Monday, March 28, 2011

Quick Goodwill Before and After

About a month ago, someone donated their owl tchotchke collection to Goodwill. I've had a little infatuation with owls even since seeing so many cute baby nurseries with owl themes. So I immediatly gravitated to the shelf with the owls on it. There were some ugly owls. Most of them were, actually. There was one that I considered buying, but it was a little one standing only about 4 inches tall. It was priced at $3. That was way too much for Goodwill and for something I was on the fence about. So I passed on it.

Then last week, Goodwill had a clearance table near the register. I had just walked in with a return and was standing in line eyeballing the table. I saw several of the same owls on it, all with mark-downs. I saw the owl I had wanted to buy as well. As soon as I made my return, I was going to grab it.

Then another shopper stopped to look at them and picked up MY owl!! I tried to communicate with her telepathically to put the owl down, but into her cart it went! No!!

When I got to the table, I saw that many had prices like 40 cents on them. Bummer. I missed a good deal.

Then I spotted this guy.

It's an 8 or 9 inch tall door stop, and ugly as h-e-double hockey sticks.

But as I've seen on numerous other blogs, a coat of white spray paint can do wonders. And I already have paint at home. With the price of $1.99, and in the words of Brandy and Monica, "the boy is mine".

I took him home and wiped him down(he had some dirty cobweb junk around the feet). Then about five minutes later(plus drying time) he looked like this:

His temporary home will be holding our hallway door open(even though the colors look TERRIBLE!)

He'll look much better on dark hardwood floors, or up on a shelf in our new house. I might even repaint him a bold color, but I just wanted to get it painted in the meantime.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chicken Enchilada Casserole(or Mexican Lasagna as I am calling it)

Tonight was yet another new recipe. Found, once again, in the Cooking Light archives. Chicken Enchilada Casserole was so yummy. It really has nothing to do with enchilada, has no enchilada sauce and no rolled up tortillas. So that's why I'm calling it Mexican Lasagna. But be forewarned, it takes some time and there are lots of steps.

I didn't realize how many steps were involved until I had already started making it and saw in Step 4 the word "blender" and my heart sank a little. Crap. We hand wash all our dishes, so I never get out anything other than a knife, cutting board, and mixing spoon. I don't like fancy contraptions with all those pieces parts.

My changes:
I used boiled chicken breasts instead of thighs because I had some in the freezer, and it's lower fat. So just cook some chicken any method you choose. Also, in using 3 breasts, I ended up with more meat than the recipes calls for and used a 9x13 dish. We like leftovers. I think it also made it a little drier.

I used a can of corn, which was probably more than a cup. Also, I added a can of black beans(Yes, it finally happened!! I like beans!!! And so does Matt!)

I didn't have(nor wanted to buy) salsa verde, so I just used salsa from the pantry.

I used flour tortillas because, again, that's what I had and I don't like the corn ones.

I used way more than 1/4 cup of cheese on top. Seriously?? Is that a misprint? 1/4 cup?? That's only one serving!!

...I think that's it.

We really enjoyed. Matt thought it was amazing. He loves Mexican. I love Italian. I knew he would like it.

I topped it with a dab of sour cream and a little more cilantro.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole


  • Cooking spray
  • 4 bone-in chicken thighs, skinned
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1/3 cup (3 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped onion, divided
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 1 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup salsa verde
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeño pepper
  • 9 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded sharp cheddar cheese


1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; sauté 4 minutes on each side. Place skillet in oven; bake at 425° for 10 minutes or until done. Remove chicken from pan; let stand 15 minutes. Remove meat from bones; shred. Discard bones. Place chicken in a medium bowl. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons cilantro, corn, and next 5 ingredients (through black pepper) to chicken; toss to combine.

3. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup onion; sauté 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 3 garlic cloves; sauté 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add onion mixture to chicken mixture; stir to combine.

4. Combine remaining 1 1/2 cups onion, remaining 3 garlic cloves, broth, salsa, 1/4 cup water, and jalapeño in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Carefully pour mixture into a blender/food processor; add 2 tablespoons cilantro. Process until smooth.

5. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tortillas; cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Remove tortillas from pan; repeat procedure with remaining tortillas. Cut tortillas into quarters.

6. Spread 1/2 cup salsa mixture in the bottom of an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 12 tortilla quarters over salsa mixture. Spoon half of chicken mixture over tortillas. Repeat layers, ending with tortillas. Pour remaining salsa mixture over tortillas; sprinkle evenly with cheddar cheese. Bake at 425° for 15 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned. Top with remaining cilantro.

Christmas Came Early for Matt

One day while we were on our way to our land, we drove by a house and saw a tractor and a gathering of other vehicles and people. Since Matt was driving, I got the better look and saw that they had a rope tied half way up this really huge tree and had already cut a wedge in the back side.

I told Matt they were cutting it down. And based on their equipment, the position of the rope, and the depth(lack of depth) of the wedge, Matt dropped me off at the land and headed back over to the tree people to watch them push a tree down on top of their cars, or house, or a person, because they clearly had no idea what they were doing.

By the time he got back, there was an arborist that had pulled over to watch too. The arborist helped them move the rope higher up the tree. The rope is to help control the tree as it starts to fall. The higher it is, the more leverage/control you have. Oh and by the way, we found out they were cutting it down because it had been struck by lightning and was dying.

Also this "wedge" they cut was only about 6 or 8 inches deep into a 4ft diameter tree- REALLY not going to do anything! Come on, even I know that and I've never cut a tree down.

The tree fell without any events and Matt called me to ask if he could have some of the wood. I said "For what?" And he said "For whatever. To split, for firewood, to have sawed into boards."

(ok we won't have a fireplace after we move, so who is all this wood for?)

Matt said he wanted it to split and he could give it away.

(He loves splitting wood. I think it makes him feel "old school" like the pioneers who built this country with no power tools.)

"Ok, fine."

The guy needed to get rid of it and we were right down the road. And BONUS! Matt got to use his skid steer to unload them!!(catch the sarcasm?)

So, the guy brought his trailer over and drove around the back of our house to unload them.

First the limbs:

Then the trunks:

Here, you can see how much the trailer flexed with weight of the stumps on them. In the previous photos, I watched in a sideshow and you could see the trailer flex, then flex back the other way as the stump fell off.

Matt tried to roll it.

It didn't move.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Follow Me! (and blog stats)

If you are reading this right now and are NOT one of the ten people who is already following my blog, go follow me RIGHT NOW!

I want to know who you are. I know you are out there. I know you read my posts. It's real easy. If you have a gmail or yahoo account, you can be a follower. So you really don't have any excuse, because everyone has a gmail or yahoo account.

I'd really like to know my audience. Yes, I can see how many "hits" each page gets, but it doesn't tell me who. I want this blog to grow. And it won't grow if I only have 10 followers. All that means is that you have subscribed to my blog. It might even let you choose to be alerted when there is an update.

So mosey on over to the right side of the screen and click the "Follow" button.

And while I'm at it, I really appreciate those of you who comment(which is mostly my besties Gita and Mariah). Even if you don't have anything important to say, it makes me excited to get comments. It's like getting a letter in the mail. Who doesn't like that? So, if you like something on here, tell me. If you try a recipe and have a comment, tell me. If you have any questions about a tutorial, or about our construction, ask me.

I will reply, but you won't get it sent to you unless you are a follower and you check the box "email me follow up comments". Otherwise, you will never see my reply unless you go looking for it on that post. I can respond at length to your comment if you are a follower because I can get your email from that. But only if you are a follower!

It's also totally weird and awesome to get comments from random strangers who find me from "blogland". We are our own community. We have to support each other. It's totally crazy to see that someone google search a topic and stumbled on my blog and they live in Germany, or Australia, or Japan! How cool!

Click on the above, or here's an enlargement of the countries:

By the way, I don't know anyone who lives in these countries, so that kinda crazy. Many times they find me by searching for tutorials or images of "cane chairs" or something else. That's my most hit blog post. When I was redoing that chair, I relied on google and other bloggers for help, so it kinda cool if I am helping someone else. I never commented on those blogs, but now I wish I had to let them know how helpful it was.

Here's a sample of what key words were searched to land on my blog. "Cane chair makeover" is number one. Strangely enough, "wes hare" was a search that lead to me, and that's my brother. Not sure how that happened. Maybe he knows. I don't think I've mentioned his name(and I don't call him Wes), or my maiden name. So that one is a mystery, but there is a connection there nonetheless. And the last one "Honda"....not sure about that one either.

I'm not a very mathematical person, but I am very visual, so I love these stats. I find it very interesting.

And there are PIE GRAPHS!

Windows still dominates the market(at least with my folks), but I love that I've seen Firefox grow in popularity. It's almost beat out Internet Explorer. It's about time. Internet Explorer is the suck. Completely. Firefox temporarily stores all your windows and tabs for when Windows freezes(yes, I admit it), and restores them all when it comes back on. You never lose a page you were reading.

So, if you actually read this whole post, you probably found the stats interesting too. And I hope you are my follower now.

Caramel Pork

I tried a new recipe last night. I know. Shocker. It only happens like every week. What can I say? I get bored with eating the same food, no matter how good.

I love the magazine Cooking Light. Check out their recipe index here. I don't have a subscription yet, so I go there, especially if I saw something good in it in the grocery check-out line while browsing. All of their recipes and all of Southern Living recipes and from other magazines are collaborated at I love how they provide the nutritional information(by the way, this one only has 300 calories). And the recipes from Cooking Light are usually...well...light. They also have video on how to make certain featured recipes which is helpful.

We love pork tenderloin because it's lean and tender and there are countless things to do with it. I try to stock up on a few when they are BOGO at Harris Teeter. That makes it fit any budget. Then, I trim the fat, wrap it in siran wrap(squeezing out the air) and place it in a freezer bag. Date it with a sharpie and freeze. Never freeze meat in the original packaging. That's a recipe for freezer burnt meat(not tasty).

Last night we had this(my veggies were not as pretty):

It's called Caramel Pork. You can click on that link for the original recipe. There is also a video.

I made a few changes. I took the suggestions of one commenter, that the pork got overcooked while waiting for the sauce to thicken. They suggested removing the pork when it was done, and then returning it to the pan when the sauce was ready.

I have most of the ingredients on hand all the time, except for some fresh stuff like ginger(yes, you need to buy fresh ginger. There is a huge difference in taste, as with herbs, except ginger keeps a lot longer). Don't skip the rice vinegar and lime either. Come on! This is where all the flavor is!

Some other changes:
I cut the pork up into large bite sizes, not giant pieces like in the video.
I only had regular brown sugar not dark.
I was not about to put anchovies in it.
Instead of peas in the rice, I made ginger carrots and green beans.

And after eating it, there is only one thing I would do differently: less red pepper. I'm a wimp, but it was a little too spicy for me. I had ground red pepper instead of crushed, so it might be more concentrated, but I didn't think I added a lot(I didn't measure).

Matt said he could smell the sauce cooking before he even came in the house. It smelled really good and the taste lived up to the smell. I will definitely be saving this one. It's a must repeat.


  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup uncooked sushi or short-grain rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 pound pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup chopped Vidalia or other sweet onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon bottled ground fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 canned anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced
  • 8 lime wedges


1. Combine 1 cup water, rice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes; remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes; gently stir in peas and vinegar.

2. Heat a medium skillet over high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add pork; sauté 5 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt.

3. Add onion and garlic; stir-fry 2 minutes. Stir in broth and next 5 ingredients (through anchovy); bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes or until slightly thick. Spoon 1/2 cup rice on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1/2 cup pork mixture. Serve with lime wedges.

Monday, March 14, 2011

This Is The Stuff

Why I reacted the way I did at Walmart that one day? I have no idea. Call it hormones. I think I contained my anger and frustration pretty well in the store, but I still hate the way I responded internally. I ruined my day. Completely.

A short time later, I was driving to Greensboro to visit a friend and I was listening to the radio. Francesca Battistelli's new song "This Is The Stuff" came on, and it was the first chance I'd had to listen to the lyrics. Here's a bit a of the chorus.

"This is the stuff that drives me crazy
This is the stuff that's getting to me lately
In the middle of my little mess
I forget how big I'm blessed
This is the stuff that gets under my skin
But I gotta trust You know exactly what You're doing
It might not be what I would choose
But this is the stuff You use...

...It's not the end of the world"

I needed to hear that.

I still disagree with their policy, but I didn't need to let it get to me like that. There are worse things.

Also, I'm trying to get more comfortable praying out loud in front of people. I get what I guess is performance anxiety and a total mental block. The words just don't come. Praying in front of people is not something I grew up doing, so I'm not yet comfortable with it. Then, a friend and pastor, Justin (shout out to The Wallace Family), suggested that I try praying out loud in the car when no one is there to hear except for God, to get used to hearing my voice out loud instead of just thoughts in my head.

I've tried it a few times, and I have to say it was really awkward to start speaking, breaking that silence. On this car ride to Greensboro, I tried it again, and ended up praying for over 20 minutes! It was awesome! If I keep it up, maybe I won't have to keep a cheat sheet when praying at my mentoring sessions. Haha, yes I kept a cheat sheet. I wonder if she could tell.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Walmart and I Are Friends Again

For my birthday, one of the things I picked out were these shoes from Lands End Canvas.

I knew it was a risk when they were ordered, because of my narrow feet. The straps might be too big and aren't very adjustable. So when I put them on, sure enough, the straps were way too loose. My heel could move all over the place, AND the piece between the toe hurt just to walk across the room. I can't imagine how it would feel after wearing them for a few hours. They had to be sent back. Too much money for uncomfortable shoes.

When it comes to shoes, I am ALL about comfort. I don't ever wear heels. And I usually buy shoes infrequently enough to pay for good quality shoes, so comfort is never an issue. I love my Merrells and my Rainbows, and also my NAOTs. And that's pretty much all I wear.

Then, when I was doing my usual shopping at Walmart, I stopped by the shoe section. I found these sandals for $10.

They also come in black. And believe it or not, they are way more comfortable than the $70 Lands End shoes. So...I got a pair.

And I found this new line of shoes called Earth Spirit for around $20, that are made from real leather and very well made. Unfortunately, most of the styles are not too nice looking for me personally. There was only one I kinda liked. The Magnolia shoe:

It seriously felt like a $100 shoe. For 20 bucks!! I didn't get it because it wasn't the style I was looking for and I have some kinda similar already, but HOLY COW, I didn't know Walmart had shoes like this!

A few months ago I got these, for $12, and while they are cheap as crap feeling, they are still comfortable. No support, but comfortable. I got them in black.

I used to be anti-Walmart when it came to clothing and shoes, but over the past year, I have found some of my favorite tops there. I love telling people it came from Walmart when I get compliments on them. They are always in disbelief. I'm a total Walmart convert. Sure, Target has really cute clothes, and it's easy to find something cute there, but where is the challenge in that? And Walmart is cheaper! So I guess what I'm saying is, give Walmart a chance. They CAN be an option when shopping for cute affordable clothes.

Walmart and Goodwill. That's where it's at.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Just Stop and Think

Borrowed from Whatever blog.

Stop & Think from Stop & Think on Vimeo.

Free Printer?

Along with our desk and desk chair upgrade, Matt and I were also looking for a new smaller printer. One that doesn't cost us $60 every six months on ink. Our printer was an Epson that I got in college to print photos on. Then I realized how expensive it is to print photos at home and how cheap it is to print at Walmart or Target.

I've had this printer about 5 or 6 years and early on in that time, I remember getting some letter about a law suit Epson was involved in about how when the ink is low, it won't let you print anymore even though there is still ink left. I ignored it at the time, but eventually(with Matt's help) we discovered just how deep this problem goes. Apparently, there is a counter in the printer that counts the pages that come out and THAT is how the printer determines when the ink is out. NOT what the actual ink levels are. So, even if all you print is black and white text(like us), you still "run out" of all the color ink every 6 months.

To prove this, Matt opened up the plastic ink cartridge and cut open the ink sack, revealing that it was still almost completely full of ink. There are free programs online that claim to override this counter, but we couldn't get them to work.

My objective was to sell the Epson for at least $50, so I could buy a new HP for $50(ink included) and not spend any money. It sold at auction on ebay for $50. I still had the original box, and lots of bubble wrap, so I packed it and off it went(to California, I think).

There were two HP printers I had my eye on at

-A top loader(meaning you insert the paper on the top/back of the printer)

-A front loader(where the paper goes in on the bottom/front)

Both were $50. The bottom loader wasn't in stock in the store so I bought the top loader. Then, I started thinking that the front loader would be better as far as space saving because there is no paper sticking out the top. We could shove it on a shelf or under a desk and would only need a few inches clearance to lift the scanner lid. It wasn't in stock so I ordered it online(97 cents ship to home. Awesome!)

When the second one arrived and I finally made a decision to keep the front loader, I took the first one back to the store. She scanned my receipt and told me they would have to give me store credit. Ok, fine. Who can't spend store credit at Walmart? Then, she told me the computer had flagged the item because it was past the 15 day return policy.


I did NOT know about this return policy!! I thought I had 90 days. It had be 18 days! She called her manager over the override the computer and give me credit. It didn't work. The computer wouldn't let her. I was angry. No, angry was an understatement. Nowhere on the receipt does it say I only had 15 days. Nobody told me when I bought it. Nowhere was is visible for me to see that day. How can they expect people to bring the item back if they don't even know what the policy is and everyone assumes is the 90 days that are printed on the receipt and on the large sign?

The manager said it's posted all over the electronic department. Really? Really? I went back there to see. I had to search for the sign. The ONE little, tiny sign that was hung WAY up high with about 6 paragraphs of TINY print that I had to walk up to and stand there and read all of it to figure out what the policy was.

Really? Really?

How many people 1. See the sign, 2. Go over to the sign, 3. Stop and read the sign, while they are shopping in the middle of Walmart?

As I made my grocery purchases that day, I saw the manager on my way out and it took every fiber of my being to NOT go chew her out about it. I know it wasn't her fault, but no reasonable person would see the return policy sign. They could do a better job of making that information available when people buy electronics. I didn't even check out back there because I had so much other stuff in my cart. All I'm saying is, make it more visible, or have it print on the receipt when you buy an electronic. It's like they didn't even try. I'm just glad I only lost $50, not $500 on a TV or something.

*Update* A week later my dad bought it from me because he was looking for a new printer and this ended up being cheaper than the one he was looking at.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Clean Up

Two weekends ago, Matt and I took advantage of the temporary(or what we thought was temporary) spring-like temperatures to start the clean up of all the construction trash that had piled up over the past few months. It's two giant piles of scrap lumber, packaging plastic and styrofoam, shingles, trim scraps, and hardiplank siding scraps, and lunch/food wrappers from the workers. I don't have a picture of the piles, but you can see it in the picture below(click to enlarge). There is a second smaller pile behind the truck.

Even though we have access to a dump truck, the dump doesn't let you dump for free and we were pretty sure that they charge even more for construction trash. So we thought of how we could work around that. The city doesn't let you pile up construction trash at the curb, but they wouldn't know it was construction trash if we could fit it in our can. So, we carried our curbside can from Charlotte to Stanley to fill up.

Of course, we knew it wouldn't all fit, so we sorted it in to piles.
1. Good lumber to save.
2. Lumber to burn(most full of nails or messed up in some way).
3. Trash.
After sorting out all the lumber, most of the rest fit in the trash can.

We filled up our flatbed trailer with lumber to save. It was a lot, but it could come in handy after we move in and need indoor and outdoor storage. We will have the lumber(which we paid a pretty penny for) to make shelves and bins and benches and whatever else we need.

One of my jobs was to take a magnet and pick up all the nails around the house. It was a lot. We picked up this magnet on a stick that made just for picking up nails, so you don't have to bend down to much. Looks kinda like this but without wheels:

I built a fire and started throwing the burn pile on. It turned into quite a big fire and it was windy and dry. But don't worry, I had the water hose nearby and I wet the ground pretty good. And it's inside a fire ring...I promise. You just can't see it because the flaming boards are hanging outside of it.

Oooh, pretty...

Enjoy this little action sequence:

The other thing we did that day was to pull up the boards that molded the concrete slab floor, and push gravel up to it so you can actually drive a car into the garage. You can see the board in the picture below.

It was so wedged in there that the only way to get it up was to use the skid steer(a type of tractor) to bite one of the 2x4's sticking up and use the skid steer to pull it out of the ground. Worked like a charm. We used the skid steer in about 5 different ways that day. We own half of it(I think) and Matt's parents own half. It's the last tractor they bought and we all can't believe we went so many years without it. It is the most useful tool EVER! We use it for everything! Need that boulder picked up? No problem. Need that 5 tons of dirt moved? No problem. Is that wood stove in your way? No problem. Here she is below in a photo that's completely irrelevant to this post.

We already had the gravel, which was leftover from something else. Using a skid steer to push it around sure beats a shovel and wheel barrow. After all our hard work, here's what it's looking like these days. Still one baby trash pile, but we'll get to it. The opened windows? That's for chucking 2x4's out of them because there were too many to carry up and down the stairs.


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