Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Makeover (x2)

 My amazing husband and I are coming up on our two year wedding anniversary! It's pretty hard to believe... It feels like it has only been a few months since we took our vows and celebrated the night away with our friends and family. A few months after the getting married, we read one of Dave Ramsey's books and decided to make a few changes in the way we were going to approach our finances.... well, at this point it was a matter of deciding how to handle our finances now that we were no longer two people living our separate lives, but one family working toward our future together. One of these changes entailed us moving out of my beloved condo and moving into his.

We weren't sure how long we were going to be living here, so for the first year or so I just left things as they were decor-wise. We did do a few basic upgrades like new carpet and new flooring in the kitchen, but as far as the little things, I just wasn't too concerned with changing them.

We've been here for a year and a half now, and as we plug away on our Total Money Makeover, following the motto "If you will live like no one else, later you get to live like no one else" we're doing our best to stick through these years of living in a condo when we'd rather be in a house. Doing coin-op laundry when we'd rather have a laundry room and planting our garden in a raised bed on the patio when we'd like to have a huge amazing garden in a backyard.

“The cause of most of man's unhappiness is sacrificing what he wants most for what he wants now.”
Gordon B. Hinckley
We are sucking it up now, though I like to think of it as being content in all circumstances, so that we can have what we truly want later. It's about not over extending ourselves now, even if we reeeeeeally want something, so we will be able to live comfortably without money worries later in life. It's not really a concept I was taught growing up since I pretty much always had what I wanted, and it is definitely counter to the instant gratification society we live in today. It is not easy. I am constantly battling the feeling that I "deserve" the things I want because I work hard. The mentality of entitlement is everywhere, and it's difficult to loosen it's grip. I highly reccomend the Total Money Makeover to anyone and everyone. Seriously.

All of that to say that after 18 months of looking at the black and white framed print of "guy on motorcycle" that hung on the wall in our little dining nook, I was beginning to not even notice him. He's pretty cool, maybe just not really fitting for that area anymore. We needed some photos of family and friends and a little warmth in the lighting department.

Enter the DIY twine lamp shade. I saw something similar whilst blog-cruising and thought it would be perfect. Off I went to buy supplies and craft away. This is the site I used to get an idea of how to make the twine ball. And then I just had a few photos printed up that I wanted to frame... some from our engagement session with Ashley Maxwell, some from the wedding, and a few of our family and friends. I hunted for cheap frames at thrift stores/Michael's/theDollarTree. I picked varying textures and styles ignoring the color since I was going to spray paint them white anyway.

Above is what it looks like on the dimmer when the rest of the room is dark. And below is what it looked like before. If you can look past my husband and cat (sorry! I didn't take a "before" picture) you can see there was a sort of retro semi-flush mount S shaped track lighting thing going on and then the print I mentioned up before of the motorcycle guy. My sweet awesome husband used to race dirt bikes and has a true love for motorcycles, so this was here when our place used to be just his place.

So with one makeover came another. And I have to say I am very happy with both!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Five Spice Turkey Lettuce Wraps

It's hard to get out of the weeknight dinner rut. I find myself making the same favorites over and over. I am pretty much always checking websites and blogs for new recipes, but sometimes it's just easier and safer to stick with what you know how to make and you know will be good ... because we all hate being dissapointed. But every once in a while I find a recipe online that just screams easy and safe but still exciting. This lettuce wrap recipes comes from Cooking Well so it is not only easy, but healthy and low cal. Extra bonus!

You'll need:

1/2 cup brown rice
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 pound 93%-lean ground turkey
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large red bell pepper, finely diced
1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, rinsed and chopped
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 heads Iceberg lettuce, leaves separated
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro. You can also use basil, mint and/or chives
1 large carrot, shredded
Sriracha if desired

Cook the rice according to package. Set aside once cooked.

Meanwhile, heat the sesame oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add turkey, garlic and ginger; cook, crumbling with a wooden spoon until the turkey is cooked through. Stir in the cooked rice, bell pepper, water chestnuts, chicken broth, hoisin, five-spice powder, soy sauce and salt; cook until heated through and sauce begins to thicken.
Divide lettuce leaves among plates, spoon some of the turkey mixture into each leaf, top with herbs and carrot and a squeeze of sriracha if you like it spicy.

Serves 4 with about 1 1/4 cups of filling each.
285 calories per serving.

This is the kind of dinner that leaves you feeling satisfied but not stuffed. It's also a good idea for low carbers out there- you can just omit the rice.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Last night I met up with my book club in San Francisco. We use the term "book club" loosely as it usually involves about 5-7 minutes of discussing the book and about 3 hours of drinking champagne, eating and talking about any or all of the following: how our days went, plans for the weekend, Real Housewives, celebrities, Hunger Games, our husbands/fianc├ęs/boyfriends, current events, other books we should read, and how much or how little of the color white a dress needs to have to be appropriate attire for a wedding. Everyone (usually) reads the book, but there are often way more interesting things to talk about, obviously.

Kelsey hosted, and in usual Kelsey fashion she decided to throw a wrench in the plan by turning dinner into an Iron Chef style competition, complete with a surprise ingredient. She provided all of the elements needed for making pizza. Mar, Christina, Serene and Lyndi volunteered to be judges, vowing to be unbiased. Names were drawn from a hat to determine the two-person teams. Names were drawn again to determine which team got which type of crust: wheat, white or herb, and once more for who would have the advantage of using the pizza stone. Plans were whispered, wine was poured and NewVillager was put on the stereo...

 the judges

My name was drawn to be teamed up with Carol and we were initially told that it was an unfair pairing. Words like “power couple” were used. I think I heard someone murmur something about Martha Stewart and Julia Child. Exaggerating? Maybe. But the results speak for themselves… We won. Unanimously. So after a few minutes of basking in the glory of our triumph, we shamelessly asked what it was about our pizza that set it apart? Three words: Fresh Arugula Drizzle. Mid-competition when the surprise ingredient was introduced… Arugula!! … Carol opined that we should lightly dress the peppery leaves with balsamic and olive oil, then pile it atop the pizza after it was baked. I agreed. Then I pitched the idea of a light drizzle of garlic and basil infused olive oil on top of the plated slices after they had been served to the judges (I had just read this post from Smitten Kitchen earlier that day). Said combo of Arugula and oil drizzle scored big in the categories of presentation, drama and taste.


Sadly, we did not get a picture of our finished product, it was eaten up so fast. But here's the beautiful runner up!