Monday, September 22, 2014

Home Tour: Family Room Before and After

Ok so my last post featured our kitchen before and afters.  It was in a word...gross, but even it didn't hold a candle to the Family Room.  We are a somewhat large family, and wanted a large family room where we could all chill out together without actually crowding one another.  So when we bought this house we enclosed a single car carport, and merged it with a weird awkward skinny room to create our lovely family room.

See those tiny specks on the floor?  That my friends was a wasp graveyard.  This one isn't that bad.  We had to have the house sprayed twice a month for two months to make a dint in the wasp population.  So when we closed on the house, this floor was almost solidly black the dead wasps were so bad.  They accumulated daily, and so we would have to do a quick sweep.  Just another one of those things that we don't miss.

That's right...that's the other side of the room.  This was a weird narrow room.  I guess it could have been another bedroom if it had had a closet.  We had other plans though.

What is going on here you ask.  We asked ourselves the same thing.  This my friends I'm pretty sure was supposed to be a bar of some kind.  I'm going to go ahead and tell you that we don't drink, and had zero use for a bar.  Especially such a gross, weird one.

The color of this door would have been so cool if the bottom of the door hadn't been completely ruined by water damage.

Ahh, I forgot.  The mysterious metal sconce.  It was treaded for a light bulb, but not actually wired to take one.  Also there is that lovely hole in the wall where my children could have gotten their hands on the romex wiring, YEAH!

  I present to you...The Door To NO WHERE!  They had decided to board up this doorway.  We decided this really was a fantastic place for a back door, and restored it to rights.

Mmm.  A random light socket for all of your bare bulbs.  I personally call these "serial killer" lights.  Seriously in every movie/documentary and what not they always show a scary place lit with...these.  We have these in our house now the ATTIC, because the attic is creepy and these fit right in.

This was the house while we were getting the carport enclosed.  Most of the work on this house we did by being weekend warriors utilizing our sweat equity, but this we hired out.  They had this completely enclosed within two days.  It would have taken us forever to get this done.

When we took down what had been the exterior wall, and load baring wall we needed to put in a serious beam to handle the load so that we could have a nice open room.

You can see the enclosed section on the right in this picture.

Here it is in all its glory, and here you can see some of my past projects (you can find them herehere, and here).  Please disregard my sectional that is SO dirty.  I recently discovered that I HATE microfiber.

I love that we were able to set this room up for the television to be wall mounted so we were able to plan for all the wiring to run in the wall.

So Señor Hotness has a serious hate of ceiling fans with lights on them.  I blame it on the fact that the man sells lighting.  He is a bit of a lighting snob.  Which brings us to the lighting in this room.  All of the down lights are LED.  Which is awesome since they have a 30-ish year life before you might have to replace them.

I present to you to door to...the backyard!  We reopened the boarded up opening for the back door.  It really was the best place for it.  Please forgive the lack of finish painting, and finish flooring.  I have both items, but I lack the skill to do the flooring and the time to finish the painting.  

Ok so you are probably wondering why I'm sharing a picture of the worlds most disorganized storage room.  Well, its because this is what the former creepy bar became.  We call this the "Big Pantry" because we are into super original and inventive names for random rooms, AND we buy lots of food items in bulk, and store the excess in here.  This is also what we use just for general storage.  Also I allow my girls to put things up in the room unsupervised sometimes which explains its organizational method...or lack there of.

Señor Hotness hung a galvanized pipe over the entry way so I could hang a curtain there.  

Sometimes company catches you unawares.  So its been nice to quickly pull the curtain closed if need be.

Do you notice anything amiss?

Yup you guessed it.  These curtains are hiding something besides a possibly trashed out room.

The addition of the curtains have been so super fun for all the littles around here, and because of the super heavy duty pipe screwed directly into the studs in the walls these curtains have held tight.  Even if they might have a somewhat heavy-ish child try to perform acrobatics with these.

Just another room I'm going to miss when we move out of state soon, but thankfully we'll have so many pictures to help carry the fond memories with us.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Home Tour: Kitchen Before and After

It is with a heavy heart that we are selling our home.  So in that spirit I thought I would share with you all before and afters of our home.  Now I will admit that not all of my painting is completely finished, but the afters are drastic all the same.

I love how the previous owners made this room completely non functional by squatting a wood burning stove smack in the middle of this room.  There was no room for furniture around it, and it left soot on all the walls and ceiling.  So this was one of the first things to go.

Behind this wall was the existing kitchen.  When we knocked this wall down we more than doubled the space we could use for the kitchen.

Yikes!  The before kitchen wasn't much larger than a postage stamp, and if you will dishwasher.  This was pretty much my nightmare kitchen.

If that was my nightmare kitchen then our finished product was my dream.  I'm so very sad to leave it behind, but when the Lord leads us somewhere else who am I to question.

So you can imagine how wonderful I feel looking at this knowing where we started.

We mounted a big tv on the wall to use for entertainment, and homeschooling purposes as it doubles as a monitor for our computer.

And did I mention that this kitchen had two ovens?  It has been this bakers paradise.

Another shot of my amazing island. (read a post about it here)  How I will miss it.

Señor Hotness's older brother built us these fantastic faux door panels for us to paint as chalk boards. Also a bonus I'll miss.

The custom shelves for us to display my antique jar collection is a fantastic feature.

The icing on the cake however was and still is the crazy awesome penny counter-top. (check out a post about it here)  I will miss what Señor Hotness and I have done with this house, and how we transformed what the realtor tried to steer us clear on into such a beautiful home for our family.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Freezer Friendly Lasagna

What every busy mom needs in her bag of tricks is a good freezer casserole.  The definition of a "freezer casserole" should be something you prepare in bulk now so that you can be lazy later.  Well that's my definition of a "freezer casserole" anyway.  One of my favorite meals to do this with is lasagna.  Now I will be up front, and say that this is how my family and I love to eat lasagna, but should in no way be considered fine italian cuisine.  It is however, completely on par with the lasagnas you pick up in the freezer section for MUCH less.  Then you are prepared if you have to feed the missionaries last minute (translation I forgot I signed up until the night before), or need to take a meal to the family of a sick friend or church member.  This tutorial is just for one lasagna because if you are wanting to make it in bulk it would be best to double check that your disposable metal pans are still available, and weren't used (destroyed) by who knows which child.  Not that that happened to me or anything.   Alright lets get a list of ingredients going, shall we?

Freezer Friendly Lasagna
1 pound italian sausage (I use turkey)
1 container of ricotta cheese (my store only has one size)
1 container of cottage cheese (the biggest they sell at a standard grocery store)
1 package lasagna noodles (I prefer the regular to the oven ready)
1 to 2 jars of spaghetti sauce ( I use a a huge jar from Sam's Club so you may need 2 jars)
2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese (separated)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
garlic salt to taste (could also use garlic powder)

The first step would be to get your lasagna cooking in boiling water.  I just follow the cooking directions written on the package

Don't worry if they stick up out of the pot at first.  

They will lay down in the water quickly as they soften in the boiling water.  Just remember to stir occasionally.

Next would be to brown the italian sausage, but this is another item I do in bulk and freeze for later use.  I do this for all of my ground meat.  I only keep a few pounds of raw ground meat in the freezer to make meatloaf and meatballs, and everything else gets cooked up then frozen.  So that cuts a considerable amount of time off of making your own lasagna.  I freeze them in one pound bags so all I have to do is take it out of the freezer and thaw it.

Next is to make up the cheese mixture.

I put all of the cheeses together in a bowl, and mix them with the exception of 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese which I reserve for the top.

This is after we put in the ricotta and the cottage cheese.  You can go with just straight cottage, but I really love ricotta.

Then add in the 1/4 cup of parmesan, and 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.  Then I add garlic salt, and a pinch of onion powder.  Then it all gets mixed together.

Next get out a 9x13 pan.  I use a glass pyrex pan.  After spraying cooking spray in the pan put a thin layer of sauce on the very bottom.  This gives a small barrier between your noodles and the the heat at the bottom of the pan.  Otherwise you will have a super layer of crispy cooked noodle at the bottom.  I'll be honest I learned this the hard way because a crispy noodle is gross, and almost impossible to cut through with a knife.

This lasagna like everything else in our house was a group effort. As you can see with so many sisters  a girl has to sneak in a snack when everyones attentions are elsewhere.

Okay so I didn't want to get into this, but I feel like we need to address the elephant in the room.  Why in the HECK would we need not one, but TWO bottles of Pepto sitting on our kitchen shelf.  I'll be honest we had a touch of stomach bug earlier this week.  By 'touch' I mean I wanted to die, and cursed my own very existence for 14 straight hours.  Like all other of life's trials though I endured, and came out the other side 5 pounds lighter.  I digress though.

Next we layered on noodles, and Miss H put on another layer of sauce.  Then I put on the cheese mixture, and then spread it around.  

Then it was Miss J's turn to sprinkle on the meat, and this is just about the only picture Destructo Girl is featured in since on this particular day she refused to wear pants.

Miss P's favorite thing about the whole experience was that I turned a blind eye when she climbed on top of the island.

The process elicited a number of reactions.

Here it is ready to be cooked.  I cooked it at 375 for 40 minutes.

This was the finished product.  Normally the cheese isn't so browned, but I decided that I could squeeze in a quick shower.  I mean, my ladies would get it out when the timer goes off right?  Not so much.  They did turn off the oven, but then left the lasagna sitting in the still very warm oven.

This one is a family favorite.  It is one that we feed guest, and its always so nice to know I have got a few in the freezer.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Homeschooling Year 1 Review: What I learned

Our First Day of Homeschool for 2014

Okay so our first year homeschooling was rough.  There is no sugar coating it.  Toward the end of the school year I was ready to throw in the towel.  To the point that Señor Hotness contacted the school, and I began drilling the kids on the standardized test they would take as a re-entry assessment.  Then we did something simple but kind of radical (for us anyway).

  We banned the TV.  We didn't get rid of it, but we did unplug it and banned it from our house during the week, and it is only watched by the kids during quiet time on Saturdays and Sundays.  (I will confess that they watched TV almost non-stop during our month long summer break.  Things got ugly.)  Do you want to have your children explore their talents?  Read more?  Play better together?  I can tell you getting rid of TV watching is the way to go.  Our house is more peaceful without the TV.  My ladies fight less, and I find that my patience is better when there isn't a constant amount of background noise happening behind the noise we already make.  Believe me when I say the mini horde produce more than enough noise all on their own.  Cutting the TV revitalized our family, and gave me the hope that homeschooling really could work in our home.

Another thing homeschooling taught me was not to skimp on breakfast!  While cereal is quick, easy and tasty, brain food it is not.  My crew was drastically less cranky, and much more able to get work done and concentrate when we had a good home cooked breakfast.  Our favorite is doing breakfast hash, muffins, oatmeal, or homemade granola.  Cereal is a rare thing now.  What about pancakes you ask?  I will confess that we don't ever eat pancakes for breakfast.  Pancakes are a dinner meal around here.

I learned that family style learning is awesome, but certainly not all the time.  At least for us.  So we do a few things family style, and then we break up to finish out our school day.  What do we do family style you ask?  We do scripture study, and handwriting family style.  Everything else is more independent.

I learned that life is happier, neater, and I get much less screamy when everyone pulls their weight in the chore department.  No matter how small.

I learned that individual desks aren't necessary, but sure are nice.  Thanks to some really awesome people at church who gave these to us (you know who you are).  I will be forever grateful.  Our girls get WAY more into doing their work knowing that they have their own special place to do it.  They also want to dress these up so stay tuned to see what we do with them.

I learned to never undervalue the need for a really good pencil sharpener.  I bought our first electric one from Walmart.  It broke within the first week.  I bought our second from an office supply store, but I made a huge mistake when I bought the mid-grade one thinking it was still better than the Walmart variety.  It was, but we still managed to kill that one within a month.  So then I went in and got their most expensive model.  Sometimes how expensive something is really is a good reflection of quality.  This one while it looks simple is a workhorse, and has withstood all kinds of wear and tear.  Destructo Girl even tried to sharpen her eraser in this thing.  After I got the eraser out it was as good as new.  The downfall of having such an awesome sharpener is that it can literally sharpen a new pencil down to a nub if you aren't careful.  You've been warned.

I learned that a well stocked crayon box...or two...or three is a truly priceless tool for homeschooling smaller kiddos.  Each subject lesson for the younger kiddos is nothing more than a few minutes long, and doesn't take long to complete.  So whats a kid to do in a house with banned TV?  They LOVE to color, and are crazy about mazes (here is our favorite site for free maze printables).  So what we do is have coloring time between each of their lessons which lets me help my older girls with their work as needed.  Heaven bless crayons.

I learned the value of uplifting music.  While the songs playing on the regular radio may not be bad, they also don't cultivate a feeling of calm, happiness, and focus.  So during school hours we often listen to the Mormon Music Channel, which is a free online streaming radio station.  We have discovered that this sets the tone for the day we want to have.  We save the more energetic tunes for after school hours.

I have learned that if we take a short 15 minute cleaning break every couple of hours our house is much less likely to feel trashed by the end of the day.  A less trashed house equals a much happier mom, and a much happier mom equals a much happier teacher.  Which equals much happier students in a learning environment not stifled by clutter.  In all honesty we struggle with this one.  I will find myself having a hard time not being lazy, and dragging the horde down with me into laziness.  Its a work in progress.

I have learned that a laser printer is worth its weight in gold.  THE. END.

I have learned that a detailed meal plan is a lifesaver.  Its better if I'm not having to think up a meal on the spot while I'm already managing several other things.  Its nice to look at a menu to see whats for dinner, and then prepare accordingly.   This too is a work in progress.

So long story short I am a fickle person, and while I told many people that we were putting them back in public school...I lied.  We made changes and are keeping them home, and why wouldn't I when my kids are this stinking awesome.

Miss E my 7th grader is trying out jazz hands

Miss H my 5th grader, and Miss P the photobomber.

Miss A is my sassy 1st grader.

Miss J wasn't happy at all to be taking start of school pictures without her stuffed animal entourage, but Miss P was more than delighted with another photobombing opportunity.

Miss P is always game for another photo-op.

Any and all pictures at our house ALWAYS have to include a funny face picture.

I'm looking forward to this upcoming school year when my ladies and I will learn together.