I’m in love with upcycling, furniture makeovers and chalk paint!

Our neighbor came over one day and asked to borrow an axe.  Because he is not the wood splitting type, I had to inquire.  He informed me that he was going to chop down a large corner unit because they no longer wanted it.  Of course I had to have it. After deciding where it was going to go, the makeover comensed. 

  

 
After stripping off the doors, hardware, glass inserts and embellishments, it was ready for transformation. 

 
 
I painted it with Annie Sloan old white chalk paint, then coated it with dark wax to give it the antique look.  I wanted to match the sides with another piece I have so I found metal decorative sheets on Amazon and cut them to fit the sides. (With plenty left over for other projects) 
 
Did I mention it has a light? 

  
I decided I did not like the antiquing inside so I repainted it white. 

     

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Buying a new home. Where do we begin?

Home-Is-Where-Inspirational-Life-QuotesAs we begin to prepare our home to sell, we are also looking for a place to move.  This is such a big decision.  After looking at listings and walking through a handful of properties, we have narrowed it down to what we want in a home.  Location, is number one on our list of importance.  We wish to be within a reasonably drive time from our jobs.  This is especially true for me, as some days after working a 12 (or more) hour shift, I am exhausted and do not want to drive a long distance to get home.  After deciding on location we listed everything we wanted or desired and then narrowed it down to top five.  We  decided in addition to location, we definitely want more land to garden and raise chickens as well as add fruit trees.  We also desired a first floor master bedroom and a basement.  Our final list:  Location, More Land, First Floor Bedroom and Basement. Other things that would be considered a bonus or in our “wish column” were pole barn, updated kitchen, sunroom, geothermal heating/cooling and extra living space for guests, or parents.  All this is great, however, we left out the most important factor and that is price.  What are we comfortable with for monthly payments?  Sure we could have everything on our list, including the wants and wishes, however, we are not willing to live, work and breathe only for our home.  We sat down and figured what we would be comfortable with  as our monthly payments and went from there. Because we were pretty specific on a few things like drive time/distance from work, amount of land and first floor  master bedroom, we were able to narrow our focus.  We quickly learned that if we wanted over six acres, we needed to move much further north and that is just not an option at this time.  We want the farm life, near the city  and for the right price, therefore, only a handful of properties met that criteria. After spending almost a year looking  at homes and walking through several, I finally clicked on a little gem listed on Realtor.com.  It was in the right location, had a first floor master bedroom, a little sunroom and unfinished loft above the garage.  This is it I thought! We finally found our little slice of earth!  The house sits on three acres and is within walking distance of two apple orchards. There are no outlets or entrances/exits to other subdivisions so it should be fairly quiet.  The street is full of apple trees, deer, and adorable homes, none of which look like the other, which is a big plus for me.  The house has amazing charm and although it needs some TLC, we love it and within our budget.   We did our homework as to what needed to be done for updates, calculated the cost and had our Realtor put in our offer based on that.  We were elated when it was accepted and cannot wait to get started.  Now, we just have to sell our current home!

Checklist and Highlights of what is important when considering a home: 

  • Monthly payments – What are you comfortable paying? Figure out your payment and work from there. Do not forget about insurance, property taxes and any association fees.
  • Location – Decide where you want to live – how far are you willing to drive to work, shopping etc? Look at surrounding areas.  Are there Streams? Lakes? Dumps? (we looked at a home and then found it was less than a mile from a large sanitation facility)
  • Wish List – Make a list of what you cannot live without and what you desire and decide on your top three.  What are your lifestyle needs?  Are you a runner? Biker? Shopper?  Does this location offer those things to you?
  • Renovation Budget – Figure out what you need to spend to make it “your home” and negotiate that off the price.  We knew from the start the well/septic was old, as were the windows, furnace, appliances, etc.
  • Realtor – Find a good Realtor, if you are going to use one.  Ask around for referrals and interview them! This is one of the most important financial decisions in your lifetime.  You want someone that is going to make you feel at ease and take good care of you.  Major amounts of money is being spent and made here, and you should be completely comfortable with the entire process. A good Realtor can make this a great experience as a bad one can make it a nightmare.

Most of all, have fun and enjoy the journey! Remember, in the end, it is not the structure that makes the home, it is the people and love that fills it!  

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And so it begins. Prepping the house to sell.

Moving! One of the top stressors in life, right up there with divorce we are told.  After a long time of contemplating, we have decided to go for it and take our passions of backyard farming on to the next level.  We love our home and have the most incredible neighbors; however, we just do not have the space (or city ordinances) to fulfill our desire to be more self sustaining.  We met with our Realtor (which happens to be a friend) and she informed us to remove all clutter, all closet floors should be empty and to have minimal items in each room.  I get it but wow, what a task.  For the last few days I feel I have packed up half the house when in reality it does not look like I have done anything.  This is going to take awhile.  In a way it is somewhat liberating as I remove clutter.  Because I am not sure what I may need in the new home and I am a secret “organized packrat”, I am just packing things up for now with the intention of reducing when we move.

I found a great checklist from a Forbes magazine article that we are going to use as a guide.  If all goes well we should be able to list it within a week or two.  (Fingers crossed)

21 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Selling

  1. Clean, clean, clean. Dust on top of the fireplace mantle and fan blades, polish your appliances and faucets, and give the windows a thorough washing. If you’ve already moved out or if you’re too busy to stay on top of things, consider hiring a cleaning service to stop by every couple of weeks.
  2. Pay attention to smells. “Don’t cook bacon in your home the day of a showing,” advises Rachel Weinberg, a broker at Wright Kingdom Real Estate in Boulder, Colorado. “Although it might taste great, the smell is strong and lingers for a long time. You don’t want your home to smell like a fast food restaurant!”
  3. Clear out the clutter. You want buyers to focus on how awesome your space is, not how messy it looks. Banish those piles of shoes from the entry, that stack of mail from the kitchen table and anything else that detracts from your home’s gorgeous features.
  4. Repaint the walls neutral colors. As much as you love your dramatic red dining room, it could turn off a good portion of your buyers. So repaint your rooms in neutral tones like tans and whites that allow buyers to focus on the spaces themselves, not the color of the walls.
  5. Keep the décor simple. To help buyers imagine themselves in your space, get rid of any art or other décor that might turn off people with different tastes. A classic landscape painting? Totally fine. Your zebra print leather couch? Might want to slipcover that for showings.
  6. Get rid of personal items. Buyers want to be able to envision themselves in your home, so remove anything overly personal, like family photos in the hallway or your kids’ artwork on the fridge.
  7. Let there be light! Open up all the windows to let in natural light and add floor or table lamps to areas that are dim. A bright, cheery room looks bigger and more inviting.
  8. Bring nature inside. Potted plants or a few pretty buds in a vase can help bring energy into a space, fill in empty corners and even draw attention to features you want buyers to notice. Just make sure the plants are in good health (and bug-free!).
  9. Get rid of bulky furniture. Your furniture should fit the scale of the room, so get rid of any extra or oversized items that could make your space look smaller than it really is.
  10. Organize your closets. Storage space is a huge selling point, and if your closets are stuffed to the brim, buyers will think you don’t have enough of it. Invest in some boxes, dividers and other solutions that will help you make your stuff look more organized, and remove extra items you don’t need immediately (you can stow them away until you move).
  11. Tackle that honey-do list. All those little things you’ve been meaning to do but never got around to? Buyers will notice them, and they’ll detract from the value of your home. So set aside a weekend to tighten those loose doorknobs, fix that leaky faucet and paint over the scuffs from when you first moved in your sofa.
  12. Do a faux “renovation.” Little tweaks can make a big difference in the overall feel of a room. Kitchen a little outdated? Replace the fixtures, faucets and hinges. Family room furniture beaten up? Throw some slipcovers over it.
  13. Give each room a purpose. That spare room you’ve been using as an office / guest room /dumping ground won’t help sell your home unless you show buyers how they can use it themselves. So pick a use (office, guest room, crafts room) and clearly stage the space to showcase that purpose.
  14. Turn the bathroom into a spa. Create the feel of a relaxing, luxurious bath — for less than $30. Stack a few pretty washcloths tied with ribbon, add some scented candles and faux plants, and buy bathmats and towels in coordinating tones such as light green, blue and white.
  15. Close the toilet! When it comes to both showing and photographing your home, this little trick can make a surprising difference.
  16. Turn the living room into conversation central. Help buyers picture themselves relaxing with family and guests by grouping your furniture into arrangements that inspire conversation.
  17. Keep the flow going. The last thing you want is people bumping into furniture as they tour your home; it disrupts their focus and makes your space look cramped. Do a dry run as though you’re seeing your home for the first time and tweak anything that interrupts the “flow.”
  18. Make something yummy. Realtors don’t put out fresh cookies at open houses just to treat buyers; a “homey” smell like baking cookies or bread can help people connect with a kitchen. Not a baker? Fake it with a scented candle.
  19. Make it look “lived in” with vignettes. Help your buyers see themselves in your home by adding deliberate vignettes that showcase how your home can be lived in. An inviting armchair and a tray with a coffee cup and book can turn that empty corner into a reading nook. Pretty soaps in a decorative tray can make your tiny half-bath more appealing.
  20. Highlight focal points. Draw buyers’ eyes towards any special features with bright colors or accents like plants. A pop of red throw pillows can draw a buyer’s attention to that lovely window seat. A striking fern on the mantle can show off your fireplace.
  21. Boost the curb appeal. Don’t spend all your time indoors. More than one buyer has decided not to even enter a home based on its curb appeal, so make sure your home’s exterior looks excellent. Trim your shrubs, weed your flower beds, fix any peeling paint and keep the walkway clear. Just adding a row of potted plants along the walkway or a cheerful wreath to your front door can make a big difference.

The final tip is a critical one, says Young. If her clients are on a tight budget, she’ll recommend that they at least spruce-up the front entrance. That first impression, she says, goes a long way.

Kimberly Ehardt, a firefighter in Austin, Texas, agrees. She’s in the process of shopping for her first home, and she says she spends a lot of time viewing houses from the outside.

She and her agent will often meet at a house (rather than drive there together), she says. If she reaches the property before her agent arrives, she’s left standing outside for several minutes — with nothing else to do but scrutinize the exterior.

“Before I go inside the house,” she says, “I have a strong feeling about it.”

Here is the link to the actual article:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/trulia/2014/06/13/21-ways-to-prepare-your-home-for-selling/

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Backyard Chickens and Winters in the Midwest

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We have had our chickens for a few years now and they have done well during the colder months.  This year the temperature is going to be colder than normal so I make sure to protect my girls. Here is a list of 10 things that we implement during the colder weather.

1.  We keep a heat lamp on during the day in the run so they have a place to get some warmth if they want.  We time it to go on at dawn and to go off a bit before dusk so they can acclimate to the temperature and go roost in their coop. We made sure to measure the temperature to keep it several degrees above the outside temperature.  This is because you do not want to make it toasty as chickens will not do well with a sudden drop in temperature like you would get with a power outage or turning off the light.  We have a spot under the coop where the light sits up a couple feet.  We monitor the temperature to be sure it does not get too warm.  That area is also surrounded with plastic sheeting to keep out drafts.  Our coop is also draft proof and we keep it quite full of pine shavings so at the end of the day they do not mind going in to roost.

2.  We use deep liter method which provides additional heat. Deep liter method is where you keep adding layers of pine shavings (in our case) on top of the old ones creating a deep base.  By the end of January, the base is well over a foot deep.

3.  We keep a regular watt bulb in the coop for added heat when the coop is closed up and girls are inside for the night.   We typically leave this on for 14 hours a day when temperature is below 10.  We do not keep it on all night as that potentially stresses them out.

4.  Chickens have natural body temperature of approximately 106 degrees fahrenheit and actually prefer cold to warm, however, when the temps dip into wind chills below 0, I make sure to keep a constant eye on them. Their waddles, crowns and legs/feet are most susceptible to the cold.

5.  We cover the run with plastic sheeting to keep out wind, chills and drafts.

6.  We close the coop door at night to provide added warmth.

7.  Some people coat their crowns and waddles with Vaseline to protect from frost bite.  I did this one time, however, feel that it is not necessary.

8.  Have fresh water at all times; we use a heater base to keep the water from freezing. I know people who constantly change the water to keep it from freezing.  You could also put on a heat lamp over the water to keep it thawed or even a heater you would use in an aquarium.

9.  Feed them extra corn and scratch which helps them to build extra fat/layer for warmth.

10.  Finally, be sure to check often for eggs as they will freeze quite easily if left out in the cold.

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Avocados, my favorite fruit.

avocados

For years the avocado was given a bad wrap.  I used to believe the lies about how fattening they were and how they will “raise” your cholesterol.  Nonsense.  I have learned that anything in its whole food form cannot possible be bad for you, especially when eaten in moderation.   This food is not only one of the most nutritious, it is extremely versatile and many people would benefit from adding this fruit into their daily menus.

Avocados are one of my favorite fruits to eat alone as well as to use in baking.  Although there are hundreds of varieties of avocados, only seven are grown commercially in California with Haas being the most common. (And the one you see the most in stores) Avocados are not only nutritious; they have the amazing ability to replace butter, shortening, eggs and heavy cream in baking recipes.  Avocados also make deliciously creamy soups, salad dressings, smoothies and even ice cream.

The texture of avocados is soft and creamy, just like butter.  Usually, one cup of avocado can be substituted for one cup of butter or two tablespoons for one egg.  Avocados do not melt like butter so you may have to increase or add liquid to the recipe to give it the same melted texture (I like using coconut milk).  A serving size of three and a half ounce of avocados contains nearly 15 grams of fat, while the same size serving of butter contains 81 grams, which is mostly saturated and unhealthy.

I have found that using avocado in baking cake like recipes makes the center rise up higher than with eggs.  Also, the edges of whatever you are baking will become brown before the middle is done so you must monitor the process until you master your oven.  This takes some practice; however, usually  lowering the temperature  about 25 percent does the trick.  I also use a convection oven which seems to produce better results than conventional.  Also, anything you use avocado in will take on a green hue, even after baked which is not usually a problem as long as you let people know its not a Shrek thing.

Avocados are “nutrient dense”, meaning they are packed full of nutritional benefits.  They contain vitamins, minerals and good fats as well as being sodium and cholesterol free.  Yes, they are high in calories but that is why they are called “dense”, you only need a small amount to get a large amount of benefits. They are also great for children and infants as many Pediatricians recommend using them.  I personally eat them raw with just a little bit of salt on them.  I love them sliced in salads and on soups.

Here is a great recipe adapted from Cuisine Paradise:

Avocado - chicken parm

http://ellenaguan.blogspot.com/2011/11/avocado-chicken-parmigiana.html

I replaced the breadcrumbs with 1/2 cup almond meal and 1/2 cup parmesan to make it low carb and I either eat this by itself or with a side of spaghetti squash.

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Vegetarian? Vegan? Ovo? Lacto? Whaaaaa??

chicks ruleBeen there, done that!  Over the last ten years, I have been a pescatarian, vegetarian, vegan, and raw foodist.  It all started when someone sent me video footage of behind the scenes animal farms, a movie similar to this is Earthlings.  I was stunned (still am) to learn how animals are treated just for us to eat.

Over the course of time I developed Anemia and continuously fought with the doc about eating meat, insisting that we did not need it.  I took multiple nutrition courses and learned everything I could about plant based diets and creating a complete protein, however, I could not shake the anemic state.  Reluctantly, I agreed to add meat for a “trial” basis of three months and when I received my lab results, I have to admit I was surprised.  For the first time in years, all my numbers were within normal range.  It was a bittersweet moment.

Although I now eat meat, I use it as a condiment and not a meal and my sources are always local, free range, organic and good quality.  When you eat meat as a condiment or a compliment to a dish, the higher sticker price is not as much of a issue.  We also raise our own chickens for their eggs so I am confident those come from a good source.

So what do all the titles mean?  What are the differences in Vegetarians, Vegans, Ovo, Lacto, Pescetarian?  My simple definition and experience with each.

Vegetarians – At one point in history, this word would have represented what a Vegan is today.  Typically, this person would not consume “anything with a mother” or I have also heard people say “anything with eyes”.  Currently, this term encompasses a multitude of meat eating definitions.  Even though there are several different versions of vegetarians, many will just call themselves this to let others know, they do not eat meat (by their definition).  However, they may eat eggs, dairy, fish, or consume a soup with a chicken/beef base.  Some people call themselves vegetarians if they cut out red meat, yet still eat chicken, turkey, fish, etc.  I have also known people to call themselves vegetarian if they fast from meat once a week.  So you see, this term has become a sort of catch-all for many versions.  I find it best to just ask what they do eat if you are preparing a meal for them.  Recently, I was eating with some friends, many of whom claim to be vegetarian.   Here were their orders; chicken based soup, salmon salad, veggie 3-egg omelet, eggplant parmesan and a pizza.  I had to chuckle.

Pescetarians – The word “pesce” comes from the Italian word, fish. Some variations of the word/term are Pescetarians, Pescatarians and Pescevegetarianism. Pescatarians typically refrain from all animals that do not live in water.  They will eat fish, lobster, shrimp, oysters, etc and follow a diet very similar to the Mediterranean diet.  People debate that Pescetarians are not “Vegetarians”, however, those that follow this lifestyle say that fish are not “warm blooded animals” and do not feel pain so it is a humane choice.  This has been an ongoing debate among Vegans and Pescetarians and a most recent study found that fish do not feel pain http://www.weather.com/news/fish-feelings-20130114.  This debate/discussion will continue on throughout my lifetime I am sure.  When I agreed with my doc to add in “meat”, I did this first as I convinced myself they did not feel pain and after all Jesus fed a crowd of fish so it must be okay.

Flexitarian/Semi-vegetarian – “Flexitarian” is a term recently used to describe those who eat a mostly vegetarian diet, but occasionally eat meat. Meatless Mondays has become very popular and many people consider themselves a flexitarian when practicing this ritual.  Personally, I now feel if you consume anything from an animal (red meat, chicken, fish, turkey, eggs, cheese, etc), you simply are not a vegetarian.

Lacto-vegetarian – No eggs, but does consume dairy products such as butter, cheese, yogurt, etc.

lacto-ovo vegetarian – lacto = dairy, ovo = eggs.  This person consumes egg and dairy products.

Ovo-Vegetarian – Refers to people who do not eat dairy products, but do eat eggs.

Vegan – Vegans do not only abstain from consuming organ meat of any kind, they do not use anything that comes from any living creature as well, including honey and gelatin.  They typically will not wear or purchase anything that is produced from living creatures such as clothing, belts, shoes, purses, etc. Vegans are usually very concerned with environmental issues and often associated with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)

Raw Vegan – Will only eat unprocessed “non animal” foods that have not been heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius).  To maintain this lifestyle requires an enormous amount of time if you like to create meals/dishes.

Many people are truly unaware of where their food comes from.  Many do not care or are not interested in  knowing.  As a nurse, I am acutely aware of how eating and health are intertwined and hope that others will realize this as well.  Local, farm raised, open range, grass fed is best of course, however, that is not always an option.  Many stores are now offering organic, free range meat at reasonable prices so as more consumers demand this quality, the more they will provide.

 

 

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Homemade Horseradish

If you have ever grown horseradish in your garden, you know how truly invasive this plant is.  For those of you who are unaware, this is one of those plants you cannot destroy.  It will faithfully show up year after year and continue to spread.  We personally love the taste of horseradish on everything, especially combined with some roasted garlic, whipped up as a spread.  Heavenly!

  • To grow?  Get yourself a horseradish root from a neighbor, farmer or gardener.  Plant it, it is that easy.
  • Dig up a few roots, (they can be deep or long).  If you do not dig up the entire root, it will come back.
  • Wash, peel and slice into 1-2 inch pieces (like you would carrots).
  • Typically we use a cup or one and a half cup of roots per batch.  Add your horseradish pieces to a food processor and then add 2-3 tablespoon of white vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and process until you reach the consistency you desire.  WARNING:  when you remove the lid from the processor it is best to keep your face away as the aroma WILL take your breath away momentarily.  (yes I know this by experience) .
  • Store in an airtight jar for 2-3 weeks.

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Soil block makers for starting seeds

These are fairly easy to use and kid friendly.  We used seed starter soil and moistened it pretty thoroughly. Using a large plastic tub, simply press the soil block maker into the mix so that it is packed in each compartment.  Sometimes I use my hands to further pack them into the the individual compartments of the maker.  Place the unit onto your tray and pop out the squares using the handle; it is that easy.  They are perfect little squares with a small hole for the seed.  You do not really have to cover the seeds as the soil is moist and the seed is far enough that it is able to germinate.

You must be diligent about keeping the blocks evenly moist as they can dry out fairly quick.  We keep our seedlings on warming mats so they are quicker to lose moisture.  Things we found:

  • It is best to keep the blocks as close together as possible to help retain moisture.
  • If you are not able to daily monitor the moisture, it is best to repot the blocks into a small container to be sure it does not dry out.
  • The company makes larger blocks that you can easily pop the smaller ones into for continued growth.
  • These are very economical and fun to use with children.

 

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