowning in anxiety.  I suppose it does not help that I skipped devotional time Sunday - Tuesday.  However, I caught up on Wednesday in Psalms.  The reading plan was for chapters 3-4, and it all spoke to me.  Specifically, "In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety."  A wonderful reminder that regardless of the situation, the large or the small, I dwell in the safety of the Most High.  (Again in Psalm 91:1-2). Not to mention that every time I read in Psalms I am reminded of Psalty and that song. 

Here's the audio clip from that scene: YouTube - Psalty  Warning - it is a super 80's church production.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Monday Menu Makeover: Semi-homemade White Pizza

White Pizza
You can go all out homemade if you want to make your own crust.  I'll give you a figurative gold star if you do.  Or, you can be like me and buy dough from Trader Joe's or Publix.  FYI: Trader Joe's is less than half the price of Publix - $1.09 vs. $2.29 in the Atlanta area, and while there is a little less in the package, it's still plenty for a medium sized pizza.

Premade Pizza Dough
A palmful of cornmeal
2 Cloves of Garlic, minced
2-3 Tablespoons Butter (depending on how much you like butter)
5-8 ounces Italian Blend Cheese (Mozzarella, Asiago, Provalone, White Cheddar, Romano)
1 Tablespoon Oregano - divided in half (reserve 1/2 tablespoon for after pizza is cooked)
1/2 Tablespoon Finely Chopped Basil
EVOO to prevent sticking

Sliced Red Tomatoes
Sliced Onion
Sliced Red Bell Peppers
Whole Leaf Basil
1/2 Tablespoon Red Pepper Flakes
Black, Green or Kalamatta Olives

  1. Preheat oven to 415.
  2. Follow instructions on premade dough - typically you want it to sit at room temperature for 20-25 minutes.
  3. Melt butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat and add garlic.  Roast garlic until aromatic, being sure not to burn.  Keep on very low heat until step 6.
  4. Sprinkle cornmeal on a round pizza stone (if it's the first few times you have used the pizza stone, rub butter on it and then sprinkle cornmeal.)
  5. On a separate (non-stick) work surface work out the dough with EVOO coated fingers into a circular shape (or flip in the air if you think you are a professional).  Once stretched out, transfer to the prepped pizza stone, and roll up the edges of the dough to create a lip.
  6. Brush the entire surface with 1/2 of the garlic butter mixture and place in oven for 10 minutes on the second to lowest rack.  Doing this prior to adding the cheese (or sauce if you are doing a more traditional pizza) aides in creating a crisp crust.  If you have a super thick crust you may want to add another 5-7 minutes baking time to this step.
  7. Remove crust from oven and sprinkle desired amount of cheese evenly.  Sprinkle herbs evenly and add any of the desired optional ingredients.  (The KISS concept is a good thing to remember when adding on options.  KISS = keep it simple, stupid).
  8. Brush the remaining garlic butter mixture on the edge of the pizza and drizzle atop cheese. Return to oven another 8-10 minutes until cheese is brown and bubbly.  Cool about 5 minutes before cutting and adding an additional 1/2 tablespoon of oregano.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sunday in Suburbia: The House that Never Was

House Hunting Tip of the Week:
A qualified home inspector can save your wallet.

After the first real estate agent did not work out, we went back to our mortgage broker for suggestions. A few days after meeting our new agent we went to see house number 2 and 3. Both were no's. I then decided we should see one a little more pricey, but appeared perfect in photos. We went, we saw, we fell in love. This place was perfection. The yard was a little smaller than we wanted, but everything else was simply ideal. While standing in the recently remodeled kitchen we called in an offer. It was there that the disappointment truly began. The house went under contract that morning. We left discouraged, but knew we were just beginning the process, and everything happens for a reason...but dang it, I am still dreaming about that kitchen.
Not our kitchen :(

Ten homes later we had found a couple we liked, but they were just too far out. Another two went under contract before we even could get in to see them, again. And several were just bombs (FYI - if you are trying to sell your home than bake cookies, not Indian food, before people come view it). With a recent $15K price drop that first house began to look more appealing, and we decided to give it a second look. Sure it has its faults but that yard is amazing, and with a recent financial gift from my in-laws we can do some of those cosmetic things right away. That two page evaluation form I completed the first time we viewed it (see previous post about the home search) was lost in the recesses of my mind; I wanted that yard in that neighborhood and we would make the house work.

We made an offer, and after a little back and forth we entered a binding contract. Now time for the inspection; we had enough sense not to open that special bottle of wine we bought on our 1 year anniversary trip to Sonoma (saving for a special moment), but I forgot my self-proclaimed rule of not mentally moving into a home until after the keys are in our hand. I started to draw the house plan in CAD (the computer software used by professionals to create construction documents); I used the online tool from Home Depot to estimate the cost of new granite counters in the kitchen - how I love thee Bianca Antico - and I created a 15 year renovation schedule including a line item budget and InDesign presentation for the first 2 years of, I'm not a type A personality at all. Everyone does this, right?
(Is this my dream design? No, but for the budget available it was a decent compromise.)

Perhaps it was doomed from the start The house is a foreclosure, and being late November the house had been winterized (no HVAC or plumbing was functional until a binding contract was made.) Pre offer I noticed a few concerns, but I was hoping they were rough looking AC unit, very small amount of mold under the kitchen sink and a discolored area of ceiling in the kitchen below the secondary bath. Well, if these were the only things wrong we would have been fine. However, the mold and the discolored ceiling are a result of the pressure being too high on the water heater. Once the house was dewinterized we saw exactly what kind of damage that will do. The pipes under EVERY sink leak, causing water damage in every cabinet . Also, the bank apparently replaced all the toilets before putting the house on the market, and it would seem that it was due to the water pressure issue. When peeling back the vinyl floor around the two upstairs toilets, the water damage to the subfloor was obvious. Why had I not noticed these things before!?! just goes downhill from there. Both furnaces and AC units need to be replaced and the whole mechanical system is a hot mess because the previous owners were not using filters (gross!). The running calculator in my head reached $25-30K and I had yet to add a single pendant or marble tile or anything else pretty...I put down my tape measure, sat on the bottom step of the staircase, and looked at my husband..."I don't think this is our home," I said despairingly. Luckily, we are only out the $375 for the inspection. 
We were disappointed at first, but in the past few weeks since we terminated the contract we have felt a good bit of relief. We considered going back to the bank with a drastically reduced offer, but I decided that I would rather regret terminating the contract than regret purchasing the house.  We are simply not interested in owning a money pit! We know that more houses will continue to be put on the market as spring approaches. Fortunately, we can renew our lease month-to-month if our search takes us beyond March 2012; unfortantely it adds another $538 per month. I am hopeful that we will find our house soon.
At least my paint colors and design concepts can be kept for whatever house we ultimately buy...if I don't change my mind first...but what to do with the floor plans?
First Floor Plan
Second Floor Plan

Friday, January 6, 2012

Faithful Fridays

So after a week of this blog being up you may be thinking I'm a slacker because I'm not here every day posting something like the real bloggers.  I have a full time job other than this, remember?  

However, I do have a plan.  Hello, it's me - the planaholic; I have a plan for everything and it usually entails some form of spreadsheet or PowerPoint presentation.  Since I have a plethora of interests it has been hard to narrow down exactly what to blog about.  I used to think I was awesome at most things, but I'm starting to realize I am average at most things and awesome at a few.  It's been a little upsetting; I received my first raise at a post graduate job by telling my boss that " says I am making the average salary commensurate with my experience, and I've never been average at anything, so why should I start now?"  Hey - it worked; he gave me a 18% raise. 
Anywho.  The plan...the plan is to provide a few weekly posts: (1) recipe of the week, (2) house hunting update with some form of "tip of the week," (3) something random or inspirational.  I suppose this is my something random.  I'm going to try to keep it "inspirational" as we could all use a little encouragement in our lives. 
Alright, I'll add inspiration for the day.  It's the beginning of the year, and we all have our list of resolutions, goals or self-improvement plans.  For those of you who do believe in the God of the Bible I would encourage you to include a Bible reading plan in your goal for this year.  There are so many resources out there.  My husband found this one Bible Reading Plans 2012 which contains multiple plan options from specific schedules for the whole year to more open ended ones.  From reading the whole Bible in one year, to reading the New Testament in one year, to reading as little as you like.  As a husband and wife we are doing the 52 week plan.  It mixes up the genres each day to keep it more interesting.  I love the idea of a chronological study, but I think Leviticus all at once is enough to put most of us to sleep.  However, it is a great reminder that we are blessed to not live under the old covenant; that works do not save us, and we are justified by faith alone.  More about justification by faith alone here: by R.C. Sproul
"Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." Romans 12:2

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

So this is Suburbia?

House Hunting Tip of the Week: Get Over Dirty Grout and 1994 Floral Wallcovering
Focus on the three L's (location, layout, lot size) and do not get stuck on the three C's (color, cleanliness, condition)

After our wedding in April 2010 and moving into our 1100 square foot  South Buckhead apartment we made the decision to buy a home in one year.  When it came to renew or terminate our lease we realized we needed more time.  We signed for another year, and I became obsessed with researching, Zillowing and budgeting.  Seriously, I have spreadsheets out the wazoo, InDesign & PowerPoint presentations of decor and renovation ideas, and I can give you the test scores and percentage of children on free & reduced lunch for every school  from Brookhaven to Milton.  Well, now it's January 2012 and we still have not found our house.  Buyers market my booty.  Now every market is different, but this is the start of our search for the quintessential suburban home in Alpharetta, Georgia.

We did the educated thing and called three of Dave Ramsey's ELP's (endorsed local providers). One had an office way far away, one seemed flighty, so we met with the third option.  She was nice and experienced, and as Dave says, "has the heart of a teacher."  She gave us recommendations for mortgage brokers, but we went with a recommendation from a friend, and then we went through the prequalification process.  All that researching I did was paying off...

(Bankrate has several calculators and Dave Ramsey - Get Finances in Order can assist in making sure you can really afford it.  No, this is not an advertisement it is just some information that I found helpful.)

We made our list of homes to see, but unfortunately she never had time to take us.  She suggested her teammate, and then her teammate never got back with us.  It was mid October and I was becoming nervous, so I contacted selling agents directly, and four listings in row came back to tell me the house just went under contract.  Now I was simply annoyed.  Finally I received a call from a selling agent who still had the listing available, and we set up an appointment.  As I was driving from our city apartment to suburbia my breaths became short and quick, my chest tightened and I was on the verge of a complete anxiety attack.  "Suburbia is in Timbuktu (okay, like 24 miles north).  I've been driving for hours (only 30 minutes).  We are going to have to eat at Applebee's (no, there are plenty of non-chain restaurants).  Am I going to have to shop at WalMart? (Settle down, there is a Target,  a Whole Foods and Publix).  Will I need to drive a minivan and gossip about tacky neighbors at the HOA meetings? (Just chill out - now you are just being ridiculous)."  Then I turned down a street with a ball park on the corner, and sidewalks on each side of the road.  The neighborhood clubhouse had a Craftsman look with a large pool, grilling areas, tennis courts, and another little nature park.  "Well isn't this precious.  We can walk the kids to softball and baseball practice" (we aren't even trying to get pregnant yet...I just like to get ahead of myself).  The labored breathing subsided, I turned into the driveway of the home and pulled out my two page evaluation form.

Sidebar: Yes, two pages.  If you know me or have read my "Reason for the Blog" then you know my profession is interior design.  When commercial projects are completed there is generally a punch list.  A punch list identifies any issues like incompletions, incorrect executions, or damages.  I am a contractor's worst nightmare.  I notice EVERYTHING, and I can be rather "sassy" with my write-ups.  I decided to take this approach when searching for a home...I was not expecting my emotions to take over though...

My husband and I walked through the home and for the most part like it.  It is a foreclosure, so some work needed to be done, but it seemed to be cosmetic.  I try to not thing about the three C's: color, condition, cleanliness because these are changeable.  Instead the focus should be the three L's: location, layout and lot size.  While some layout issues can be modified it is usually expensive, and unless you are looking at a mobile home you can't change your location and your lot size.  We left thinking, "we like the location and love the cul-de-sac lot, but the layout is not what we want.  Plus, it's not the deal of the century."  So we decided to keep looking, and perhaps we should try the realtor thing again...

So this is suburbia...park in the neighborhood

Monday, January 2, 2012

Corn Bread & Black-eyed Peas

Here's how the corn bread and black-eyed peas turned out.

Corn Bread - I cooked it in a 8x8 pan instead of a skillet

I've made corn bread many times, but this is the first time I did it this way.  Everyone said it was really good; however, I think it was a little dry.  Not overcooked dry, just dry.  Next time I will do my normal trick of adding 1/2 a can of cream style corn to the mix.  That should cure the dryness.

Cooking Peas - may not look delicious; however, these were by far the best I have ever tasted!

I will never cook peas of any kind any other way.  I think I'll delete the extra salt next time; with the chicken broth and bacon the added salt is unnecessary.  

Ok, time to watch the Rose Parade and some college football!  GOOOOOOOOOOO DAWGS!