Wednesday, September 25, 2013

25 lessons from our favorite teacher

Today is Megan's 25th birthday. Though we are reminded everyday of her absence, we celebrate the life she lived so fully for His glory and that she is now in the presence of the one true Risen King. In honor of our precious Meg, here's a collection of twenty five lessons our favorite teacher could teach all of us about a life well-lived.
1. Believe in the Gospel: God is holy. We are not. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. We deserve death, but God in His mercy and love sent His one and only Son, Jesus, into the world to die on a cross to save us from eternal death. By grace we are saved through faith in Jesus. Believe in Jesus Christ and you will spend eternity with Him in paradise.
2. The only thing that matters is souls. Hearts. People. People matter.
3. Find your passion. Use your gifts. Be who you were created to be and do it well.
4. Laugh hard. Everyday. Have you had your belly laugh today?
5. Catch the glance of a stranger? Be the first one to smile. Spread joy.
6. Cherish your family.
7. No chocolate covered pretzel should be without a healthy dose of colored white chocolate.
8. If your called to go to the ends of the earth to spread the Gospel and love little children, go.
9. Every outfit can be improved with a colorful pair of flip flops or a bright shade of neon.
10. Be joyful in all things.
11. Improve your mind. Read. Read the newspaper. Read a novel. Read the Bible. Read.
12. Let your creative juices flow. Be crafty.
13. Be a true friend that loves at all times.
14. Get down on a kid's level.
15. Greet each day with a bright smile and a warm hug.
16. Sometimes you just need to use your teacher voice.
17. Learning is and should be fun. Never stop.
18. Celebrate your friendships with annual parties complete with good food and great people.
19. Worship the Lord gladly and loudly.
20. Trust your mom. She is wise.
21. When your outfit matches, all things are possible.
22. Never underestimate the power of a handwritten note.
23. Serve and give out of the overflow of your heart. Expect nothing in return.
24. Life should be captured in joyously, ridiculous pictures.
25. He must become greater, and we must become less.

Oh what a powerful legacy Meg leaves behind. She would have been overjoyed with the incredible ways her life continues to impact her family, friends, coworkers, students, and strangers. Miss you each and everyday, my friend!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

diy: dresser turned kitchen cabinet

Remember months ago when I promised a diy post about another dresser we had remodeled to fit in our kitchen. Well, here it is...just a tad bit late... I could blame it on a whole bunch of things, but instead let's just talk details.  

Our goal was to turn this walnut dresser into a updated two-toned dresser to store baking sheets and pans, spices, etc. in our small (rather dark) kitchen. I wanted to be sure that any furniture we added would not make the space feel any smaller. We also wanted a versatile, neutral color that would transition well into other rooms in the future.

Here's the "before" minus the hardware:
1st step: stripping
We covered the sides with a drop cloth, donned on some gloves, and applied the stripper with a paintbrush. After letting it sit on the top for an hour or two, we removed the excess goop with a stripper tool and a scrubber. Then we used mineral spirits to remove any remaining sticky spots.  
2nd: bleaching
The top was still much darker than what we wanted, so we decided to bleach the wood. Side note: I'm not entirely sure that you can tell we did this step in our finished product because of the shellac we used. Oh well, live and learn...
3rd: sanding
Then after the wood bleach was wiped off with water. We let it dry and then sanded down the grain that had been raised in the process. 
4th: sealing
We followed the sanding with a clear spray shellac over the top to seal the wood. (Sorry, no pictures of that part). We used Zinnser Clear Shellac Traditional Finish (the same shellac we used in our prior projects), but in a spray form.

5th: sanding/painting 
Finally, it was time to paint the lower part of the dresser and the drawers! Before we painted we lightly sanded everything, so the paint would stick. We found that three coats of Behr (in a shade of white that I forget what it's called) were needed to cover the dark wood. We chose the satin enamel finish to give the dresser a bit of gloss and to enable easy clean up of messy kitchen spills.
Our diy process was slowed significantly when we discovered that the distance between the drawer handle holds is an uncommon size. None of the major suppliers sell 4 1/2 inch pulls in stores. After a few weeks of searching we finally found some on ebay. They aren't my favorite handles, but the options were slim. We spray painted the handles with Rust-oleum Satin Nickel Metallic Paint and Primer in One. I would have preferred to find sleeker handles, but this was the best we could do without paying $20 a handle.

The finished product! It fits perfectly under our window to the living/dining room. I cannot stress enough how much I desperately needed the extra space for all the miscellaneous kitchen stuff. My spices fit perfectly in the top right drawer, the big middle drawers are perfect for baking pans and cutting boards, and the smaller drawers are great for immersion blenders, strainers, etc.

I absolutely love the way the finish highlights the beautiful grain of the wood!
If you're looking to improve your kitchen or add some storage, I'd recommend finding your own dresser in need of some tlc and get refinishing! 

Friday, September 13, 2013

fall apple breakfast crisp

If you've been reading, you'll remember when I said Smitten's apricot breakfast crisp recipe I made while in Vermont was revolutionary. It's the perfect combination of granola crunch, lightly sweetened with the natural sweetness of fruit. Topped with a large spoonful of yogurt - pure wonderfulness.

During that trip we also went on an old orchard apple foraging spree. It seemed like a great idea at the time, but back in reality I was left with a huge bag of tiny apples. Unfortunately, these aren't the kind of apples I'd like to sink my teeth into daily. Much much too tart. I tried peeling them and almost peeled my finger off. Thankfully, I've discovered they bake up beautifully with the skin on!
I remembered The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook had included a side note that mentioned other fruits like apples work well  in the crisp. So I set out to tweak the recipe to fit our forlorn little apple friends and some other pantry staples. And viola! A crisp with all the cozy flavors of fall perfect for a cool morning. It's filling and satisfying without the heaviness that you get from eating too many pancakes for breakfast.

Oh you should know that after I made my crisp, I discovered that Smitten has her own breakfast apple granola crisp recipe. I haven't tried that version yet, but I thought you'd like to know your options :)

Fall Apple Breakfast Crisp
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
For the fruit on the bottom:
1 lb of apples
Squirt of fresh lemon juice (just enough to toss the cut apples in)
2 tablespoons natural or regular sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of cinnamon
1/4 cup golden raisins

For the crumble topping:
4 tablespoon of butter, melted
1/3 cup natural sugar
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the tiny apples into quarters, discarding the core. Toss apples in lemon juice in a small 1 qt baking dish or shallow pie plate. Mix in sugar, flour, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Spread apple mixture so it evenly coats the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle raisins over the apples. Edited 10/17/2013: I made this recipe again yesterday and thought I should mention that if you choose to add the raisins make sure they are covered by the crumble topping otherwise they will darken and burn. 

Prepare the topping by melting the butter. Mix in sugar first, then oats. Followed by flour, salt, and pecans. Spread the crumbly mixture over the apples. Bake for 25 minutes then cover with foil, so the topping doesn't get too dark. Continue baking for another 15-20 minutes.
I prefer mine served slightly warm with a dollop of homemade yogurt on top sprinkled with cinnamon. Oh what a beautiful morning it is when it begins with a breakfast crisp. Or warm it up for a delicious lunchtime treat. Mmmmm, bring on those flavors of fall!
Wondering what I did with the rest of my mini apples? I made maple cinnamon applesauce, of course!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

the green mountains: revisited

It's been a few weeks since we got back from our Green Mountain vacation, but I finally got around to sorting through the hundreds of photos I took while we were in Vermont.

Here's some of the the highlights - happy browsing!
Smitten Kitchen's Apricot Breakfast Crisp - revolutionary! And the perfect accompaniment to a cool summer morning on the deck. A fall breakfast crisp blog post is in the works... (p.s. I used the recipe from her cookbook which is slightly different than the one she posted on her blog years ago)
<3 New England
 A beautiful carriage trail hike up to Progue Pond in Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park.
Check out the height on these trees. I know they aren't sequoia size, but still!
 perfectly picturesque
In true frugalish style: BYOP (bring your own picnic and find a pretty view)
Another new favorite: Crown Point, New York - a gorgeous day for pictures! 
Always a fave: Lake Champlain!
 Such a fun place to explore! I found myself yodeling "high on a hill there's a lonely goat herd..." :)
My hair = no control. I'm pretty sure it attacked the hubster's face more than a few times that day.
 Whole wheat buttermilk blackberry pancakes with the remainder of the berries Ma and I picked earlier in the summer. So so good! Cooking Light's recipe is my one of my favorites - I haven't had it fail yet and I've added all sorts of things to the batter.
 wildlife sightings along White Rocks trail
 proof that fall is coming!
 Texas Falls - this photo doesn't quite do the deep, blueish green pools and falls justice
 Moss Glenn Falls 
 Look who we spotted sunning themselves one morning - a coyote!
I don't know who came up with the idea to add maple syrup to soft serve, but it's genius! We love maple creemies!
<3 beauty
 First attempt at crepes - filled with ricotta and topped with maple strawberry sauce. I'd say it was a success.
 We got a bit over zealous with the wild apple tree picking. A bit tart and little, but they bake up wonderfully and they were free!
The last evening we went searching for a moose at one of our top-secret moose frequented spots. Sadly, no moose, but I found some beautiful flowers.
Home again, home again. Jiggity jig. Refreshed and ready for a night out to celebrate our anniversary in style at Honey (thanks Ma and Pa)!