Friday, June 22, 2012

Making it right

Grass was delivered to our house 2 days ago, and not just a little grass, a whole 8 pallets of lush, green sod.  I was very impressed with the quality of sod delivered; not at all what I was expecting to see and I'm immensely pleased with it.
Instant gratification, man.  We will be watering it like crazy for 2 weeks and then sitting back to enjoy the yard we always envisioned.  This is exactly what we saw when we looked at this yard for the first time, through all the overgrown bushes and ivy, the dilapidated fences, in spite of the maze of unused flower beds and miles of stones.  This is finally the yard that we bought and dreamed of. 
Well, almost....  Hence the title of this post.
 The decking company is back out here, today.  They are power washing and redoing the top layer of the deck around the pool.  You see, the finish coat on the deck started to flake away so we called them back out to take a peek.  They decided to patch up the spots that were flaking away.  Patch.  That word alone should have told us that we were not going to be happy with the finished product.  At the end of the day, it looked like I had gone through and smeared dark concrete on top.  "Oh that should lighten up and blend right in," they told me.  Yeah right!  I'll let you know how I feel when they are done making it right today, I have my fingers crossed.

Now, for the next "Making it right" project.
This is a picture that I took a few days ago of the dry stacked retaining wall around the edge of the spa. It doesn't quite look like this anymore.  The dirt has started to wash through the gaps in the rocks and now it's just a heap of a mess with the new grass at the bottom.  Projects don't always turn out the way you hope they will but that's what learning is for.  I'm going to try to fix the problem by digging out the dirt right behind the stones and then laying in gravel to help retain it while still allowing water to flow through.  Sounds like a good plan, right?  This would have been a lot easier to do before we heaped the dirt back in, but oh well, you live and learn.  We shall see if this works. Pin It Now!

Monday, June 18, 2012

A hard day's work

A big storm came through our area last and tore up the neighborhood last week.  The rain came down so fast that it flooded our pool, despite the drain, and the wind blew in at 75mph.  Last year, at about this time, we were going through a historic drought and that resulted in a devastating loss of trees.  However, the unseen danger was when root systems of old trees were severely damaged but still standing and then tried to come back this past spring.  The leaves collected rain, which made the trees heavy, and the wind blew so hard that many trees ended up looking like this in my area.

This is a picture taken from my driveway, looking right across the street.  I saw it slowly start to fall and I hightailed it to the pantry which is in the center of my house under the stairs!  Trees were swaying all around and some enormous trees were bent so far that their branches were brushing the ground.  Java and I hung out in the dark pantry until I could hear the wind subsiding.

All that rain took a toll on the fresh dirt around the pool and, with nothing to hold it in place, it swept to the corners of the yard and under the fence line.  This is what the edge of the decking looked like.

The sprinkler system was revealed in several places and the corner of the decking was completely exposed and precarious.  So this past weekend we went to work and grabbed stones that were previously used around all the many flower beds in the back yard and came up with this.

Looks better, right?  We did it all ourselves with materials on hand and probably saved a couple hundred bucks, if not more.  It still needs a little tweaking but this should hold the dirt and I'll be planting some pretty plants very soon.  Also, sod is being put down tomorrow.  Very exciting! Pin It Now!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Happy Father's Day

Dad, you were there for me when I was born.  You were there to catch me when I fell, when I walked, and when I talked.

You were there to show me adventure and nature.

You were there to show me the wonders of the world.

You were there when it really mattered.  You gave me the knowledge to help me succeed and to believe in myself.

You were there to give me away to the second man that I ever truly loved.

You were there for me and I know that you always will be.  I love you Dad.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Deep Dish Fruit Pizza

I was in charge of a coworkers birthday celebration a few months ago and couldn't decide what to make.  I knew it would have been easy to buy a cake from the store but that would be expensive and not a whole lot of fun.  She also wanted something healthy but tasty too.  I searched all over the internet for something special to make her and came across this recipe on Pioneer Woman.  The name has fruit in it, that means it's healthy.  Right?  

This recipe is seriously divine, the orange zest in the crust makes everything taste absolutely perfect and the frosting in the middle is good enough to eat with a spoon as a fruit dip.

Deep Dish Fruit Pizza
Recipe from Pioneer Woman

1-1/3 cup shortening (may substitute butter)
1-1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
8 teaspoons whole milk
4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 jars (13 ounces each) Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese
Assorted fruits

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, cream shortening (or butter), sugar, orange zest and vanilla thoroughly.  Add in eggs and beat until light and fluffy.  Add in the milk and mix.

In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt), then blend this into the cream mixture.  Slightly flatten between two sheets of waxed paper and two sheet pans, then refrigerate for one hour.

Press dough into a sheet pan, use your fingers to get it even but still dimply and rounded up the edges slightly.

Bake for 12-15 minutes until cookie dough is cooked and golden brown, but not overly crisp.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

Using a mixer with a whisk attachment, whip together Marshmallow Creme and cream cheese until light. Spread onto cooled "pizza" cookie, then decorate the top generously with sliced fruit.  Yum!

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Chicken Salad

I have made this recipe a lot in the past few months.  I made it the first time for a luncheon that Kindergarten put on for the staff at my school; I doubled the recipe for that and we ran out about halfway through the lunches.... oops!  People liked it so much that it was requested for a baby shower and again for a wedding shower.  This is a good recipe to have in your cookbook for special occasions, summer gatherings, lunches or snacks.

Chicken Salad
Recipe slightly adapted from All Recipes

3 chicken breasts (1.5-2 lbs)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup thinly sliced celery (about 2 stalks)
1 cup halved red grapes
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
2 teaspoons finely minced shallot
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce

Heat olive oil and butter in large skillet over medium high heat.  
Salt and pepper chicken breasts and cook in skillet, about 5-8 minutes per side or until firm.  
Prepare celery, grapes and shallot while chicken is cooking, set aside.  The original recipe has water chestnuts (seen here) but I did not like the texture in this salad and have since omitted it.  
Remove chicken from skillet and set aside to cool.  Add bacon to same skillet and cook until crispy.  
In large bowl, combine mayonnaise, parsley flakes, shallot, lemon, ginger and Worcestershire.  
Cut chicken into small cubes, crumble bacon and add to mayonnaise mixture.  Add grapes and celery, mix to combine and add salt to taste.  Chill and serve on croissants or toast.  Enjoy! Pin It Now!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Spicy Honey Chicken

This is my first Monday of summer vacation and it is divine!  I feel like I have my life back again.  Teaching kindergarten is all consuming and I would often lay awake at night churning ideas in my head and thinking about what I was going to do the next day, week, month, year.  Seriously, I would lay awake thinking about what I should do differently next year.

But enough of that talk, it's SUMMER!!!!  It feels so good to be back to sharing with the blog world and to thank you all, I'll start by sharing a tasty recipe that I made for the first time last night.  We had some friends over last night so I doubled the recipe, that's why there's a crap load of chicken on this plate.  Oh and don't be like me and forget to rub oil on the raw chicken and then have to beg your husband to go spray the grill because you are scared for the safety of your hair.  Just remember the dang oil, ok?

Spicy Honey Chicken

2lbs thighs and drumsticks
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

2 teaspoons granulated garlic (you can sub 1 teaspoon garlic powder here)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder (I couldn't find didn't look for this so I substituted Cajun spices and lessened the salt in the recipe)

1/2 cup Honey
1 tablespoon Cider Vinegar

Combine the rub spices in bowl and mix well.Use kitchen shears to trim off any excess fat from the chicken pieces. Pat dry. Drizzle oil over chicken and rub in with your hands to lightly coat all the pieces. Then toss chicken with the spice rub to coat all sides well. Use your hands and get in there! Grill chicken for 3-5 minutes on each side, until cooked through.While chicken is cooking, warm honey in the microwave so it's not so thick. Add the vinegar and combine well. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the honey glaze for later after the chicken has cooked to pour on right before serving. Take the rest and brush on chicken (both sides) in the final moments of grilling.

I'm gonna warn you that this can make a hot mess, literally. It's sugar, and it's gonna drip. But the smelly smoke is worth it for a minute or two. Just leave your grill on for a few minutes after the chicken is done to burn off any excess glaze. It's totally worth it once you taste this stuff.
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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Summer has arrived...

...and I'm back to blogging again... sort of.  I'm going to make a fastidious effort to start taking pictures again and I'm giving some new technology a whirl.  First off, my old laptop bit the dust so now I'm rockin' a new MAC which I'm over the moon about!  I have owned an iPad for a few years and that has made the switch from PC to MAC so much easier for me.  I'm also now taking photos with my iPhone which I'm still a little unsure of.  Don't get me wrong, I adore my phone, but I'm not sure if the photo quality is as good as my digital camera.  Does anyone know if they make tripods for the iPhone?  Cooking photos would be much better with a tripod.

Life has been very good for us lately.  I'm still teaching kindergarten, it will be my third year this fall!  I've found some wonderful new resources such as Pinterest and TeachersPayTeachers; they are utterly indispensable to me.  I have come across some wonderful teachers from all over the US and have bought some pretty amazing materials to spice up the curriculum.  Here's a glimpse...

We also recently put in a pool, which will most likely be the mail culprit in preventing me from blogging as much as I'd like over the summer.

Anywho... let's get back to business and take a peak at what's ahead for my summer blogging.
New recipes...

pretty pictures...

and just for fun updates.
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