Friday, May 30, 2008

We Still (Heart) Spray Paint

Phew. We survived. But this kitchen makeover thing is a LOT of work. It took us one week to finish the prototype cabinet. The good news - we love it and it looks great. But let's back up a few days...

When we took the doors off, we took a hinge along to Lowe's in order to make sure the new hinges would fit. Although it was hard to tell for sure since the display hinge was already mounted, we found one (or so we thought). However, after Nate got them onto the freshly painted doors and hung them up, the doors would not shut. We tried pounding the hinges to bend them slightly and MAKE them fit. That did not work. We took one of the new pretty brushed nickel hinges off and lined it up to the old gold hinge and realized that the new hinge WAS about 1/8" longer than the old one. RATS. AND there were no new hinges we could buy that would work! ARGH. I moved onto about my 3rd glass of wine...

In a moment of frustration and under duress, Nate uttered the blasphemous sentence, "Well, it looks like we are going to have to buy new cabinets". But never fail - my calm, level-headed husband returned seconds later with an ingenious idea: "Why don't we spray paint the old hinges? We have seen them spray paint metal on HGTV!"

I was NOT NOT NOT a fan of this idea and thought it would look like crap. But with the cost of new cabinets looming over me, I agreed that we may as well try it. The guy at the hardware store told Nate that many times when cabinets are custom made for a kitchen, the builder will use their own hinges and not a standard size, and thus he knew a lot of people that have tried this spray paint thing. I still wasn't sold on the idea.

This brings us to last night, when Nate conjured up this hinge spray painting contraption out of a wire hanger and spray painted our gold hinges to resemble brushed nickel. And I have to admit - they look good! We hung the cabinets and voila! One week after we started, we have the test cabinet done with new handles and quasi-new hinges!

Last week Friday the two cabinets looked like this:

Today, the cabinets look like this:

Only 20 more single cabinets and 7 drawers to go! (Sigh)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Book It!

Remember that grade school program where you got a free Pizza Hut personal pan pizza for reading five books per month and writing about them? Man...I loved Book it! It was awesome waiting the 22 minutes for my pizza to be done after my Saturday morning piano lesson. Nevermind that I could have eaten about six of those pizzas!

Anyway, I often receive books from people to read and pass along to other readers so every once in a while I am going to post what books I have available and if you would like me to send you one, let me know!

Right now I have the following books available:
The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver

Songs Without Words by Ann Packer

Click on the book title to be linked to the Amazon write-up about it.

Hotsling? For a Baby?


Congrats to JW squared (JW & JW for those non-math nerds out there) on the birth of Ella!

Yes, that's right, I know 3 babies that were born within a week of each other! Babies are everywhere!

Thus when JW emailed me with some crafty ideas for new moms, I was thrilled since they both look relatively easy and not very time intensive. (Famous last words...) When I talked to a co-worker about these ideas, she said that she would bring in the items for me to make prototypes off of!

That being said, I am going to try to make one of those ideas - the Hotsling. The name just makes me laugh...and think of that song Otto Titsling from Beaches (Niock..you know what I'm talking about!). I am looking for a few new baby mamas to test out my slings given there are sizing requirements. So...any of you new mamas out there, if you do not already have a "real" Hotsling, and would like to test one from the Schlotty Company (i.e. me), let me know via comment to this blog post.

For those of you who don't know what a hotsling is (like myself) see picture above, courtesy of the Hotslings website (click here).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Kitchen Makeover

As I stated last Friday, we started work on our kitchen that evening. We are in it for the long haul folks, as this is not an easy, nor quick job. We decided to do one section completely to see if we would like it before tackling all of the cabinets. The upper portion of the cabinets below is what we are redoing first.


First we removed everything that was in the cabinet and took off the doors and shelves, and washed them.

Nate then got to work sanding all of the wood work.


After washing the sawdust off, I got to work priming the doors. We set up shop outside so that most of the fumes would stay outside. Bad idea. There was pollen from trees, and little bugs walking over everything, so we moved inside.


Once the washing, sanding and priming were done, we were off to Lowe's to get paint and hardware. Do you know how many different colors of "white" there are? Here are just a few, that all looked the same to us. We settled on "cream white".

Thanks to the M&CH for the last minute paint advice, and for being in Home Depot on a Friday night to boost our spirits.
After picking out some hardware and getting some paint, we got to work. Three coats of paint later, we were satisfied witht the results:


That is as far as we got over Friday and Saturday as we had to get the paint scraped off ourselves to get to a wedding Saturday evening. Here is a picture to prove that I don't always wear that red long sleeved Fleet Feet shirt!

Stay tuned for the completed "prototype"!

Hosta La Vista, Baby

We have several hostas in our yard that are looking FANTASTIC. I will have to post a picture of how enormous they are soon.

Anyway, my aunt Jackie bought me a special hosta - the Amy Elizabeth hosta. How great is that? I have a hosta with my name.

Here is a picture of the Amy Elizabeth hosta:

Friday, May 23, 2008

Kitchen: (Do not collect $200 when you pass) GO!



Last night, after a glass of wine, we made the executive decision to begin work on the kitchen tonight. Our goal is to get the kitchen done by fall, bit by bit, given the inevitable busy summer schedule.

First we are tackling the cabinets. We are going to attempt painting the cabinets given that they are good quality and custom built for the space. If this works great! If this doesn't work, we will get new cabinets. With that, here are our steps:
1. Sand cabinents, wood putty any existing holes
2. Prime cabinets
3. Paint cabinets
4. Change cabinet hardware

Next we will make a decision about the countertops. Right now, as shown above, we have a lovely (sarcasm again) white laminate countertop that is falling apart and also has a big hole in it next to our sink, that the previous owners lived with for SEVERAL years. We have done some shopping and investigating into countertops, but have made no decisions except for we want them to be dark. I have already posted about my hopes & dreams regarding the sink and subway tile backsplash.
5. Change countertops
6. Install sink and garbage disposal.
7. Install backsplash

Then we will talk flooring. Right now the kitchen & foyer have a dark wood laminate flooring that the previous owners installed. I do not like this floor as it is too dark for a space that already is limited by natural light. The dining room has the laminate tile floor that Nate & I hurriedly installed last summer (for a mere $89) when we discovered that under that kelly green carpeting lurked not hardwood, but asbestos-laced original 1964 flooring. Ideally we would like to get new flooring that is uniform across these three rooms.
8. New flooring in foyer, kitchen, dining room

Then there are the miscellaneous others that may or may not be thrown into the mix a bit earlier. Given the lack of natural light in the kitchen, I think it would be great to open the room up a bit by removing some of the cabinets to allow you to be in the kitchen and converse with those in the dining room. Right now our kitchen feels very isolated, that is, you can't really cook and be in the kitchen and talk with anyone who is not standing right next to you.
8. Remove upper cabinets that divide kitchen & dining area (see photo below from move in day)

9. New range/oven (our last appliance to buy!)
10. New pantry doors
11. New light fixtures

I am so excited I can hardly stand it, although based on stories from friends, tackling the kitchen is a BIG job, right MH & CH??!

Clean Out the Closets: Old Bridesmaid & Prom Dresses

Congrats to RN & JS, new baby uncle and almost-aunt. :)

I have been going through and cleaning out closets, to the best of my ability. I am not the greatest at getting rid of things because "what if..." i wear it again!? Wouldn't it be an awful tragedy if I donated that brown print dress and then next week I wanted to wear it?! (uber-sarcasm going on here). That said, my sister and cousin got a nice donation of clothes to look through last week.

Keeping with the spring cleaning theme (yes folks, it is still spring here...we are barely pushing 60 degrees), I got this tip in my inbox this morning and thought I would share for all of you who have bridesmaid dresses (or old prom dresses) hanging in your closets. I have been VERY lucky to have two great dresses from my previous gigs as bridesmaids that I have worn over and over (after cutting one off to be more of a cocktail dress (included in the Fabsugar tips below).


But if you haven't been so lucky...consider one of these:

Fabsugar
- list of to-dos with old dresses

Donate your dress:

The Bridesmaid Party:
Donates to Women in Africa & Afghanistan

The Princess Project: Collects dresses for high school girls for prom.

Source: Ideal Bite Tip of the Day

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Marathon!

"You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can't know what's coming." ~Frank Shorter

How true this is - over the last 5 months I have forgotten the disaster that was the Disney Marathon and have decided it's marathon training time again!!

My original plan was to run the NY marathon this fall as I have a qualifying half-marathon time. However, upon further research, we have decided that NY2008 is not in the budget for the Schlottys so I will be doing the Lakefront Marathon in Milwaukee on 10/5/08.

I am excited about this for several reasons:
1)There is a group that I can do my long runs with on Saturday mornings (although somehow I don't think it will be as good as Boston Bound 2007!);

2) MKE is known as a fast course. My goal is to PR - that is, run under 3:30 - my current PR. I am also due to have a "good marathon" if you look at my marathon history: Madison 4:08, Chicago 3:30, Boston 3:33, Disney 4:04;

3)This will be my first marathon as Amy S!

4)This is a hometown marathon for me so *hopefully* will have lots of cheerleaders!

I am fairly confident that my goal is within reach. Hopefully my physical therapy and core strengthening exercises that I have added into my workouts pay off and I avoid similar injuries to pre-Disney. I am also reusing my marathon plan EH (new baby daddy!) made for me pre-Chicago.

Also given all of the summer duties of owning a house, I will have ample opportunities for cross training in lawn mowing, flower watering (those 5-gallon buckets of water are HEAVY), and kitchen remodeling.

Thou Shall Not Covet...

Given that we are about to begin full wedding mode (attending 4 weddings in the next month), we do not anticipate getting much done around the house. Thus I am posting some images of parts of homes that I covet specifically more white cabinets/black countertops in the kitchen, beadboard in the bathroom, beautiful staircase (hmm...can i paint white risers on ours?), and those fun settee benches.






Sources: Pottery Barn, Lauren Rubenstein Photography, Beautiful Homes, Tauton Fine Home Building

Monday, May 19, 2008

Still tired from the weekend...

Wow did we have a weekend. The bridal shower of Saturday morning was a success, but a little crammed. Unlike our rager of a housewarming party, we didn't use the basement/ManCave for extra space. Some of us ate our food in the lovely foyer, because it was some people's favorite room in the house! It was suggessted that we get rid of the remaining half wall (from the spindle removal project) between the dining room & living room to really open things up. That is on our list, but a little easier said than done given that heating and electrical will have to be redone. I guess we won't have anymore bridal showers until then, ha ha ha.

After the shower, my two-year old niece stayed with us overnight. She helped me plant and water the lily of the valley and other assorted perrenials. I think our flower beds are pretty good to go. Thankfully the previous owners were excellent with the flowers - most of the compliments we receive on our flowers are all because of them!

Here is a picture that pretty much sums up the weekend:

Friday, May 16, 2008

Clean Cape Cod Makeover

We are hosting a bridal shower for my cousin tomorrow so we spent all of last night cleaning. Usually Saturdays are our cleaning days, but we skipped last Saturday b/c we knew we were going to have to clean for the event.

The majority of our floors are hardwood. We currently have some vinyl wood flooring in our kitchen entryway and dining room. Then we have 3 large rugs in the rooms. Grandma E gave us this handy vaccuum cleaner upon a recommendation from a friend and it works so well on all of these flooring types. The best part of vaccuuming is emptying the dirt canister at the end! Who knew how much dust can accumulate every week!


For the rugs, AH (new baby mamma as of this morning!)told us about a great, earth friendly deodorizer: Mix one box of baking soda, 10 drops of lavendar essential oil and 5 drops of lemon essential oil. Sprinkle over carpet, let sit, and vaccuum up.

This site has other cleaning "recipes" for green cleaning. I also have started using some of the Mrs. Meyer's products (available online, at Target, Whole Foods) and they smell GREAT!

Turkey & Artichoke Stuffed Shells

1 (12-ounce) box jumbo pasta shells
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/4 teaspoon
1 (8 to 10-ounce) package frozen artichokes, thawed and coarsely chopped
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
5 cups Arrabbiata Sauce, recipe follows **Or use 1 jar of your favorite marinara**
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella (about 5 ounces)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and partially cook until tender but still very firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain pasta.
Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and the garlic and cook until the onions are soft and starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the ground turkey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is slightly golden and cooked through. Add the artichoke hearts and stir to combine. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl combine the cooled turkey mixture with the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, parsley, and the remaining salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

To stuff the shells, cover the bottom of a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish with 1 cup of Arrabbiata sauce. Take a shell in the palm of your hand and stuff it with a large spoonful of turkey mixture, about 2 tablespoons. Place the stuffed shell in the baking dish. Continue filling the shells until the baking dish is full, about 24 shells. Drizzle the remaining Arrabbiata Sauce over the shells, top with the grated mozzarella. If freezing, cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 1 day and up to 1 month.

To bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake until the shells are warmed through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 20 minutes.

Arrabbiata Sauce:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups jarred or fresh marinara sauce

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until tender, about 1 minute. Add the marinara sauce and red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and let cool until ready to use.

Source: Giada DeLaurentis, Everyday Pasta

This recipe makes a TON of stuffed shells. The last time we made them, we attempted to freeze half of them. I am here to report that this is a great plan - You can freeze them for up to one month. Take them out of the freezer in the morning, put them in the fridge, go to work, come home, put them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 45-60 minutes. Tastes just as good! Perfect for weeknight dinners!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Chicken Sausage? Give me a BRAT!

We have been experimenting with chicken and turkey lately, using ground chicken or ground turkey in lieu of ground beef. During our last trip to Trader Joes, we decided to try the chicken sausage with red peppers and onions as an alternative to the WI standby, the Brat.

We made the chicken sausages last night, on the grill. My sister, Nate & I all thought they were ok, but there was something missing. My sister hit the nail on the head in saying, "I keep looking down at it, wanting it to be a nice, juicy brat".

This is one substitution we will NOT be sticking with!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I'm Not the ONLY Fan of Spray Paint

Apparently they spray painted a pair of Christian Dior shoes for the Sex & The City Movie. If I am paying $790 for a pair of shoes, they BETTER be the color I want!

Yard Shots!


You know how you can walk/drive/run past something every day and you never notice it? That is how I feel about this tree in our yard. When did it start to bloom? What did it look like last year when we moved in? I couldn't tell you. Last night we were driving home from our first softball game of the season, and we both were in shock that this beautiful tree was in OUR yard! As with all pictures on this site, I think it looks better in person but you get the general idea.

Here are some other blooms and sights from the yard. Although the weather is still cold here, at least we have some eye candy.


Monday, May 12, 2008

From table runners to curtains to baby quilts?

When I received my sewing machine, one of the first thoughts I had was, "Hey I should make the H's a baby quilt" since they are scheduled to deliver in June. My mom used to make these really cool puffy baby quilts for people in our family so I asked her for the directions. I think she was super excited that I was attempting a quilt b/c she arrived on our doorstep with a paperbox full of quilting books, patterns, etc.

The baby quilt pattern was a yellowed piece of paper with approximately four paragraphs of directions, resembling a recipe. The difficulty level line read: "For those with some experience". Hmmm...did a table runner and some curtains count as experience?? Probably not. I trucked on anyways.

The first thing we did (yes, Nate-O definitely helped out on his own accord) was go to the fabric store to pick out four coordinating fabrics. This proved to be a bit more difficult as I knew the H's weren't into puffy wall decoration-baby type stuff and the MAJORITY of baby fabrics fall into this category. Nate also was a fan of all of these fabric types. "It is for a BABY, honey" was what he told me when I was not agreeing with his fabric choices, responding that those were "too baby".

We settled on a fun sampling of blues (the H's are having a boy...a BIG boy if you catch my drift). I cut all of the fabric and realized that the directions had a mistake. Much like a recipe can be off in it's measurements, the directions were off in the amount of material needed. Luckily, the fabric store is one of my new favorite places to go.

Step 1: The Squares. The first step of the "recipe" was cutting out 35 squares of material and sewing them to some muslin material to make little pockets. As I ran the sewing machine, Nate trimmed all of the threads for me - a job I abhor. After making all of the pockets, you have to sew the pockets together in a checkerboard.

We then settled down to watch many HGTV episodes to stuff the little pockets full of stuffing, and then hand sew them each shut. Who knew that my hubby knew how to sew?! The result was some 3D "puffs":


Step 2: Borders.
This is where sh** hit the fan. I am not a very go-with the flow type of person. AKA I read directions and follow them. Well, apparently, quilting is sort of a go with the flow thing. The directions told me to stuff the checkerboard before doing the borders. SO, that is what I did. I attempted to sew brown borders all around the outside and lo and behold they were all scrunchy. I tried fixing them using my breadth of quilting knowledge (insert sarcastic snort here) which only worsened the problem. I lured my sister (quilter extraordinaire) over to my house with a free dinner and then told her that I had a little quilting mishap. One look at the quilt and she exclaimed - "hmm...what DID you do?". She told me that the next time i made one i should do all of the borders, etc BEFORE stuffing the squares and then i wouldn't have the problem. Had I really thought about it, this would have been the natural thing to do, but like a drone, I followed the directions! We then took all the borders off and miraculously made it look better by helping me re-pin and sew the brown borders. I also learned some quilting techniques.

Step 3: The back
. Then it was back to the fabric store to get the inner batting. We chose some uber soft organic bamboo batting for the interior. After pinning the top, batting and bottom together, it was time to tie it. Neither Nate nor I could thread the tiny eye of the needles we had with the required amount of embroidery floss. The next day, my sister showed up with some quilting supplies as a late birthday gift for me! In the bag was a bunch of needles, with eyes big enough for the job! I then set forth in tieing the layers together every 2 1/2 inches.


Step 4: Sewing the border. Well, I had gotten this far, with some help from my friends (cue background music). All that was left to do was sew the border. I decided to use one of the fancier stitch options on my machine for the border.


And voila! It was finished!

I shipped it last week in time for the H's baby shower over the weekend.

Some things I learned about quilting:
1. Cutting is EXTREMELY important. If you do not cut the fabric straight, it is more difficult to sew. Hmm..wish I knew this BEFORE i cut all the fabric! Ditto with pinning.
2. Husbands truly make great partners in large projects. I was not expecting this to be a joint venture but Nate readily volunteered to help out on numerous aspects of this project, saving me time and also making me love him even more :)
3. Sisters are invaluable...especially when they are master quilters. My sister was amazing and helping me - she went through everything very patiently and explained how and why she was doing things so that "the next time I would know what to do".
4. Baby quilts are well received! The Hs were thrilled.

Weekend Wrapup

This weekend we did absolutely nothing house related. I have been recovering from a cold/sinus infection so we tested out the new grill (it works!) on friday night and I buckled down and FINALLY finished two wedding albums and our guestbook/scrapbook. My goal was to get it done before our year anniversary - success! Now they can sit on a shelf for years.

We also acquired some more perrenials. Grandma G gave us two boxfuls of perrenials from her garden that we planted around our yard last week. My mom and Grandma E gave us more perennials yesterday, including lily of the valley!! Hopefully we will have bountiful blooms awaiting us! We still need to find some sort of climbing flower for the pergola and then I think we will be done planting.

Friday, May 9, 2008

"We're in the money, We're in the cash..."

Woohoo!

1) It's friday.

2) Our economic stimulus check arrived via direct deposit today!

I (Heart) Black Spray Paint

I bought a can of black spray paint to transform a plant holder that was left by the previous owners, as well as the old curtain rods in the foyer. The white curtain rods were too harsh, and because they were good quality, I didn't just want to throw them away.

Enter a $3.42 can of black spray paint. I highly recommend wearing old clothes, putting down newspaper or paper bags over your lawn, and wearing gloves of some sort to prevent paint from getting on you. Unfortunately I did not think of this until after I did round one of painting and ended up with a black upper arm, a black finger and black spots on my face! The project took a few days as i had to do one side of everything, let it dry, paint the other side, and let it dry, but I think it was worth it.

The black curtain rods pop more and also match the black of the mirror and decoration. I still need to get a black pot for the plant (not orange) but that looks a million times better too! Again, it is impossible due to the layout and small size of the room to get a good picture of the room in its entirety, but I did what I could.
Here is a picture of the plant stand before:

and the foyer with the white curtain rods:


And then both after the paint:



Nate then used the leftover paint to paint our mailbox stand that we share with our neighbors. It was faded black with chipping paint before and now it looks great!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Economic Stimulus Part 1

I do not think that this economic stimulus plan will do anything, however, I am not about to send my check back to the federal govt. Not when there are home furnishings to buy!

We decided to spend part of our check on a chair for our bedroom, which we have been looking for for several months. We finally found one and after getting it into our room (one door removal and several paint scrapes laters), it looks great! We had to move the dresser and wall picture around to get it where we wanted, but the room finally feels cozy!

The room before the chair looked like this:

This room is completely finished now, well at least until we expand the closet and possibly get new doors :) How did we get here over the course of 10 months?

1. Removal of badger red carpeting.
2. Clean wood floors four times to get all of the grime off.
3. Paint walls a pale buttery yellow.
4. Remove lace curtains and curtain rods.
5. Move in new bedroom set - thank goodness for wedding presents!
6. Get some lamps for the side tables.
7. Take down floral ceiling fan.
8. Replace with new ceiling fan.
9. Buy storage ottoman for in the dormer.
10. Purchase new curtains and curtain rods, hang them.
11. Buy some wall art and hang that.
12. Purchase a rug.
13. Purchase the chair, and throw pillows.

A pictoral view of the process can be found here.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Hardware

Those of you in old houses and/or who purchased a house from older people that have lived there for a while, know that there are a lot of little things that need to be replaced...like cabinet hardware. Hardware is kind of a fun thing to change because a) it is easy, b)it is relatively inexpensive and c)it makes a big difference. Plus, the hardware wall at home improvement stores is so much fun! So many choices!

Last night, we replaced the hinges in the bathroom so that they match the other hardware that we updated last summer. We did this project as a test for the kitchen. While it was not difficult to change the hinges, it did require more labor than anticipated to get the doors to close properly. The exisiting hinges matched the gold hardware and towel racks that used to be up and did not match the brushed nickel knobs:

Now, they are brushed nickel like the current door knobs and hardware.


We also changed the knobs on both doors to our laundry chute. Before they were gold (of course)

And now they are slightly bigger, and a brushed nickel as well:


I also had some fun with a can of black spray paint and I have a slightly gray upper arm to prove it. Pictures of the black spray paint projects as well as our new chair that is getting delivered tonight are forthcoming!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Cinco de Mayo

The Lawn Boy was fired up for the first time over the weekend. Nate had no problems starting it after its winter hibernation so let's hope that this continues so we can avoid the problems we had last year.

Here are some spring blooms from our yard.