Oh, hello. Sorry for the unexpected hiatus. In a completely related note, I have a post coming up on depression! Also some meal planning stuff, some closet stuff, and some backyard stuff. Until then, here are a few good reads for the week.
If You Are Looking for Reasons to Be Happy, You’ll Probably Find Them – Such great advice and perspective. Eric woke up in a sour mood and was less than excited to go into the office the other day. I used the basis of this essay trying to help turn his morning around and it kind of worked! I’m trying to do the same for myself, and intend to start journaling more. I find writing about things I’m grateful for really does change my mood (shocking revelation, I know). I’m hoping to create a habit that might shift my behavior and stave off the little depression-demon that seems to take up residence in my brain and chest every few weeks.
Alright. I’m doing it. I LOVE LOVE LOVE lists, so I’ll be posting a list of our plans for the house “room” by “room”. I think it’ll be interesting to look back and see our progress, but also what we change. Already my ideas for the backyard have shifted and morphed and evolved and devolved like 12 times since we bought our house. Two examples:
When we first moved in, I wanted to plant a garden in the little patch of dirt by the kitchen door. A kitchen garden, if you will. Sounds so quaint, right? But let’s be real – I am not a gardener.
When we first talked about making the driveway area more patio-like, we planned to create a container garden around the edges and update our furniture. But the more we talked, the more we realized we just really want a porch. So this summer we’re building a deck, and next summer, God- and finances-willing, we’ll be building a lean-to! It’s not the full, gorgeous, lazy front porch of my dreams with a haint blue ceiling, fans, and a porch swing. But it’ll do just fine for my bourbon-sipping, southern summer thunderstorm nights, thankyouvermuch!
So, without further ado – a list!
Obtain planters and old furniture Done for now, because Eric told me to stop picking up so much stuff from Nextdoor.
Re-pot lavender from mom’s garden Done, and it’s still alive 3 days later!
Weed the side garden – In Progress
Construct floating deck – In Planning Phase
Refinish current furniture – Materials purchased
Paint planters – Materials purchased
Purchase tiki torches
Purchase plants for container garden
Purchase new outdoor rug
Hang lanterns in trees
Run lights from house overhead
Purchase outdoor pillows for Adirondack chairs
Run electricity to shed
Put lattice around gap under shed
Build stairs to shed
Place pavers to shed
Build loft in shed for storage
Build firepit area
Place pavers to firepit
This is a TON of work, obviously. The first 12 items I plan to have done by early August. I’m hoping to find an affordable electrician to help us with the shed by March of next year, and then the deck and the lean-to will hopefully happen next summer. I’m not sure what our plans are for the remaining items, yet. Depending on time and cost they could happen quickly, or they could be a 2019 project.
How am I keeping this all together, you might be asking yourself. Welp, Eric and I both work in project management, and we’ve been talking about doing a KanBan board for our projects for a while. I don’t need another physical thing in my house, so I went searching for an app that’ll help us, and I found one! It’s called Airtable, and I am IN. LOVE.
I spent a good portion of last night building my tasks and organizing them by room and target date to complete. I can view everything as one large list, broken up by room, or by status. It’s so AWESOME. Here are some snapshots.
Right now I have tasks in my Home Plan that go all the way through Spring of 2019. Realistically, I’m sure some of these tasks will get moved out even further, or our vision could change completely. But for now, I feel like we have a good direction. Breaking up the rooms and projects like this makes everything much more manageable.
Home DIY: Mini Succulent Planters – On the hunt for inexpensive planter options, I came across this little tutorial, and I LOVE it. I’m thinking I might try it out once we make some headway on building our patio.
Easy & Inexpensive Saggy Couch Solutions – Our main couch is a big green sleep sofa that Eric has had for about 10 years. We can’t afford a new one anytime soon, so I’m hoping this trick will help bring our green monster back to life for a little while.
Things I’m Living For
The Bodyguard soundtrack – Eric has started working at a local growler shop a few times a month, and since he had a shift last night, I was left home alone with 2 lbs of hanger steak, a bottle of wine, and no plans. After a few minutes of browsing HBO’s little corner of the internet, I found that HBO Now is currently streaming The Bodyguard, and you better believe my inner 8 year old was belting along to every Rachel Marron ballad.
Retta’s Instagram Stories – Every weekday morning she posts the same thing. She wakes up, sings “Good Morning to You”, makes Dark Magic coffee in her Kuerig, adds International Delight, takes a sip, and then smiles and says good morning. And for some reason I AM HERE FOR IT. It just brightens my day.
This hairdryer – This hairdryer has changed my life. For years I used brands from Target, and they were…fine. But my hair is so thick that it could take upwards of 45 minutes to really get it dry, and it was impossible to style because it would take too long. This hairdyer dries my hair in six minutes. SIX. 6!!! And I know what you’re thinking – Jenny, you cut you hair. Of course it takes less time. NO! I’m here to tell you that when I was growing my hair out for my wedding, this hairdryer could do the job in TWELVE MINUTES. Guys. LIFE. CHANGING.
Alright, y’all. Here’s my first honest-to-God recipe adaptation. I had planned to cook this on Monday, and throw the post up on Tuesday (hence the post title), but ended up cooking on Tuesday. So like, it still works, right?
If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you know I’ve been real in to cooking lately. This is partly to do with our attempt to eat mostly Whole30 compliant during the week (so.much.prep.), but I’ve also been enjoying a lot of food-related entertainment lately:
The Soul of a Chef
Young & Hungry
And ever since I finally learned how to boil water at the age of 14, I have found the kitchen to be very fulfilling – especially if the end result is actually edible, which hasn’t always been the case.
I love cooking so much that last year, all I wanted to do for my birthday was learn how to roast a chicken and throw my friends a dinner party. I searched the internet high and low and found the BEST, and to be quite honest, easiest recipe for roasting a chicken from the queen of impressive home cooking, Ina Garten. The only thing I do differently is I add Brussels Sprouts to the veggies and adjust the amount of carrots to accommodate.
So as I mentioned, Eric and I try to eat Whole30 compliant at home during the week. We’re not doing Whole30 again, but I find that I feel better and have more energy if I cut out excessive pasta bowls, bread, dairy, sugars, etc. I still drink half and half with my coffee every morning (and a glass of wine with dinner more often than not), and we definitely still eat spaghetti or pizza when we have a real craving, but with meal planning we rarely feel like we’re denying ourselves anything, and so our cravings are few, far between, and manageable.
With meal planning, I like to cook one or two big dishes that I can parse out over the week for lunch or a quick dinner when a day’s schedule doesn’t go according to plan. A few weeks ago, I was stumped for something to make that I hadn’t done several times over this year. I was flipping through The Whole30 Cookbook when I came across the recipe for Roasted Roots with Chicken. While Ina’s recipe calls for a whole chicken, plus fennel, carrots and onion, this one calls for chicken thighs, sweet potatoes, rutabagas and parsnips. And it only serves 2. I decided to blend the two recipes together.
1 lb Brussels sprouts, halved
2 fennel bulbs, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
1 lb baby carrots
10 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 bunch of thyme
1 tbsp olive oil
10 chicken bone-in, skin on thighs
1 lemon, sliced
2 tbsp Ghee
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place Brussels sprouts, fennel, onion, carrots, and garlic on a large baking/cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, reserving 1 tsp. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange 1/4 bunch of time around vegetables. Cover with tinfoil and bake for 10 minutes.
Place lemons under skin on top side of chicken thigh. Drizzle thighs with ghee. Rub ghee around to ensure coverage on all sides. Season with salt and pepper. Heat remaining olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Place chicken skin side down and cook for 6-8 minutes, flipping once.
Once vegetables and chicken are completely prepared, place chicken on top of vegetables on baking sheet. Add remaining thyme to sheet, arranging on and around chicken. Bake uncovered for 40-45 minutes, or until chicken reaches 180 degree internal temperature.
Let’s be really honest here. Eric and I do not live in our “dream” home. When we started looking for a house last year, it was because we firmly believed we should stop giving someone else our money (rent) and start investing in ourselves (mortgage). Buying a house was a logical conclusion, but our budget was tight and the market was hot, so we bought a “starter” home we could grow into. And it has a lot of, um, quirks.
While our house is pretty large for two people, I do have a couple of complaints that rear up from time to time. The first is the size of our kitchen and it’s lack of counterspace and storage. Let’s save that topic for another day, shall we?
The second complaint, which is definitely exacerbated by gorgeous weather, is our lack of outdoor space. Don’t get me wrong, we bought a house with plenty of yard, but that’s about it. There’s no deck, no garden, no comfort to speak of. So while a new kitchen configuration will take a lot of time and dolla dolla bills, this month we’re setting our sights on making our backyard habitable.
For starters, here’s some photos of what we’re working with.
We have a driveway that goes straight through to the backyard bordered by some ugly dirt and patches of weeds. My first instinct is to create a sense of ambiance by putting in a container garden.
A container garden appeals to me for the following reasons:
I’m not a landscaper, so I like the flexability of being able to move things around until I like what I see.
Using various pieces of furniture like chairs, benches and tables, I can create texture and visual interest by playing with height.
I can create a color story with the furniture and planters by painting them in a cohesive color scheme.
Of course, my first stop in finding the patio of my dreams needs was Pinterest. Here are a few of the inspirations I found.
I love the crazy eclectic arrangement of different plants and flowers. Photo Credit: HGTV
Again, love the various plants of different shapes and sizes. Photo Credit: artofgardeningbuffalo.blogspot.com
Obsessed with that bench. Photo Credit: TheFreshExchange.com
This was the first photo I found of a converted driveway, but I can’t find the originator. I love how the plants frame in the driveway, making it look like a much more intentional entertaining space.
I just love all of the greenery bordering the building. Photo Credit: Norm Plate
We’re starting slowly. First, I’m building the above mentioned container garden, and we’re going to try to find a new outdoor rug. I’m also planning to repaint the Adirondack chairs and furniture we already have. In addition, I spent several hours this weekend at yard sales and flea markets and found a lot of good stuff to start my garden! I have a ton of planters, a headboard, some chairs, a basket, and old watering can – you get the idea. Here’s a few photos, but this isn’t everything.
We also made a quick run to Lowe’s and bought about 10 cans of spray paint. My goal for the week is to clean everything I picked up so that I can start painting next weekend. Our colors are blush and bashful teal, navy and gray, which I think will pop against the white exterior of our house.
So, that’s about it for now. I’m thinking of doing a post outlining plans for each room and space of our house, with a list of projects, like Young House Love used to do. There’s so much more to come for the backyard, and then we’re going to focus on the kitchen this fall.
How to Do Anything – One of my favorite blogs, A Cup of Jo, is taking a week-long break, but Joanna posted this roundup of all of her How To guides. Definitely adding this one to my reading list.
Fare Isle – I’ve been following Kaity on IG for months now, and only just popped over to her blog this week. Her photos are so dreamy, and her career is basically #lifegoals.
Things I’m Living For
Living Proof No Frizz Shampoo & Conditioner – My hair is a lot to manage, even when it’s cut short. I have spent three decades trying to tame this wild beast and have finally, FINALLY found the perfect combination that works. I’ve tried fancy Japanese brands, salon recommendations, over-the-counter and special order smoothing serums and leave-in conditioners. In the end, my hair always seems to dry out at the ends and lose shape. But not with Living Proof. My hair has never been softer, healthier, and more vibrant. I am in L.O.V.E.
Bucky 40 Blinks Luxury Ultralight Comfortable Contoured Eye Sleep Mask – Eric and I switched our master bedroom a few months ago, and while I like the cozier feel of the smaller room, it also lets in a lot of natural light – early morning light, late afternoon light, basically #allthelight. And we haven’t added curtains yet. I sometimes work overnight for my “day” job, and try nap beforehand to make it to my 6:00 AM handoff. Since moving rooms, that nap has been nearly impossible due to the overabundance of lovely, but unwanted, sunlight. My sister-in-law recommended this sleep mask to me about a month ago, and I’ve slept like a baby ever since.
Wustof Classic Hollow-Edge Nakiri 5″ Knife – A good set of knives are a game changer in the kitchen. We were very fortunate to be gifted several for our wedding, and this one is by far my favorite. I love chopping vegetables. Or dicing them. Or slicing them. Being in the kitchen in general is very therapeutic to me, and this knife has just made the task of prepping that much more soothing. I have heart-eyes for this knife. Seriously.
Welp, as usual, I made a plan and didn’t stick to it. Ha!
I wrote about a bunch of challenges I wanted to do for the year in this post, and while I may have stuck to the spirit – none of them really took off.
Let’s check in, shall we?
Read 52 Books: Still in progress, though not looking good. I’ve read about 11 books this year, though I’m currently almost done with 3.
3 Month Shopping Diet: I think the last clothing I bought was for my rehearsal dinner and honeymoon, so this was an unintentional success. I’ve been buying a lot of unnecessary OTHER things though, like books and makeup. So, semi-successful, but not completely.
3 Month Capsule Wardrobe: I still want to do this. May start in August?
Whole30 (Again): Eric and I are committed to a healthier lifestyle. We don’t want to do a full Whole30 month, but we are getting back to meal planning and cutting out most grains, dairy and added sugars. It’s been pretty difficult over the summer, what with ice cream, beer, and cheese burgers around every corner. I’m considering posting my plans to the blog and maybe a few recipes a week? I don’t know. We’ll see.
30 Days of Yoga: Nope. Haven’t even touched this one, though I definitely should.
30 Days of Meditation: Also nope.
Training for the Peachtree Road Race: Another semi-success. Between my running schedule and workouts with Kate, I did complete the Peachtree, though it was tough and definitely not my best. I hate running in the summer, and basically stopped around the time we went to the beach in June. I’m signed up for the Triple Peach, which means I have a 10 miler in October and a half marathon on Thanksgiving day, so I better get back at it.
Other recent successes? While I haven’t been writing here, I have been working on a few stories. I don’t know if they’ll ever become novels, but I’m proud of what I’m writing, even if one of them is a super cheesy vampire fantasy.
I’ve also been cooking a lot, and reading about cooking, and reading about spices and meat cuts and knife skills, and basically just learning to be a better home chef. It’s been a blast.
We’re also planning a few home projects over the next month or so. Both of our bathrooms need work due to the shoddy craftsmanship of the previous owners/renovators. We also desperately want to turn our backyard into a place we enjoy spending time. Right now, it’s just sort of…there. We’re throwing ideas together right now, and I hope we get to start making changes in the next few weekends.
So, that’s where life is right now. Eric and I are both super busy, but we’re enjoying it. I was in a funk for a few months, but I feel like I’m out of the fog. I’m feeling reinvigorated, and more creative. I don’t know what that means for this space, if anything, but my goal (hahahahahahaha) is to try to throw some more content up here about what changes we’re making, and what meals we’re planning, what books we’re reading, those sort of things. If I do the capsule wardrobe challenge in August, I’ll post about it here for sure (am I really doing it if no one knows about it??).
Until then, if you’re reading this – thanks! Uh – here’s a photo from our wedding day!