Friday, July 11, 2014

Creating a Home We Love

My husband and I are always on the lookout for thrifty ways to make our home beautiful. When we were looking at our current home, we almost walked away from it, because it was so plain, whitish, and dingy, it made us think that it would need a lot of work to get it in tip top shape. I'm so glad we looked past our initial reactions, because after just a few short months of living in our new home, and minimal expenses, we have transformed it into the beautiful home we have always wanted.

We have big plans for actual renovations, updates, and personal touches, but for now, with the need for a budget-friendly fix, we are so happy with the changes we have made. When we moved it, our first order of business was to repaint the main living spaces to take care of the dingy feeling of a home that had not been lived in for over two years. This went a long way, but we had even bigger plans for a couple choice rooms.

First, we focused on our son's new bedroom. It was very hard for him to leave our first home. To help him get excited about the new house, we let him choose the colors/theme of his new bedroom, which we would have up and ready by the time we moved in. Little did we know, that he would choose two, lets say interesting, color choices. Red and golden (he also threw black in there, but that's where we drew the line). It took us weeks to figure out a way to give him what he wanted, while still making his room tasteful and doable for us. A friend made an awesome suggestion, and we went with it. We painted the top of the room white, the bottom red, and added a golden stripe between them. We all loved the outcome, especially our little man.
Before                                             After  
Next up was our spacious but blah loft. We have always planned for this area to be a playroom for our boys, but the whitish walls made the room seem boring and dirty. So, we found a kid friendly color pallet and chose two colors that would look well together. We painted the top two thirds of the room the lighter of the two, and the bottom third the darker. We then added a chair-rail to tie it all together. I LOVE this room! I have always wanted an older home with character, and I think that our remodel gives it just that. Character!
Before                                                After 
Last, was our half bath. Once again, the room was dirty and white. This time, we had to worry about it about the size of the room when considering colors. Since the bath is quite small, we wanted a light, neutral, yet interesting color. We chose a light blue/green. We also switched out the boring, plain mirror for one with lots of character. These two small fixes, have given the room a huge improvement.
Before                                             After
As I said earlier, we still have some BIG plans for the rest of the house, but these easy, inexpensive changes will help to tide us over until we are ready to make bigger updates. The fact that this will be our home for many years to come, makes each of the projects we complete, all that more satisfying and exciting. We can finally make our home, ours!

Happy Day

Pancake Picnic '13
It is extremely fitting that this post will be #200. Today, my boys and I had our second annual Pancake Picnic in our backyard. When comparing the pictures from our first P.P., I realized just how much our lives have changed. Obviously, we are all a year older.

Nolan has his own plate this time, he's using a fork, and sitting on his own. Where last year, he was pretty much an observer, who spent his time in my lap. Liam is the same silly, happy pancake muncher as he was last year, with one exception, he has grown into the greatest big brother Nolan could have ever asked for. I have changed too. I'm happier, healthier, and am feeling a sense of peace within our situation.

Pancake Picnic '14
Even the background of the pictures have changed. A year ago, we were living in our first home. This time around, we are enjoying a lovely meal in the shade of an Asian Pear tree that grows in the yard of our forever home. Life has changed so much in the past year. It's difficult to remember what life was like at the time that last year's picnic occurred.

 I love the changes that we have gone through, the progress we have made, the little men that my sons are becoming, and the love that is growing. Happy day!  

Silly boys!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Crockpot Korean Fusion Pulled Pork Tacos with Spicy Slaw

Our family has been working on a pretty tight budget for the past couple years. As part of our budget, I do the grocery shopping with special focus on coupons and sales. One item that tends to go on sale often and has coupons in the Sunday paper regularly, is the Campbell's Crockpot sauce. Since we are not fans of eating the same three dinners, over and over again, we try very hard to come up with creative recipes that will use the items we have already purchased (based on sales and coupons). 

This is one of my proudest recipes to date. It is healthy, delicious, inexpensive, easy, our whole family loves it (even the 4 year old and the 18 month old), it makes a ton of food, and it even better as leftovers, which is HUGE for me to say. I HATE leftovers! 

The delicious outcome
Boneless Pork Shoulder
Korean BBQ Campbell's Crockpot Sauce
2 Cups Shredded Cabbage
1 Cup Red Onion
3/4 Cup Cilantro
Corn Tortillas

2 Tbls Soy Sauce
3 Tbls Vinegar
1 Tbls Sugar 
1/2 tsp Ginger
1/2 tsp Black Pepper

Optional (for spicy):
Diced Cyrano Pepper or Diced Jalapeno Pepper to taste

1. Put the Pork shoulder into a crockpot with the Korean BBQ sauce as directed on the package  (until the meat falls apart easily) 
2. Shred the pork.
3. Make the sauce, adding the pepper(s) if wanted.
4. Mix all remaining ingredients to make the slaw, then mix in the sauce.
5. Put the tacos together, adding as much of the slaw as you would like.
6. ENJOY!!

*My husband and I love spice, so we split the slaw into two batches and only add the peppers to one of them. That way we can have spice, and out boys can enjoy their meal without a burning tongue and watering eyes.

We hope you love this recipe as much as we do!!! Please, give it a try and leave a comment about how it turned out. I would love to hear about variations and/or issues that you come across.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Super Hero Party

My son is a huge super hero fan. He loves them all, but his favorites are Flash and Hulk. When it came time to choose a theme for his party, he couldn't decide between the two. So, he didn't! 

I love to be creative with parties. I find nothing but pleasure in planning and throwing them. I try to be creative with theme, decorations, party favors, food, etc. Once again, I scoured my brain for ways to make sure that this Super Hero party wouldn't be a generic, cookie cutter version. My first assignment, was the food. There is an amazing bakery, here in Sherwood, that creates beautiful, yummy treats. We used them a few years back for another one of Liam's birthday parties. We asked them to create Hulk hands and Flash lightening cookies. They turned out awesome, and were a huge hit!

The next order of business was themed (yet, not canned) decorations. I went simplistic this time around. Putting out colored table clothes, napkins, plates, and silverware and pairing them with a few of Liam's toys. I put together a themed table for each of the heroes, and moved on to more important favors!

I have to say, that this is one of my proudest party ideas. I'm a reading teacher. My boys love books. Normal party favors tend to be cheap toys, candy, and nick knacks that are thrown away. I wanted to make Liam's party favors useful, memorable, and worth taking home. So I went with books!

I searched local book stores, Facebook buy/sell pages, and garage sales, for new/like new children's books. I was able to come up with quite a stash for less money than the normal goodie bags would require. I displayed the book options in a decorative basket, near the front door, so as not to forget them. This also allowed the children, to flip through and choose the book that they wanted, while heading out.

To personalize the gift for Liam and his guests, I typed up and printed a little note on address labels and stuck them on the front cover of each book. Once again, our guests loved the idea! I have received more compliments on this idea, than any other. I'm so happy that everyone liked it, and I love that it promotes reading!

The last hurtle to get the party started, was an activity for the kiddos. I hate party games. Especially, for infant/toddler parties. Kids just want to play. Party games are complicated, can be difficult to organize, and they require that someone who is throwing the party, be taken away from their guests to facilitate. I'm just not a fan. In past parties, I set up a cookie decorating station, homemade playdough, Mr. Potato Head felt game, and created a punch for the prize game, You can check out these ideas at Teddy Bear Picnic Birthday Party and To Infinity and Beyond!

This time, I created bookmarks that went along with the Hulk/Flash theme. I printed them in black and white, and put markers and crayons on the same table. This way, each kiddo would leave the party with a book and bookmark that they colored, and would have a fun, calm activity to do, while at the party.

This was a super easy and simple way to throw a birthday party, and I got nothing but compliments for how it turned out. I learned that parties don't need to be fancy, expensive, and super-structured to be a hit. They just need to be well thought out and creative!