Weekend Recap

If you reside in the Bluegrass or really anywhere in the Upper-South/Mid-Atlantic region, then you were probably snowed in for much of the weekend like we were. During January and February, I relish snow days and think they are good for the soul. They force people to slow down and take some time to rest from the normal bustle of life. However, by March, I definitely have spring fever and am ready to be outside without having to bundle up. Other than heading out for the UK vs. Vanderbilt basketball game on Saturday, we spent much of the weekend playing in the snow, curled up with hot beverages and books, and eating comfort food.

On Friday, I was so tempted to make a big batch of chocolate chip cookies, but I satisfied my baking bug by making this honey wheat bread. However, by Sunday, I couldn't hold out any longer and just made some cookies. I also made a big batch of The Pioneer Woman's potato soup that we're still enjoying. I substituted milk for half of the heavy cream in the recipe, and I think it still tastes decadent.

Here are some scenes I snapped of our weekend:

 
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We also stopped by the Bluegrass Barkery this weekend to pick up some of these Pawz booties and a few treats. After a light snow last Wednesday and the snowstorm this weekend, the pads on the bottom of her paws were getting red and irritated from the ice and salt. These little booties were great to put on her before walks and playing in the snow. She normally doesn't like wearing anything, but she tolerated these better than I anticipated. The booties are reusable and disposable, so they come in packs of 12. Annabelle wore the same booties for several days, and they are still in good shape. The pack will definitely last all winter and possibly even into next winter. If you have a dog that you walk frequently, I definitely recommend these booties!

I hope you're well rested and ready to take on the week! Cheers!

Laura

My Old Kentucky Home Renovations: Foyer and a Plea for Help

You may remember the December bucket list I put together about a month ago. I'm happy to report that I completed everything except creating a piece of artwork to hang in my home. Time just got away from me, and this goal fell by the wayside. When I wrote that to-do item down, I envisioned making a large statement piece to hang in our foyer because it is lacking in organization, inspiration, cohesion... You get the picture. Anyways, over the next couple of months, I'd like to whip our foyer into shape. Unfortunately, it has become the "catch all" spot, and you can see the mess from almost every other room in our house. It has a lot of square feet and really great lighting, so it has the potential to be a great entrance to our house.

I'm hoping that I can share some "after" pictures with you by the end of February. Here are the "before" pictures in its current state.

As you can see, we're doing a little work on the plaster above the fireplace, so it is a little more messy than normal. It is a relatively blank canvas, and I painted it in Sherwin-Williams Drift of Mist this past winter.

Here are some challenges to the space:

  1. Budget - I'd like to keep everything under $300.
  2. Attachment to existing items - Jay has a sentimental attachment to some of the furniture, so we'll have to come of with a creative way to create a cohesive look. Did you see that little orange school room desk? Yikes!
  3. Little wall space - While the space is large, there are 4 doors or hallway entrances, 2 windows, and a fireplace.
  4. Visibility - Besides being the first room you encounter, it is visible from everywhere on the first floor except the kitchen, so it needs to match the rest of the house.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on how to improve this space!

Cheers!

Laura

Holiday Hosting and Raspberry Trifle

2015-11-19 11.40.36 This weekend, we hosted some of our extended family for a Christmas lunch. The first holiday meal I ever hosted was a Christmas gift exchange with my high school girlfriends. Of course, my mom did most of the the planning and grocery shopping, and over the years I’ve learned much more about hosting meals, parties, and tailgates thanks to LOTS of advice from my mom and LOTS of trial and mostly error.

I’m by no means an expert, but here are the key tips I’ve learned from hosting - whether it is a smaller dinner party or a large bash.

  1. Keep the menu simple: I like to plan my menu around food that I’ve made several times before. This way, I know the food will taste good, and I won’t have a melt down minutes before guests arrive since it's harder to botch a familiar recipe.
  2. Do as much work ahead of time as possible: Two nights before the event, I created my tablescape, set out my serving dishes, washed the holiday china, and prepared any food that I could get a head start on. The day before, I cleaned the house (minus the kitchen). This meant that on Sunday morning, I was only responsible for popping a couple of dishes in the oven, doing a light spot cleaning and vacuuming, and putting final touches on everything.  
  3. Delegate tasks if it makes sense: Since this was a smaller family gathering, I didn’t feel bad asking people to contribute. My brother-in-law brought the wine and each couple brought a side dish. Generally guests want to bring something or help in some way, so if the situation is appropriate, I encourage it and give them a guideline, such as, “It would be great if you could bring a salad.” Then I know that I don’t need to prepare a salad, and the generous guest knows they won’t be duplicating a menu item I’ve already made. Being fairly general also gives them autonomy to put their personal spin on the dish.

Here’s the menu I planned for our Christmas lunch:

Appetizer: Beaten biscuits with country ham

Main: Beef tenderloin, salad (brought by guest), green vegetable (brought by guest), mashed potatoes, and rolls

Dessert: Raspberry trifle, assorted homemade Christmas candy

Raspberry Trifle Recipe

This is the same dessert I made for my girlfriends in high school. It is a go-to recipe because it looks pretty and festive,  is easy to assemble several hours before guests arrive, and is practically no-fail.

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) package prepared pound cake*
  • 2 (10 ounce) packages frozen raspberries, thawed**
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
  1. In a medium bowl, beat cream with 1/4 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. In another bowl, cream together cream cheese, lemon juice, vanilla and 1/2 cup sugar. Fold 2 cups of whipped cream into cream cheese mixture. Reserve remaining whipped cream.
  2. Slice pound cake into 18 - 1/2 inch slices. Drain raspberries, reserving juice. Line the bottom of a 3 quart glass bowl or trifle bowl with one-third of the cake slices. Drizzle with some raspberry juice. Spread one-fourth of the cream cheese mixture over cake. Sift one-fourth of the cocoa over that. Sprinkle with one-third of the raspberries. Repeat layers twice. Top with remaining cream cheese mixture, whipped cream and sifted cocoa. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours before serving.

*I love to bake, and I would normally make a homemade pound cake if I was serving a more simple dessert, such as pound cake with fresh berries. However, since I had a busy weekend and the trifle had plenty of flavorful ingredients, a Sara Lee pound cake from frozen foods aisle worked great.

**I bought a 26 ounce bag of frozen raspberries because it was a better deal at the grocery store and ended up using the entire bag. If you and your guests like raspberries, you may want to use a few more than the original recipe suggests.

I hope you're enjoying your holiday festivities!

Cheers!

Laura

Lunchtime Quinoa Bowl

 
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Confession: I’ve been getting off track with lunch recently. I am fortunate to live about a mile from work, so I frequently walk home during my lunch hour to let the dog out and grab a quick bite. It’s really ideal because I’m able to get a few steps in, take a mental break from the office, and enjoy some doggy snuggles.

However, I used to be the best at packing well balanced and filling lunches when I took my lunch to work and had to plan ahead. Now, I tend to grab just whatever is quick - some cheese and crackers, a can of tuna, a pear, some pretzels dipped in peanut butter, a cookie, whatever… I usually returned to the office feeling gross and bloated or still hungry and on the prowl for unhealthy snacks. Last week, I purchased frozen chicken nuggets and corn dogs at the grocery store because I thought that would be a great option for my grab-and-go lunches. What was I thinking?! After reaching that low point, I realized enough is enough. It is time to get back on track!

When I was single, I used to frequently make hearty quinoa bowls for dinner and then eat the leftovers for lunch. On Sunday, I decided to whip up a big batch and use it for at least three of my lunches this week. The great thing about quinoa bowls is they’re hard to mess up. Sometimes I follow a recipe, but more often than not,  I just chop up whatever veggies and herbs I have on hand and add some good olive oil, vinegar, sea salt, and pepper for a little flavor. However, this time I used a recipe I found at Kaylee Cooks.

Tomato-Basil Quinoa with Spinach and White Beans

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry quinoa, rinsed
  • 3 cups vegetable broth(note, this is more than you usually need to cook 1 c of quinoa, but we are also cooking the tomatoes and beans in the broth)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 8 oz canned white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1.5 tbsp basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 oz fresh baby spinach

Directions:

  1. Combine quinoa and broth in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large dutch oven (or other large pan) over medium heat.
  3. Add garlic and onions; cook for 1 minute (until the onion is softened)
  4. Add tomatoes, beans and basil and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  5. Pour the pot of quinoa and broth into the tomato mixture, season and simmer on a low heat (uncovered) until the quinoa is absorbs the broth and is cooked through (You may need to add a bit more broth to finish cooking the quinoa if the broth is absorbing too quickly).
  6. Once the quinoa has finished cooking, add the spinach and stir to wilt.
 
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I’d love to hear your easy, go-to lunch ideas!

Cheers!

Laura

My Old Kentucky Home Renovations: Survival Tips

Last night, I was walking through our house enjoying our Christmas decorations and appreciating that we were able to decorate the entire house this year. Last year during this season, we were in the thick of home renovations, and I didn’t want to put up too many decorations because it meant extra stuff to dust daily. Anyways, those who know me well know that I have slight anxiety issues when I’m in messy and unorganized spaces, so the months of living in the house during renovations were really difficult and stressful. Since it was a dark time, I didn’t take too many pictures, but I found a few in the annals of my iPhone. I could literally feel my breathing shallow and my blood pressure spike when I pulled them out to share with you.

I put together a list of survival tips. I geared them towards OCD folks, like myself. Here they are...

How to Survive a Renovation If You Don't Like Messes

  • Create renovation-free zones and keep them organized.

I can’t tell you how many times I escaped to our upstairs guest bedroom for a couple hours or closed the doors in our living room, so I wouldn’t have to look at the mess. Having a mini-haven that I could keep neat and clean inside the house was necessary to my survival.

 
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Bedroom mess
 
  • Buy Swiffer Dry Cloths in bulk.

If you’re like Danny Tanner (or me) and can’t stand dirt, these are a lifesaver. I typically like to use microfiber dusting cloths and washable dusting mop pads, but it was worth it for my sanity to use disposable dusting sheets. I used the dry cloths to dust the floors and multiple other surfaces most evenings. Sorry not sorry, Mother Nature.

  • Multiply the estimated project timeline by four.

Getting into a renovation project, I knew that it wouldn’t be finished on time. Have you ever heard of a construction project finishing on time or ahead of schedule? No. However, I thought it would only be a couple of extra weeks. One of the most stressful things was not knowing when the project would be done and when workmen would come. I had my hopes up pretty much every week, and our project ended up taking four full months instead of the four weeks we were told. If you’re starting a project, multiply the completion time by four because then you might be pleasantly surprised if it gets finished sooner.

  • Realize that you’ll likely go over budget.

Along the same lines, every project that we’ve done has pretty much gone over budget. In our case, the investment in higher quality items was worth it since we were already making a large investment, but we definitely considered where to save and where to splurge. For example, we used higher-end tile in our shower, but we purchased our towel racks from the hardware store (with a coupon) instead of the fancy bathroom showroom. My advice is to know what you can realistically spend and lowball your budget when talking to contractors. You’ll likely end up spending your entire budget, but maybe you won’t go over it.

  • Have patience, and if you don’t, just leave the house.

I consider myself a fairly patient person, but that went out the window during renovations. The time, the mess, the workmen leaving trash throughout the house (even in places they weren’t working), etc. definitely shortened my fuse. I really tried to have patience, but like I mentioned, my anxiety took over, and it wasn’t pretty. My biggest advice is to leave the house. I went for a lot of runs and walks to get out of the house, and I actually looked forward to business trips. If you can plan a vacation during a particularly rough renovation, by all means, leave that mess and enjoy yourself.

 
can of Dr. Pepper = Construction worker was here (Can see no other visible progress)

can of Dr. Pepper = Construction worker was here (Can see no other visible progress)

 

If all else fails, just pour yourself a big glass of wine. Cheers!

Laura