Saturday, June 30

Foodie Pen Pals Reveal 001

Have you heard of Foodie Pen Pals? Well I am a Foodie Pen Pal newbie, and I am here to tell you that it is fabulous. Basically, you sign up over at Lindsay's blog, The Lean Green Bean, and you're matched with another foodie blogger/reader. Your job is to get to know who you're matched up with a bit, and within a couple weeks you'll send them a package full of yummy goodies!

At the same time that you're planning a package for your buddy, someone else is planning a package for you! It's like a giant round robin of foodie goodness -- there are somewhere over 900 participants in the US, Canada, and the UK! I'm telling you, this is a good time.

So onto my reveal... I got my package of deliciousness from the lovely Laura over at Becoming the Odd Duck. Laura is from Texas, which happens to be one of my favorite states, so needless to say I was pretty stoked to get some noms from the lone star state. Check it out!

Who in their right mind doesn't love getting any kind of snail mail, let alone PACKAGES?! Am I right? I mean geez, I'll participate in anything if it means I get packages in the mail! Couldn't wait to cut this bad boy open...

And I was not disappointed in the least!!! Laura sent me: 
  • an adorable hand written card explaining her choices
  • some super yummy organic whole wheat gemelli pasta
  • little peanut butter {and chocolate peanut butter} squeeze packets
  • a raspberry pomegranate dark chocolate bar {I mean, are you serious?!}
  • organic refried black beans {refried BLACK beans?!}
  • Texas BBQ sauce {yum!}
  • Biscoff spread {new to me!}
  • and the most scrumptious chips I've ever had -- sweet potato chips!

Obviously I busted into the Biscoff like... within moments of opening the package. Have you ever had this stuff? It's like sweet peanut butter made of cookie-goodness or something. It's European. Isn't everything European just... fantastic? Darn those Europeans...

I've had to hide the sweet potato chips from boyfriend, because they are the best ever.

And I've got big plans for the BBQ, pasta, and beans! Separate plans, I mean... While I'm sure they're going to be delicious on their own, I think they'd be kind of gross all together.

And it's all I can do to nibble on my chocolate bar gradually!!

Want to see what I sent my pen pal, Elle? Read about it on her blog here!

Intrigued by the program? Sign up to be a Foodie Pen Pal!

The Lean Green Bean
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Friday, June 29

Gimmie 5

Oh Friday, you wonderful day, you. How glad am I that it's the weekend? So glad! So so glad! 

I don't mean to imply that this week was lack luster or anything. In fact, it was a good one. Top 5 highlights? Well here ya go: 
  1. Livonia Spree fireworks show with my love. We sat on a blanket, played games in the beautiful weather waiting for the show to start, and drank a lot had a great time. Above is a shot of our matching umbrellas making hearts { <3 } on our blanket!
  2. I cleaned momma's house for her and she made me BBQ ribs & homemade blackberry mint tea in return {along with ya know, paying me}. Yum!!
  3. I spent some quality time with my idea notebook, jotting down ideas for this bad boy of a blog. Woo! And I redesigned the whole she-bang too! I love it. :) 
  4. Scotty and I went on a very nice evening stroll through a park and across a new bridge. We saw a lot of other walkers/bikers/active people living life outside and it totally inspired me to be more active again. I'm looking forward to more walks & outside play time!
  5. Boyfriend graduated grad school! I'm so proud of my little master's degree holder. :) We went out for delicious seafood eats to celebrate. As always, it was a good time!
How was your week? Was it a goodie? I'd love to hear about it. :)
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Tuesday, June 26

Craft Wars & Lacking Focus

I have my last summer class tomorrow morning, and I just cannot focus on my final project. I'm making this website on nutrition, but it's totally lame and boring and the "visual appeal" is only a small fraction of the grade. I also have a final that I just can't bring myself to study for, but if I'm being honest, I rarely study for any sort of test. What can I say?

I watched CRAFT WARS tonight. Obviously I was super stoked about the whole series, and I admit that I was a little disappointed. Probably just because I had set my expectations so high... But the judges were harsh and kind of mean! And Tori Spelling was just... I don't know, pesky seeming? She would drive me nuts with her condescending questions while I was trying to work! ;)

It was definitely impressive to see those ladies whipping out crafts & friggin' houses in a matter of hours though! It would take me longer than that to BRAINSTORM! I mean, maybe not, but seriously... Impressive. I'm excited for the rest of the series. Hopefully the judges grow on me!

Now, tomorrow is boyfriend's last day of class too, but it's his last day ever! As of tomorrow at 7:30pm, he will have completed his master's program. I could not be more proud. I have every intention of making some sort of delicious cake. If only I had a stand mixer for some frosting... Oh well, work with what you've got! ;) More on the cake later...
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Monday, June 25

Hey cute blog, what's up?!

So I've been a little off my blogging game this week {no posts since last Saturday?!}. But between unexpected family visits, work work work, wrapping up classes, and other responsibilities, life has just taken priority.

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about Jessica from Lovely Little Things' "Smell the Roses" project {read about that here if you're confused}. I was so excited for her task this week, "Get Creative!", because let's be honest, I love doing all things creative. I had big dreams of knocking some project ideas off my to-do list, but did I tell you about my busy week?? So instead, I totally revamped my blog design!

If you aren't familiar with my old look, here's a glimpse at the first header I made:

And, I don't know... I wasn't feeling it. So I re-did it! And made buttons and a welcome photo to match... But first I cycled through some options:

But everybody's got hearts, right? So I decided to go with hand drawn stars for a touch of whimsy. Finally, I landed on: 
I love it, personally. And I made matching everything! I made post footers and navigation buttons and a welcome photo -- oh yeah! 

I mean, I'd post pictures of those things, but you can see them by looking at my page of course. So look! And let me know what you think -- I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

So thanks to Jessica, for prompting all of us to get creative. Creativity makes me world go round. ;) 
Lovely Little Things
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Saturday, June 16

Dresser Facelift, Please & Thanks!

As I've mentioned before, I love free things. Never turn down free things, I say! Unless you know, they're totally gross. But this is about a dresser! A dresser I found abandoned in my cousin's garage. Evidently, the dresser had been there for years, but it was still full of clothes and all sorts of things. But this dresser had potential...

Unfortunately, this project began before my brand new blog, and I failed to snap a true "before" picture. The first picture I have of the dresser was taken just after I removed the drawers, took a belt sander to the top and rubbed the rest of the dresser with liquid sandpaper. Let me paint you a picture: it looked just like this, but shinier.

Thanks to my amateur photography skills, the dresser looks like it gets wider towards the top, but I promise that it doesn't. It is wide though... Like, I can fit THREE stacks of jeans in one drawer... THREE! I'm used to two stacks with some skirts shoved into the remaining crevasse. 

So as I mentioned before, I took a belt sander to the top of this bad boy. But that was a bad plan. A giant pain in the rear, and the results sucked. But then I found out about LIQUID SANDPAPER! What's liquid sandpaper, you ask? It's just a liquid... That you rub all over the furniture... And it removes the glossy layer so that paint and primer will adhere better! So I did that... Then I painted the whole darn thing with a paint+primer in one satin enamel from Home Depot.

I used a small roller on the majority of the piece, but I used a brush for all the detail work of course. 

Note to self: Don't let boyfriends pick out paint colors! I wanted a grey... And this paint is blue. Some suggested that I just repaint the whole thing grey, but I mean... That'd be like, a lot more work, right? 

So blue it is. I'll make it work! One coat of paint + some touch-ups later:


Did you notice something off about the finished product? Like say... That the knobs don't match? I know, right?! Genius, if I say so myself. Just kidding, but really, I went shopping for pretty pretty knobs at Hobby Lobby and I could not find 12 of the same knobs! And I did NOT want to wait for some to come in. So I opted for mismatched knobs! But they're not totally mismatched. They're all crystal! Well, faux crystal. Some match... Like, a couple. 

Regardless, the transformation is amazing. I rescued her form the garage, vacuumed out countless spiders and their webs (yikes!) but it was so worth it! One last look at the finished product: 

What do you think? What would you have done differently? Do the mismatched knobs drive you nuts? they drive you nuts in a GOOD way?? ;) 
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Friday, June 15

High Five Me!

Alright, obviously I'm new to this blog world {as a blogger at least}, but I love this idea of a "high five for Friday!" So I'm linking up with Lauren from From My Grey Desk to celebrate my week. :)

I made my own pretzel buns! They could have been better, don't get me wrong. I'll definitely tweak the recipe for next time. But they were still delicious and I MADE THEM MYSELF! BOO-YA. :) 

The weather has been PHENOMENAL! I've been bumming around in rolled up jeans and summer shoes all week. Loooove it....

MADE MY OWN PEANUT BUTTER! Like, from frickin' peanuts. And it's the most delicious peanut butter I've ever had in my life. YUM YUM YUM x infinity. 

Boyfriend & I had our first REAL barbeque of the summer! Sweet potatoes and chicken breast on the grill... So tasty!

Quality time with my main squeeze. ;) We did a ton this week, but one of those things was the driving range! I'm terrible, but that's irrelevant. 

High five for Friday, folks! 
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Monday, June 11

Bloglovin' & Pretzel Buns!

Just signed up on Bloglovin', waiting on my homemade pretzel buns, baking in the oven! Yum yum! Maybe if you're lucky, I'll post the recipe later... ;) 

If you're on Bloglovin', give me a follow. I'll be eternally grateful!

**UPDATE: Pretzel buns are TO DIE FOR!

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Treatin' Myself!

I've been following Jessica's blog {Lovely Little Things} for a little while now, and I love her "Smell the Roses" series! Basically, she posts a prompt that encourages us to slow down a bit and do something during the coming week to help us appreciate the little things. This week, her Smell the Roses task was to do something for yourself.

I definitely relate to her on the whole, putting-others-before-myself thing, and because of that I've been guilty of a few mini-meltdowns where I freak out at Scotty about how I don't have time for myself... Oops! All evidence that time for yourself is of vital importance to one's mental well-being, am I right?

So this week, I spent some time on me. I didn't do anything BIG, but I took some time to clean my messy apartment and to prep veggies and other healthy choices for the week. Now, I realize that these things seem silly or even lame, but trust me, taking the time to do these things does wonders for my mental clarity. I feel so much calmer when my space is organized and clean, and I feel better about myself when I eat well.

It's so easy to push you-time aside at the end of a long day full of work and school and other obligations. BUT if you can find the time, or better yet, MAKE the time to do something that you know will make you feel good, do it! By all means, do it, folks! :)

Anyway, check out Jessica's blog for some fantastic posts and this week's Smell the Roses:

Lovely Little Things
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Sunday, June 10

Sunday Soul Food

Well I'd call this a nice week. My plants are growing, my classes are more than half-over, and I've gotten to spend some good quality time with my favorite fella' {Scotty}. Highlights from the week:

My mail from the lovely and talented Emilie of Scarborough Food Fair arrived! Who the heck doesn't love getting snail mail that isn't bills or advertisements? I won a My Politic CD, and let me tell you folks, I am loving it. I had no idea "giveaways" were so big in blog land... But I'm sure glad they are! Also, my mom made me some super-yummy black bean salad on fajita night. She also gave me some gorgeous china that used to be hers & my dad's. I make it a rule to basically never turn down free stuff, ha. Jessica helped me host a garage sale, where we found these old "pok-e-balls" from a high school pranking streak. And today, Scotty and I went to the driving range! I'm awful, but boyfriend has got some skills... ;)

The only downside to this week is that summery weather means wearing far less layers, which in turn means you are reminded of all the yummy comfort foods you indulged in all winter long! All this means is that I've gotta eat lighter meals, cut calories, and hit the friggin' gym! Woo! So, here and now, I'm going to pick and chose some recipes I've been dying to try and commit {loosely} to making them this week. Some of them {most of them} are rather indulgent in themselves, so I'll need to lighten them up... But that's a task I can handle. Here we go:

Toasted Mediterranean Sandwich by Simply Scratch

Blueberry Coffee Cake in a Mug by Steph's Bite by Bite

Bangin' Grilled Shrimp Skewers by Skinnytaste

Roasted Chili Lime Chickpeas by Parsley Sage Rosemary & Thyme

Homemade Peanut Butter by Simply Scratch

Other things I want to make {from cookbooks or you know, my head}:
Rolls using fresh herbs
Trail Mix
Low-Cal Chocolate Cupcakes
Spaghetti Squash with Chunky Tomato Sauce

Yum yum yum... We'll see how this plan goes, and be sure to check out the blogs I've linked to. They're all friggin' fabulous, I swear!
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Wednesday, June 6

Apartment Gardening 101

Growing a garden when you live in an apartment? NO FREAKING PROBLEM!

As I mentioned before, my mom {read about her here} has a wicked garden. She's got trees, and flowers... Tons of herbs... Heads and heads of lettuce... Peppers upon peppers... even onions and eggplants! Most recently she planted raspberries, but much to my dismay they aren't supposed to be good for a year. A year! As if I can wait that long for fresh-from-the-garden berries... We used to have raspberry bushes when I was little, but my babysitter tore out all the plants. Though that's not what this post is about, and no buddy likes a rambling post!

So my momma's green thumbs had me green with envy, right? Right. ;) Only one problem: I just moved into an apartment. It's a pretty sizable apartment, don't get me wrong, but in addition to being an apartment, it's on the second floor. That means I have no ground. Essential for planting things, right? Right. But I could get pots! Because I have an enormous balcony that needs filling! Did you know you can grow like, anything in a pot? Well supposedly that's true, but for now I'm trying cherry tomatoes and five different herbs. But I want to grow everything!

Problem solved... I got pots! And to top it off, I made them sassy pots! Check out my post about painting them if you'd like the behind the scenes, easy DIY: {Adventures in Spray Paint}. And once I had my pots, my wonderfully loving mother donated a 40 pound bag of potting soil, some loose gravel, an extra trowel, and, of course, her time and expertise to my cause. Together, we hauled supplies up to my balcony and set out to do some planting! Oh, did I mention she bought the plants? She just up and bought them. Because she's fantastic, and I'm poor. I had every intention of buying them. I hear they're pretty cheap {especially considering how expensive fresh herbs are at the store}. But she beat me to it! Ugh, love her...

I decided to list out the steps we took, the tips she gave me, and you know, the basics! I know growing your own "stuff" is getting sort of trendy and hip, so I thought this could be helpful to fellow apartment dwellers like me, or even college students still trapped in the dorms. All you need is a sunlit place and some dirt-filled pots, really!


You will need:
a large planter with drip tray
a small tomato cage
small pots
potting soil
small rocks/loose gravel
a trowel
gardening gloves
plants, plants, and more plants!

Now, you may need different sized pots depending on the plants you choose. I planted 5 different herbs and a tomato plant. I used a large planter for the tomato plant and my parsley; the parsley was divided into 3 small parsley plants rather than one, so I could spread it out in the planter. Otherwise, I used pretty small pots for my remaining herbs (sweet basil, thyme, rosemary, and chives). Keep in mind that as far as your herbs are concerned, they are kind of like goldfish! By that I mean, they will grow to the size pot you plant them in. 

Let's start with your large planter: 

1. If your planter does not have drainage holes in the bottom, add some! This is not as complicated as it sounds, I promise. Just borrow a drill from some handsome man {if you don't have your own that is!} and use a drill bit to pop some holes in the bottom. I put 3 holes in the bottom of mine, about a half inch each {unfortunately I did this a while ago, and don't have photos of the process!}. Once you've got holes, place your planter in your drip tray; the drip tray will collect excess water for the plant to draw up when it's needed. 

2. Pour your gravel into the bottom of the planter. You want about an inch of gravel at the bottom to aid in drainage for the plant. 

3. Fill your planter with potting soil, almost completely. 

4. Use your trowel to "dig" out a deep hole in the center for your tomato plant. I say "dig" because you're really just pushing the soil to the sides to make way for the plant. 

5. Remove your tomato plant from the container it came in, and use your fingers or your trowel to gently squeeze or slightly break apart the soil and root "clump" at the base of the plant. 

6. Place your plant into the hole you've made, and add more potting soil around the base of the plant. You want to not only fill in the hole, but also cover the stem up to 2 -3 inches up. Don't worry if you cover up some small, under-developed branches -- it's all good! 

7. I used the same technique to "dig" out three smaller holes around the tomato plant for my little parsley plants. Again, I used the same technique to fill in the hole with dirt. 

8. When all your plants are in, top off the planter with more potting soil. The dirt will settle in the next couple days, so don't worry about putting in too much. You want to fill the planter within an inch or two of the top. 

9. Put your tomato cage around your plant, being careful to thread your plant's branches through the cage gently. 

Now on to the little guys!: 

**Worth noting: I was lucky enough to find little self-watering pots for under $2 each, but if your pots aren't self-watering, you'll want to follow steps 1 & 2 for the large planter before proceeding. Your small pots will likely only need 1 or 2 holes in the bottoms. 

1. Fill your planter will potting soil, about two-thirds of the way. 

Here I am, looking attractive in gardening gear
with a goofy double chin, filling my pots. 
2. Use your trowel to make a small hole in the middle for your plant. 

3. Use the same technique as above to lightly "break-up" the roots and dirt at the base of the plant. Then insert your plant into the hole you made in the soil. 

4. Use your trowel to fill in the rest of the pot with dirt. You want the soil to be within about a half-inch from the rim. 

When your plants are all securely planted in their sassy pots, water those babies!! You want to water them really well, so they get nice and homey in their new environments. Be sure to water the roots of the plant... To do that, focus on pouring water at the base of the plants -- not over the top of the plants or in the surrounding dirt. 

Now be sure your put your herbs in a sunny spot!! I actually wanted to put my pots in my kitchen, but unfortunately there's no sun in there... From what I understand, herbs need "as much sun as they can get." Like I wrote earlier, mine are on my balcony where they get plenty of morning sun. 

You can use your new fresh herbs whenever you'd like, and soon enough you'll be harvesting yummy tomatoes! Good luck and happy planting! 
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