Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Projects, projects, projects!!

So, my kitchen is stuck in the 1970s. If it could talk, it would ask me for new linoleum and beg me to put in shag carpeting. And upon seeing the successful remodel of my cousin, Aaron and his girlfriend, Erin's house, I was inspired to just start. I've been putting off starting or almost 6 months. It's such a large project, and I'll admit... it intimidates me. I am a perfectionist (see earlier posts), so I'm always second guessing myself, wondering if I will actually like the finished product, or if I will end up nit-picking it for the rest of my life (in this house). I want it to look professionally done, and I want to be prepared. Also... I want it finished. One of my biggest pet peeves is unfinished projects; it's not over until everything is finished and cleaned up. If it's not a permanent fix, it's not done (read: no jury-rigging). So, with about 6 weeks to go until teacher in-service begins... I am starting. I hope 6 weeks will be enough time for me!

Other projects I would like to complete this summer are as follows:
**Refinish a pair of lamps that are about to become candle holders (strange, I know, but i promise they'll be cute - I just KNOW it!)
**Paint the frame of a garage-sale, beveled-edged mirror purchased about a year ago.
**Hang pictures and buy/make matching sheet sets for the extra bedroom
**Paint fame of another Goodwill (actually, Gracie's Thrift Store) picture to go in my kitchen
**Continue my Craigslist search for 2 reading chairs and a side table to finish off my sitting room
**Re-finish the coffee table that will be in our family room after Lucy has completely finished teething

I know there is no way all of these will get done, but it gives me something to work for. I am a list person; If I have a list, I know I will get things done because I just LOVE to cross things out. I'm sick, I know. I also have a larger/more expensive list of things to do to our home that I'm slowly putting away money for. Since I'm in list-making mode, here goes...

**Re-finish/re-paint/recover my dining room table and chairs (see previous post)
**New refrigerator: stainless steel, with water dispenser in door, and freezer on the bottom
**Deep freeze for garage
**Solar water heater: b/c I love the Earth =)
**New A/C unit (desperate need, our is soooo old and inefficient)
**2" wood blinds for the remaining 2 windows (not standard size anymore, so they'll be $$$)
**Cabinets for laundry nook (for storing mops/brooms/cleaning supplies, etc.)
**Scrape Asbestos pop-corn ceilings and re-plaster/re-paint (have done this before, not difficult, just time consuming) in the remaining 3 rooms
**Paint pantry doors with magnetic chalkboard paint (fun!!)
**Screen door for front door
**Double pane windows throughout the house ($$$$$$$$!!!! Thus, this will NEVER get done)
**Paint our bedroom/bathroom
**Replace mirror and light fixture in guest bathroom
**Paint guest bathroom
**Hang pictures in hallway
**New interior doors/door hardware (old, nasty, brown slab-doors replaced with white 6-paneled doors and brushed-stainless knobs)
**Valence for front window (Can't find anything I like well enough...)
**Porch swing for front porch
**New shower head for guest bath
**Replace/repaint closet doors in both bedrooms
**Replace destroyed carpet (read: six men used to live here...)
**Add a make-shift floor to attic so we can actually USE it
**Ceiling fan/light fixture for extra bedroom
**Ceiling fan/light fixture that DIDN'T come from and industrial warehouse for our bedroom
**New dishwasher or stainless-steel cover for the existing one
**Replace cafeteria fluorescent lighting in my kitchen with either a sky-light or trendy track lighting
**Replace poorly-done wooden archway framing with actual molding (read: EXPENSIVE!!!)
**Re-cover couch in something that ISN'T plaid...
**New washing machine when the old one finally gives out (which is hopefully never!!)
**Add curbing/brick border to backyard
**Grass inside the new curbing/brick border
**Rock surrounding the new curbing/brick border (Craigslist! People just give this stuff away!!)
**Rip out old pool?? (For those of you who don't know... I have a diving pool in my backyard... that is filled in to the tile with dirt. Also, there are two 5 foot palm trees growing in the deep end. That's how long it's been sitting like that. According to the neighbors, The guy who owned the place about 15 years ago was the one who filled in the pool - IDIOT!! Seriously, check it out on Google Earth if you have my address... It'll give you a laugh.)
**Plant citrus/ficus trees in the backyard for shade
**Re-paint shed
**Replace rotting backyard gate
**New roof (this is becoming a pressing need... Either that, or we need a permanent drought)

Holy WOW! What a list. Will that ever all be done? NO WAY. I know enough about Real Estate to know that all of these improvements will make us beyond over-improved for the neighborhood. But, there are some that we will work towards, and others, I'm sure, that will fall by the wayside. It has been, and will continue to be a fun adventure fixing up this house. And while the plan is to move away from here eventually and rent out this place, I am mature enough to know that sometimes life throws you curves that change your plans. For all I know, we could grow old, retire, and die in this house. And if we do, I think I maybe, just MIGHT be able to get through most of this list =)

A home is such a fun project to work on. It's always in front of you, always giving my more and more ideas to add to your ever growing list. Not to mention, its a blast working with your honey on home projects. We just cleaned out and set up our 3rd bedroom this last Saturday and we loved spending the time together. Whoever said that re-modeling would press your marriage to the breaking point (and MANY people have told me this), should maybe have a chat with their partner bout expectations before you jump right in. These projects ought to be fun, and with good communication, they will be! All I know is that Eric and I can't wait to see what projects a Saturday (or in the case of the kitchen cabinets, SEVERAL Saturdays) might bring.

If you have any tips/thoughts/feelings on house projects or anything I've specifically mentioned, please feel free to share!! I love new ideas and thoughts on how to save myself time, energy, and money! =) And to all you other project-lovers out there, happy DIY-ing and make sure to share your stories with me! Wish me luck as I endeavor my first HUGE project! =)

I'm freaking out, here! I'm taking "before" pics, and I'm wondering... Am I doing the right thing? I mean, I hate the way they look right now... but in the pics they look so pretty. Sheesh! I'm glad a friend is helping me tomorrow, she can offer me moral support and guidance during this understandably difficult transition ;) Here's hoping for the best!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Chicken Artichoke Pinwheels

Ok.... So it's been FOREVER since I've been able to get two seconds to myself to blog! I'm not sure who said that Summer time means more free time and less to do, but they clearly were living in an alternate reality! Eric and I have had two mini-trips in the past month (hallelujah! They were much needed), and many many events to attend. Apparently, tis the season to get married and have babies because between all of the different wedding showers, baby showers, weddings, birthdays, and other holidays (read: Mother's day, Father's day, etc.). My budget is down to about $7.50 per event. Sorry everyone, but that's what you're getting. A big, fat check for $7.50. Feel free to see half of a movie on us. ;)

I also officially signed my contract with Scottsdale Preparatory Academy for Fall 2010, as a math instructor (woo hoo!). This means that I will be spending 6+ hours every day with hormonal teenagers trying to teach them something they don't want to learn. Yet somehow, I'm still very excited! So, my free time is feeling even more at risk, with the impending school in-service start date of July 28... *deep breath* But, I'm enjoying what I have for now.

I love, Love, LOVE to cook! However, I have some other passions that I have been indulging lately, the most interesting of which are my DIY projects. I am a newlywed, therefore I am poor. Now, do not mistake me, I have plenty to get by, and we live quite a comfortable life. However, when we got married and moved in together we had about 4 items of furniture between the two of us, and about 1700 square feet of space to fill. Also, if you don't know me, I am particular. I want a certain look in my house; I want things to fit together. Since my look is waaaaay beyond my budget, I either have to save up my money and buy one piece of furniture from Pottery Barn every 7 years, or... I have to DIY (for all the non-HGTV people out there this means "do it yourself") project the crap out of old things to make them new again!

Of late, I have re-finished a few picture frames, some wall-sconces, and am currently attempting a coffee table (finally! hooray!). Next up... my kitchen table *insert foreboding music here* This is a MASSIVE undertaking. Mostly because my table (with all the leaves in place) is not just a table for two (I know, I know, false advertising...). In fact, it is over 12 feet long, and according to Ms. Manners (who says you can seat 1 person every 24 inches along a table), it can potentially seat up to 14 people!!! Dinner Party at my house! You may ask yourself how we came to be in possession of such a grossly over-sized table for our modest 1700 square feet. It was a gift. No, not even to me, but to my husband and his roommates, none of whom wanted it when they moved out. This originally saddened me, as the 70's retro fabric on the chairs and the 80's-themed, paint-speckled finish on the wood didn't exactly "go" with the rest of my home. However, I started searching craigslist for tables of similar size and flexibility (ours can become perfectly square as well, when you remove all of the leaves), and found that people do no make quality tables anymore... at least, not at this size. Even Costco, the expert in over-sized everything, does not offer a table that seats more than 8, and even those run over 3k! So.... It will be repurposed. As the wood is in terrible condition, it will have to be painted, rather than refinished (which saddens my heart - never, I repeat, NEVER paint over perfectly good wood!!) But, all around, painting is easier - so I am thankful.

As DIY projects have consumed me, I have been making list after list of delicious recipes that need to fill this blog. However, I think I'd be typing til doomsday if I tried to post everything original that I end up cooking. Thus, I shall have to choose the best recipes, and maybe someday I'll get to all of the other delicious things that come across our table...

That being said, on deck for today... Chicken Artichoke Pinwheels! These arose form one of those nights where we had about 5 things in our refrigerator and no $ left in the grocery budget (why do I feel like that happens so often??). Since I'm not free to eat whatever I like, and have to keep to specific caloric-intake regimens (read: "my life is no fun"), I have to be choosy about what I eat and when. Here is the perfect recipe for all you low-cal peeps out there! This delish main dish is only 360 calories! Plus it packs a ton a fresh ingredients and "good fats" (the mono-unsaturated kind... Dr. Oz would be so proud of me!) Ready? Here we go!


2 Single Chicken Breasts

4 Artichoke hearts

1/4 cup Prart-Skim Mozzarella cheese (shredded)

2 Roma Tomatoes

3 Green Onion Spriggy-Thingys (chopped)

1 Tbsp EVOO

6 Cloves Garlic

1/4 Cup Chicken Stock


2 Tbsp flour

1/4 Cup Dry Red Wine

What I Did:

1. Use a meat tenderizer (or a hammer covered in a ziplock baggie... I know... ghetto) to flatten both chicken breasts.

2. Cover each chicken breast with the following: a clove each minced garlic, 1 roma tomato, 2 artichoke hearts, and 1/2 the chopped green onions. Sprinkle each breast with the mozzarella cheese.

3. Carefully roll the chicken breasts up and secure with tooth picks. This is the hardest part - however, if you've done a good job flattening your meat, it should be relatively simple.

4. Drizzle some EVOO into a medium sized skillet and allow to heat. Once the oil is nice and hot (look for ripples on the surface). Mince in your remaining garlic cloves.

5. Place your chicken rolls in the pan and let 'em brown! There will be a lot of popping and sizzling here, so have a lid handy. Brown the chicken rolls on all sides. When chicken rolls are brown, add the stock to the pan and reduce heat to a simmer. Turn the chicken every once in a while while you allow it to cook through (probably about 10 mins, depending on the thickness of your roll) in the stock.

6. Once most of the stock has cooked away, your chicken ought to be cooked. If you're not sure, give it a slice and make sure there chicken is white throughout. When cooked, remove chicken rolls from pan. Add the flour and red wine to the same skillet and whisk to thicken. Make sure you scrape all the little bits from the bottom of the pan - this will pick up all of the flavors from the pan and add them into your sauce (fancy-schmancy term for this: de-glazing).

7. Once your sauce is about the consistency of gravy, pull it off the heat. Slice chicken rolls short-ways, producing the "pinwheel" shape. Serve with red-wine gravy on the side/over the top.

Ta-da! =) The beauty of this recipe is that you can stuff a chicken pinwheel with ANYTHING! Got mushrooms? Spinach? Gourmet Cheese? Go for it! I can't wait to try this again with different stuffings. Best of all, the calorie counts are based on 1 stuffed chicken breast per serving (meaning this recipe makes 2 servings)! So, have half of this delicious recipe and get ready to fill yourself up guilt-free with only 360 calories! I recommend serving this with a toss salad in vinaigrette dressing. A filling dinner for under 500 calories always sounds good to this girl! Chicken Artichoke Pinwheels... that's what's on our Kitchen Table for Two (or Fourteen...) tonight!!