Archive for June, 2011

June 28, 2011

Guest Posting at Our Humble A{Bowe}d

by Cait

Today I’m guest posting over at Our Humble A{Bowe}d about our plans for the backyard, so be sure to check it out!

And a big welcome to anyone who is a first time reader! Thanks so much for stopping by!

June 22, 2011

Summer Mantel

by Cait

For the past five months our mantel has been looking pretty much the way it did when I changed it up right after Christmas, aside from moving the Katie Bower print to the wall in the dining room.

Tonight, in a fit of needing to do something, I decided to change the mantel up, using things we had around the house. This is what I came up with. Cute, fun, and summery, but maybe a little too busy.

Then Robert decided to do a version. Still fun and summery, but also manly, colorful and maybe a little sparse.

Finally, here’s our combined version. Fun, summery and quirky.

In case you can’t read the titles, here’s a close up of them, to show why I called this quirky (aside from the giant blue head, of course).


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June 20, 2011

Quiet Confidence

by Cait

You ever just have one of those days? The ones where you find yourself yelling at someone before you’ve even had your morning coffee. Just yelling. Yelling because you hurt for them, and you’re scared for them & what they’re doing to themselves. Yelling because over the years you’ve lost so many people who mean the world to you in ways that were unavoidable, and all you want to do is hold on to the ones who are making the conscious decision to cut you out. Yelling and realizing that no one is listening. So you leave, get your morning coffee, and sit by the river for a while, not listening to the crab fisherman yelling at you from their boat.

On days like that I like to turn to my friend Pinterest and my Well Said pinboard. Whether it’s pinning new things that strike a chord with me, or rereading old things I’ve pinned. Definitely a healthier way of dealing with things than yelling, texting, ranting, or taking my feelings out on someone else. Sometimes I screen cap a particularly poignant one and make it the lock screen wallpaper on my phone for a while.

Here are a few of the things that are sticking with me today. In no particular order, and with no further explanation.

from here

from here


from here


from here


from here

from here


from here

from here

from here


from here


from here

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June 17, 2011

What I Ate… Friday? And Some Honesty

by Cait

I’m sure everyone knows about What I Ate Wednesday, which was created by Jenn at Peas & Crayons. (If you haven’t, you might be living under a rock… or just be crazy-busy.) I’ve been meaning to link up a post about what Robert and I ate, but I always forget on Wednesdays. Or we usually eat something boring like frozen pizza. There was one Wednesday where I actually took iPhone pictures of the spinach, goat cheese, roasted garlic and sunflower seed salad we were having, but later I forgot to write a post about it. Because I’m awesome like that.

It could also have something to do with the fact that I felt really weird posting even one little cooking-related trick way back in August, not long after I started blogging. Since then I’ve gotten ballsy stopped worrying about pigeon-holing this as a strictly-decor blog. So what if sometimes I post random rants, sometimes I post about former homeowners busting out concrete, and sometimes I throw in a recipe? If I have learned one thing in 187 posts and eleven months of blogging it’s that I have a tight-knit group of readers who support me no matter what. Whether it’s a comment sharing my excitement about our house, a Facebook comment, a “like”, or even a super-sweet email. Y’all always make me smile, laugh and remember to be thankful for the little things in life. Some of y’all are even willing to go to the mat for me, which is incredibly flattering.

And you know what? That’s enough for me. Longtime readers might recall that once or twice I’ve considered the idea of sponsors or ads (especially after the upheaval with Robert’s job). Recently I am firmly in the Write For Fun camp. So what if I don’t get 27,000 Facebook fans, sponsors, features on Apartment Therapy, guest posts, book deals or magazine articles like the big dogs? (Yes, that was an intentional use of “dogs” not “blogs”, as in “if you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch”.)

Ok, enough sap, back to the point. If you’ve been following me on Pinterest you might have noticed that I’ve been pinning a lot of recipes. Some of them seem sort of daunting (even if they say they’re easy, healthy and super-delicious) because honestly? After working all day I really don’t feel like cooking. And my work hours are just going to get crazier this summer. While that will be good for my wallet (and eventually for the blog, mo’ money means mo’ projects, yo), it may not be so good for my waist-line if Robert and I don’t get in the habit of cooking some of those easy, healthy and super-delicious recipes.

cropped image from here, found via Pinterest

A tong lime ago in a coreign fountry (spoonerism anyone? no? ok then). Back when the internet was just a wee-babe, there was a show called Zoom on PBS, with a segment called Cafe Zoom. One afternoon they featured this recipe. (And it must have been one of those before-its-time kind of things, because now that poor recipe is rated “Not My Idea of Dinner” by 99.8% of viewers. So sad.) Flash forward to today, and adaptations of this recipe are spreading over The Interwebz like wildfire. (Just don’t ask me how I know how quickly wildfires spreads, my lungs are still bitter.)

The version I pinned was from The Girl Who Ate Everything, who adapted hers from Skinny Taste, but I had give credit to Zoom, since that’s where I found the first version I made  back in the day. You know, back when I was lived at home, got made fun of for wearing Target jeans and rode my bike around the neighborhood with my sister singing camp songs. Times have changed, now lasagna rolls & Target jeans are cool (but American Eagle jeans fit my thighs better), I live two blocks over, and I ride my bike around the neighborhood talking about decor & racking up curb appeal ideas.

These Spinach Lasagna Rolls are even better than the Lasagna Roll Ups of my childhood. That might be because I have discovered that vegetables won’t actually kill me, explored what spices are, and also that recipes don’t always have to be followed exactly as they are written. (I credit my mom and grandma with all of those things, and I kick myself for not eating more of my grandparents’ straight-out-of-the-garden okra, cucumbers, beans, etc.)

Long story long, this is what I used to make my version of the Spinach Lasagna Rolls:

9-10 lasagna noodles
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1 container fat-free ricotta cheese (I think our container was 16oz?)
medium handful Caesar blend cheese, grated (what we had on hand from BJ’s, parmesan is fine too)
at least 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (we like a lot of garlic)
tablespoon of butter
a couple shakes of McCormick’s Salt-Free Garlic & Herb Seasoning (I let Robert do the seasoning, I don’t add enough)
a couple shakes of pepper
1 jar Bertolli Tomato and Basil sauce (the second time we only used 3/4 of the jar)
handful Publix six cheese Italian blend, shredded (or mozzarella)

The differences are mainly that you’re “supposed” to mix the filling while everything is cold and that other versions use egg, frozen spinach and different cheeses. I didn’t do any of that because 1) I didn’t remember using egg in my Zoom version 10+ years ago, and 2) we had recently made Spinach Enchiladas with basically the same filling and no eggs. I’m a rebel.

1. Preheat the oven to 350,  melt butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat, add garlic, and cook until fragrant but not brown (usually when Robert walks into the kitchen as says “that smells amazing!”)
2. Add chopped spinach and cook 1-2 minutes or until evenly “wilted” (I’m sure there is a better term for that), stirring frequently.
3. Turn heat to low, add ricotta, Caesar blend/parmesan and seasonings. (If Robert is still in the kitchen I let him season, because I don’t add enough for his liking. Sometimes he throws in other seasonings.) Stir until cheese is melted and everything is evenly mixed.
4. Remove from heat. (The second time we made this I figured out that it works best to put it on our “keep warm” burner and then cook the noodles, because I cooked the noodles first the first time and they dried out.)
5. Evenly coat the bottom of a baking pan with tomato sauce. (They say to use a 9×13, but that was always too big for mine, so I started using a 9×9 brownie pan.) Spread ricotta mixture evenly on noodles, roll, and place seam-down in pan.
6. Sprinkle with six cheese blend and bake for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

As you can see, I don’t really cook with exact measurements. (I love my “pinch” and “dash” measuring spoons from my mother-in-law, but sometimes I don’t even use those!) Also, I prefer fresh, organic spinach over frozen, mostly because we buy it in a huge container for about $4 from BJ’s Wholesale (which is right next to our Lowe’s.) I mentioned that the filling is really similar to one for enchiladas, and I’m sure it would be great for stuffed shells, too.

Aside from the fact that these are delicious, I think the best part is that the first time we made this it only cost us about $5, because we had everything except the ricotta and pasta on hand. And it fed us lunch and dinner for two days.

What are some of your favorite recipes? Is there anything you used to make as a kid that you’ve adapted?

June 14, 2011

Reclaimed Brick Patio: Day 3 and Still No Jackhammer

by Cait

I’m finally back with our progress pictures. But first, a before.

Weird Concrete

This is how it looked after the weekend’s hard work.

on Sunday

Yesterday it started pouring around right before we left work and because we had zero desire to use metal (and power) tools in the thunder & lightning we decided to take the night off. (Well, that and plus it kept pouring all night long). When I got home from work today Robert had it looking like this.

earlier today

We were planning on renting a jackhammer, but Robert decided he wanted to try a few more things first. What he ended up doing was drill a few holes into the thick concrete in a line and then sledgehammer the area where he drilled; apparently it works sort of like perforating paper. Then he was able to use the pry bar to further snap things along the crack that was created. Mostly I think he wanted to get all the way through without a jackhammer because he’s stubborn, but that hadn’t worked we definitely would have rented one this weekend.

While he was finishing that up I started tackling the wavy tile.


note the two types of tile, misaligned

I used two hammers in what I like the call the Jamie Hyneman Method  (except I used a rubber headed hammer instead of  two metal ones. Yes, that’s a “wubber headed hammer”, Mom). The plan it to rent a saw (what Robert refers to as “the regular one”, not a wet saw) to score a straight line about where the tile I have yet to remove ends and  as far down as the Frog Tape (which you can see in the first tile picture), which is right before that pile of rock I’ve been pulling out of the yard. Then we’ll retile with some terra cotta tile we got from my parents.

free terra cotta tile!

We’re hoping to use the square tiles in the back for next to the porch, because we have a plan for those lighter colored rectangular ones. Maybe you can guess what I want to do with them if you keep my love of exposed brick in mind.

Any guesses?

June 13, 2011

Reclaimed Brick Patio: Labor Pains

by Cait

Alternate title: The One In Which I Suggest We Change Our Blog Name to “Illegal Dumping”

For anyone who follows us on Facebook, you might have seen me talk a bit about the “weird concrete” in our backyard.

weird concrete in all its glory awkwardness

When Robert got home from work on Saturday we (meaning he) took a sledgehammer to the weird concrete and I loaded the pieces into the back of the truck. (Fun fact: When we put up our fence we didn’t plan on it, but his Ranger justbarely fits through the gate into the backyard. Granted it then got covered in some sort of sticky nastiness that dripped off our weed-trees, but it washed off ok.) My hamstrings (and I’m assuming Robert’s back and shoulders) want you to know that this process did not go as easily as I would lead you to believe on Facebook.

Saturday’s status update
Sunday’s status update

Sunday morning we resumed the process of trying to break the last three or so feet of concrete out. Forty minutes or so later we said “screw it” and decided to brainstorm while dumping the concrete we had already broken out. (I owe you pictures of that truck-load, I just haven’t pulled them off the memory card yet. Whoops.) While we were tossing our concrete into a dumpster (with the manager’s permission if you want to get technical, though he wasn’t working this time) I joked that we should change out blog name to “Illegal Dumping”.

To wrap things up, the first 22-24 feet of concrete busted out fairly easily because whoever put it down had no idea what they were doing. What we thought was rebar was actually just a couple of long bolts (which we’re guessing were connected to supports for a deck, maybe?) The last bit, the part Robert hammered on for 40 minutes and only managed to chip tiny pieces off of, is an L-shaped area where the long side of the L is the horizontal part in the foreground of the picture above. The concrete there was much thicker, as if they had a lot left over so they just dug deeper and dumped the rest in that area.

We’re thinking about renting a jackhammer for that last part (though Robert just texted me saying he’s still brainstorming other ideas). It’s about $200 cheaper than renting a saw would have been, and it should also help with chiseling up the tile. At the moment our plan for the tiled area is to square it off with (groan) more concrete and then re-tile the area using some terra cotta tiles we scored from the shed on some family property. In theroy it should coordinate well with the brick patio, cross your fingers for us!

Anyone else do anything house projects that left them sore this Monday morning?

June 8, 2011

On the List

by Cait

Do you ever regret posting something almost as soon as you do it? Thankfully that doesn’t happen to me often (I tend to rethink and rephrase things a lot before posting. Especially on Facebook, but that is another story.) Right after I posted this post mentioning that I was in a bad mood I felt a strong urge to take it back. I like to be honest with my blog friends though, so it stays.

Thankfully, right after that I started looking at a few of the blogs on my blogroll and saw Bethany’s Summer 2011 b*list on b*spoke, which cheered me right up. Maybe it was that sunset (sunrise?) picture with the kayak. Something about making a wish lists makes my day so much better (which was the reason for this one way back in September). I’m not sure if it’s the reminder that I have a lot to be thankful for, the realization that a lot inexpensive & achievable things make me happy, or what. Something about looking at pretty, summery pictures and making a list helps, whether it’s a list of things to do, things to make, or things to buy (maybe this is the idea behind Pinterest? or why so many of us find it addictive?)

from here, pinned on pinterest

With that in mind, here is my list for this summer.

  • Friends & family.
  • Read.
  • Cook.
  • Bike ride.
  • Day trips.
  • The patio.
  • Landscape.
  • Throw a party.
  • Frozen yogurt. So far so good on this one, haha.
  • Paint the house? (ps- we’re thinking about tan now instead of yellow.)
  • Make lemondade.
  • Finish guest bathroom.
  • List more things on Etsy.
  • Tybee Island Lighthouse.
  • Outdoor shower plumbing.
  • Figure out a way to keep the CJ-7
  • Go to the beach (in the CJ-7) a lot. What is it about wind and waves that is so relaxing and stress relieving?
  • Sunrise on one beach, sunset on another. This idea was pitched by Robert’s dad at my birthday party in Feb, and it sounds like an excellent day.

What is on your list for this summer?

June 8, 2011

Who Are You Calling Useless?

by Cait

This post is made possible thanks to my bad mood. Feel free to skip.

I often use things for the “wrong” purpose. I open packages & mail with my keys when I’m too lazy or impatient to grab a letter opener or knife, I fixed my fraying iPhone cable with Teflon tape, and plenty of other things that seem so normal at this point that I don’t even consider it the “wrong” purpose anymore. Just another version of “work with what you’ve got”, right? Besides, necessity is the mother of invention.

I was reminded of mymost recent example of this when reading Apartment Therapy. An article on The Kitchn (which I usually don’t bother reading) titled The 10 Most Useless Kitchen Gadgets caught my eye. Robert and I aren’t much for “single use” gadgets at our house (but we definitely don’t judge anyone for having/using what works for them; that is another rant in itself).  As is usually the case with Top 10 lists, I disagreed with their most “useless” gadgets. Granted I don’t own any of the things listed, but 2/10 I would use or have at least thought about purchasing (garlic peeler and spoon rest) and their reasons for not having them seemed kind of pretentious.

Maybe it’s the mood I’m in, but telling someone “follow this link to learn how to peel garlic” or “use a bowl instead of a spoon rest, it catches drips better” rubs me the wrong way. Just because something works for you doesn’t mean it is the way for everyone. Robert and I put spoons directly on the glass top of our stove, lean them on the pot’s handle, or lay them on the counter. Betcha that wouldn’t work for everyone. We Mrs Meyer’s our counters/stove daily after washing the dishes, they’re dark, and not something likely to stain or soak up oils like granite. (In complete truth, I have been thinking about getting this spoon rest. As with most things, I don’t feel like dealing with the stupid questions or jokes from acquaintances that see it, so I haven’t bought it.)

from Williams-Sonoma

As far as the garlic goes, I had thought about purchasing a garlic peeler (we use a lot of garlic) because I was tired of the use-the-side-of-the-knife-to-press-it trick not getting every last piece of skin off. Out of frustration one night I tried using a rubber jar opener. (You know those flat rubber ones that realtors/whoever put their logos on sometimes?) Worked like a charm. I thought I might be crazy until I saw someone else mention they did they same thing on the post on The Kitchn.

So tell me, what is your favorite “useless” gadget? And what methods do you use for things that might not work for everyone? Do you open mail with your keys, too?

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June 3, 2011

Reclaimed Brick Patio: Budgeting

by Cait

Yesterday Robert went to a local stone and landscape supplies place to get quotes for sand, weed blocker fabric, plastic edging, polymeric sand and whatever else we might need for our patio.  (He has short work days on Tuesdays & Thursdays, so he usually does weekday-only errands on those days whenever he’s not in class.) I’m kind of a planner (despite the fact that I bounce from project to project) so we came up with a list of things we thought we needed for the patio while watching Criminal Minds the other night. After talking to the owner & several other employees at the landscaping company Robert determined that we not only don’t need gravel, but the 2″ of sand that I was thinking about (I guess to make up for the lack of gravel, or to make myself feel better) for a base is excessive in Florida. Also, apparently the plastic edging is also something you can skip as long as you are ok with the idea of having to redo the edge bricks every 10-20 years when they turn under/get buried by surrounding dirt.

919 Lime Rock, from the landscaping company’s website

I should mention that when I say “sand” what I really mean is what our landscape company calls “919 Lime Rock”. They list it as “compactable base material; pathways, wall footings, driveways, pavers, etc”, which sounds about perfect to me. As you can see from the picture above it kind of looks like a cross between sand and gravel, and Robert says it feels really weird. 

According to the the site, one cubic yard covers 162 square feet at a 2″ depth, so since we are planning on a 1″ depth for a 12×26 patio we can get away with only one cubic yard of 919. We are also thinking about getting  2-3 bags of polymeric sand to fill in the joints between the bricks (the guy said we can get away with 2 bags if we’re careful, so maybe we’ll go with 2).

weird concrete/tile in the area where the patio will go

The patio is going to go just slightly past the door in the picture above (about where that pile of river rock that I’ve been pulling out of the yard is rather than the end of the tile). We could have planned it much larger, but eventually we want to add a half bath off the living room (that will also have a door to the outside/patio) and the planner in me really doesn’t want to buy the materials (or the furniture!)  for a huge patio that we’re just going to have to redo when that happens.

Budget Breakdown:

  • 919 Lime Rock – $63/cubic yard
  • Polymeric Sand – $27.95/bag (need 2)
  • Delivery – $35 regardless of amount ordered
  • Weed Blocker – $12.97 for 3′ x 50′ at Home Depot (need 2)

Total: $179.84

We also have to get a quote on a tamper/compactor for the 919 base and possibly a concrete saw for cutting the weird concrete & tile seen in the picture above. Thankfully Robert knows some of the employees at local DIY and tool rental stores through work, so we may be able to get a deal on rental of those. Fingers crossed on that one. We may also need more “interior brick” (since we’re hoping the brick from Ryan’s dad will be enough for the perimeter), which is 40 cents a brick. So far though, $180 sounds a lot better than some of the patio costs I’ve seen, so I’m not too worried about the thought of tool rental or possibly needing more brick.

Another thing to keep in mind is that we’re trying to budget our exterior projects in a way that maximizes the amount of material we get for the delivery cost (since it’s $35 no matter what we order, assuming it all fits on one truck of course). We have been wanting to add some 1/2″ river rock around the house for improved drainage, we need a walkway to the outdoor shower, and I kind of want to make a wall beside the patio out of flagstone or fieldstone,  so maybe we will order some of those things. Whatever we decide to do will definitely get its own post and budget breakdown.

June 1, 2011

Reclaimed Space

by Cait

I’ve mentioned a few times how Robert and I want to work on the backyard this summer. We built the shower surround earlier this spring, and we had plans for a few other projects before it got derailed by the guest bathroom. Since I am impatient (and scatterbrained) I have been trying to come up with a more budget friendly idea for a patio or deck. Preferably something that we can do once and be done with it. We strongly considered trying to make a deck with pallets, but in the end we decided to go with a brick patio (partially because of this post on Re-Nest, and a bunch of pretty pictures on Pinterest).  

Brick seemed like the most economical option after poking around in the blog world, and especially after we found out that a local wrecking company has a very, very large pile of brick for 40 cents a brick. That price beats pants off of the cheapest patio pavers at Lowe’s or Home Depot, and it’s reclaimed, which makes me feel better than buying brand-spanking new pavers.

for scale, the smallest pile is probably about four feet high

We were lucky enough to get two smaller piles of reclaimed brick (the below is only half of it) from my parents and Ryan’s dad.

this is a Ford Ranger’s bed with about three layers of brick

My basic plan (especially after talking to Emily and hearing her & Pete’s experience) is to break up the weird concrete & tile, level & tamp the ground, weed block, add sand, lay the brick and fill in gaps with sand. I know that generally speaking it is recommended to use gravel after tamping the ground and before the sand (and that not doing so seems to go against my desire to “do once and be done with it”), but Emily said that neither her mom nor Pete’s parents used gravel and their patio/walkways have been fine. So, this is me throwing caution to the wind. Please hold any I-told-you-so’s until our plan crashes and burns, k?

We really don’t want a picture-perfect patio, we are much more drawn to the rustic look. Besides, our brick is reclaimed and a lot of them are broken in half anyway.

Last night (after half-off frozen yogurt, because I’m a cheap date) we were piling our second truck load of brick in the backyard and I pitched the idea of using the brick from Ryan’s dad (which is slightly larger) for the perimeter of the patio, and the brick from my parents (which we think came from my grandparents’ house) to fill in. If we need more fill-in brick we will buy some of the 40-cent bricks from the wrecking company, because it looks to be the same size and general style. 

Then I mocked up this design, but it looks to perfect and uniform (I was impatient and just made three basic brick sizes for the interior and then alternated them). Basically we want to stagger the rows of brick, sort of the way you stagger subway tile except that our brick is not anywhere near uniform.

Hopefully this post was less scattered than the previous two have been.

Does anyone else have patio plans in the works? I’ve been loving Rebecca & Mike’s patio.