Monday, November 30, 2009

Got Turkey?

If your families are anything like ours, you have a fridge keeping some leftover turkey cold right about now.  However, your turkey/mayo sandwiches and dried turkey camouflaged with gravy are probably becoming less and less appetizing.  What to do?  Here's what I did (thanks to Rachael Ray):


•1 to 1 1/2 pounds leftover roast turkey meat, shredded
•3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
•1 large onion, chopped
•2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
•1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
•1 rounded tablespoon chili powder
•2 teaspoons ground cumin
•1 jar tomatillo salsa (16 ounces)
•1 beer, any brand you like
•1 quart chicken stock
•4 handfuls tortilla chips, divided
•1 handful cilantro leaves
•Juice of 2 limes


Heat a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat with the EVOO. Cook onions, garlic and jalapeño until soft, about four minutes.

Add chili powder and cumin, and cook for another minute. Add the tomatillo salsa, beer and stock. Bring up to a bubble and add in the shredded chicken. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, grind two handfuls of the tortilla chips and the cilantro leaves in a food processor.  (Or just crush tortilla chips in a Ziploc bag like I did and chop the cilantro finely.)

Add this mixture to the chili and continue cooking until it thickens, about 8-10 minutes.

Right before spooning into bowls, add in the lime juice and serve with some whole corn tortilla chips alongside.

Mmmmmm.... now that's what I call 'tweakin' a turkey.'

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Wife, Happy Life

I have the BEST hubby.  Ever.  He is always supportive of any new venture I want to take on.  (Okay, well, maybe not the time I asked him if vinyl flooring could be painted.  And I'm still trying to convince him...and myself...that 3 kids could be fun.)  Even if it means time away from him or our boys, he still encourages me.  He knows that the time I get to myself to study home magazines, pour over home decor internet 'porn' or just tweak things here and there will pay off in the end - for everyone.  We are a great team.  If I've got a home improvement idea that's metaphorically or literally over my head, he can make it happen.  (It may take a few weeks/months but it WILL happen.)

So today, the day to be thankful for all things in life that matter most, I'm thankful for my hubby and the family and home we have created together.  (And also for him not judging me by my cooking alone!)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What's in the Big Box?

...that's what everyone has been asking when they come to our house lately.  Not only is there a huge box sitting in the middle of our great room (it's been there for a week now), but it sat on our porch for about 4 days first.  (It's heavy, I'm little.)  My boys are starting to accept it and treat it as a play table.

Check back next week for the answer.  Hint:  it's white.  (Okay, that's not a great hint but still it's a hint.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An IKEA Makeover

When Steve and I first got married 7 years ago, we 'splurged' on an IKEA entertainment console for our (then) basement.  (Yes, IKEA was a splurge for us.)  It suited our needs well for 6 years supporting our ginormous box of a TV and all the equipment that comes with that sort of thing.  When we moved into a bigger home (the one we live in now), I gave Steve the okay to purchase a flatscreen TV... something neither of us regret.  We were able to mount the new TV on the wall in our family room.  Our faithful IKEA console was no longer needed, or was it?! 

It sat in the middle of our living room (okay, so trying to split up a long room with a console right in the middle wasn't such a great idea) for over a year trying to find it's place in our lives again. 


It was fulfilling a very important purpose.  See those baskets?  They held all our mail... one basket for each member of our family.  With the console being in the room closest to the front door, it was functioning quite well as a mail sorter/disguiser.  That orange birch color had to go though.  So, it did...


Since it's constructed of icky (yet inexpensive!) veneer instead of solid wood, sanding and staining wasn't an option.  Instead, I tackled the 3 P's: priming, painting and polyurethaning.  We already had the primer and paint (same as the wall color) on hand, so the only thing I purchased was the polyurethane for about $15-$20.  I repositioned it along the wall (i.e., got it out of the middle of the room...what was I thinking?!), kept it's mail sorting use and then organized all the computer components in and on it.  Gotta love hidden wires and electrical equipment!  It's now a functional AND great looking way to peruse through the mail and pay bills online, on time.  I would like to get a glass top cut to fit as even with the polyurethane, a few chips have surfaced on the worktop.

So, that's how I saved our IKEA console. 

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hide and Seek

Our house is a REAL house.  We have two kiddos that come with lots of toys, books and games to keep them busy (while Mama blogs).  In an effort to save my sanity, we have a system for keeping toys in check.  To begin with, we don't keep a ton of toys in our home.  Every Christmas, it's out with the old and in with the new.  I make my boys go through their toys and pick a few things to donate.  (I'll usually throw in a few more things after they're done choosing... things they don't play with.)  Also, we rotate toys periodically.  Most kid stuff stays in the playroom or unfinished basement.  We only keep everyday favorites in the main floor living space.  When they want to bring in a different item, they select a toy to go down to the basement.  (I know this sounds like I'm a drill sargent but I'm really only talking about the big toys i.e. ball pit, kitchen set, pop-up house, etc.)  This keeps our family room from becoming over-run with kid stuff.  Plus, I find my boys are more apt to focus and have a longer playtime when they have less choices.  And they get really excited when they bring in a 'new' toy from the basement that they forgot about.  Half the time, we even end up playing without toys... family dance parties, rhyming games, wrestling, etc.

The playthings we do keep on the main floor are disguised.  (I like 'disguised' better than 'hidden' because my kids know where their toys are.)  We have dozens of bins, baskets and organizers devoted to this purpose.  There is a console behind our couch chock full of toys but you'd never know by looking at it.

Our entertainment console has even more kid-friendly storage.

We have a small table in our sunroom that stores Lincoln Logs.

At the end of the day, we all pick-up together and everybody knows where everything goes.  All of this makes me a happy girl at the end of the night when I'm sittin' on the couch with my hubby.  Pretending we don't have kids.  Until one of them cries. 

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What's Cookin'?

I really hate my kitchen.  Take a look... (Don't mind the kiddos hangin' out.  I was trying to keep them busy with snacks while I took the pic.)

Don't get me wrong, it could be worse.  It's a good size with a functional layout and oodles of storage.  However, I despise the orangey-oak cabinets and the busy laminate countertops.  Here are kitchens that I enjoy looking at...

Brown Design: lots of molding, contrast and textures similar layout to ours...totally doable

Marin Kitchen Company: so airy and bright

DecorPad:  white, grey and dainty

So, the whites have it.  Our cabinet doors are coming down this weekend in preparation for a budget-friendly facelift.  We may be seeing the contents of our cabinets for a few weeks, but that's okay.  We're not hosting Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How It All Began

A little background info:  Steve and I purchased our first home together nearly 8 years ago in Illinois.  It was a 1950's Cape Cod with red shutters, a leaning one-stall detached garage and leaky basement.  We 'practiced' a lot of home improvement in that house including painting, installing new flooring, replacing dated light fixtures, adding crown molding, knocking down part of a wall, updating a powder room to a half bath, demolishing the single car garage and building a 2.5 car garage.  We eventually hired out to get the wet basement fixed.  (Living in concrete dust with a 2-year-old while pregnant is NOT advisable.)  After all was said and done, do you know what we did?!  We sold it... By owner.  In 6 weeks.  In December 2007.  It was a huge relief yet saddening at the same time.  We put a lot into that home but decided a move back to Ohio nearer to our families was important for our growing brood.

Now, we live in a 2-year-old spec home.  While this home offers lots more space and the open floor plan that we love, we have lost some of the character that our dilapidated Cod had like plaster walls, arched doorways, molding and corner windows.  We knew this going into the buy.  I was pregnant and we already had a toddler.  We didn't want a 'fixer-upper'.  Move-in ready, here we come!  We could always change out the builder basics over time.

Fast-forward a year-and-a-half to the spring of 2009.  Our youngest had turned 1 and we had a little more freedom.  Steve and I were both feeling the itch to dig into a project again.  My idea?  Turn our cramped hall closet into a makeshift mudroom.



We had an under-utilized hallway between our garage and kitchen crowded with THREE doors (garage, bathroom and closet). Unlike visitors, we enter/exit through this hallway daily. To set up digs for a mudroom we removed the closet door, widened the doorway and added recessed lighting. Eventually, we'd like wood floors but for now we patched the vinyl after Googling "how-to". Hubby used a bolt-cutter to cut the wire rack that previously hung lengthwise then hung it up in the corner. (We still need some wooden hangers.) This new room is the hardest working place in our house! We unload backpacks/lunchboxes, put on/remove shoes and even set things to 'go out' as a reminder here. In the corner on the floor is where we hide our mongo diaper bag.

Oh, and we did it for $152.  That's how it all began.


So, in true valedictorian fashion I looked up the definition of tweak... this was after I had already painstakingly chosen "House*Tweaking" as the title of my blog.  Not only can it mean to adjust or fine-tune small components to improve an entire system, but unbeknownst to me it can also mean to tease or make fun of.  As it is in my nature, I'll try to do a little of both to keep things interesting.

I've always been better at writing than speaking, but I feel anyone who reads this deserves fair warning.  I overuse commas, parentheses (I like to include unimportant thoughts and information) and the elusive ellipsis...  Also, I am NOT computer savvy.  The hubby nixed my idea of handwriting my posts THEN typing them. 

What is the purpose of this blog, you ask?  Good question.  Sure, I'd like to inspire others with my creativity, frugal decor finds and practicality, yadda, yadda, yadda.  But the truth is, this blog will serve many purposes.  I'm hoping it will be an outlet for the zillion ideas whirling around in my head.  I'm hoping it will quiet the hubby.  (He's been wanting me to do this for a while now.)  I'm hoping it will feed my hunger to read and write.  I'm hoping to learn something new.  I'm hoping it will miraculously keep me from wanting a third child.  I'm hoping it will win me a spot on Oprah.  I'm hoping it will be a great way to journal our home improvements.

Happy reading!  I will leave you with an image to be the next topic of conversation...