Friday, September 12, 2014

Get up! It's GameDay!

Friday you little stinker, I’ve been looking all week for you! 

We are closing out our third week of school here and if the first three have been any indication of how the next 34 will go…well, I’m going to have to buy a bigger coffee mug.  Last school year seemed to FLY by.  Everyone said it; teachers, kids, parents, but now this year everyone is saying how they just seem…busier, how life just seems chaotic.  Is it summer yet?


I’m a tad more excited for this weekend than usual, though.  If you live anywhere near North Dakota, or if you watch ESPN, or if you have a husband who hogs the TV from the moment he gets home and constantly flips between ESPN and football you may have seen that College GameDay is coming to Fargo…again…for the 2nd year…consecutively.  GO BISON!

One of our three major colleges (and undoubtedly the best…sorry I’m not sorry…it’s in my blood) here is North Dakota State University; NDSU- home of the Bison.  Pronounced B-I-Z-U-N. Don’t get that wrong…we’ve tipped people’s cows for less.  

In Fargo, North Dakota we do three things really well: farming, friendliness, and Bison football.  You’ll be hard-pressed to find more devoted fans than those of us cheering for the Green and Gold…and no, we’re not talking Packers here…yuck.  We are back-to-back-to-back National Champions and have started to turn some serious heads in the football world.  

The whole production rolled into town earlier this week and in true Fargo fashion, the town welcomed them with signs, cheers, and painted faces while flanking Broadway leading the parade of trucks and busses to their destination in downtown Fargo.

The hubster and I didn’t go back to Fargo last year to head downtown for the whole shebang and while we had a lot of fun watching it here at home with friends, I always kind of regretted not going.  BUT in an amazing twist of fate, GameDay is back this year and by golly I’m not gonna miss it this time.  I’m a bit bummed that Joe can’t come with as he’s got a bachelor party this weekend.  I’m sure he’ll just be having no fun at all with his buddies…right. 


A group of us are meeting at a buddy’s house at 5:30 Saturday morning (we’ll see if I make it there that early) for breakfast and Bailey’s and then are going to head downtown for the filming of GameDay.  After that’s all done we will head over to tailgating which is a BLAST and then somewhere to watch the game.  Alas, we don’t have tickets to get into the actual game (they’re like finding the Golden Ticket, and if you find one you’ll be paying for it as if it were actual gold) but the town will be such a buzz the whole day that we’ll have plenty of fun outside the game.

I hope you all have a fun weekend…even though I know I’m going to be having more fun than you ;)


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Do You Wanna Salsa?

This was the first summer that Joe and I had been in a place where we could grow an actual legit garden.  And there just so happened to be a nice garden plot along the back of our property.  It’s a fairly large plot coming in at 20’ by 12’ which I, in all my unknowing naivety before this whole process started, thought “Well we could fit a few tomato plants, some beans and peas, a few pepper plants, and maybe some corn…it’s not HUGE”.  I’m not sure what I was judging this against I mean, ya, against a football field you’re right Amanda, it’s not huge but in beginning gardener terms…well, you’ll see.

I started two different types of tomatoes, jalapenos, and sweet peppers in the house when it was still cool outside.  I was such a nerd about it too because everyday I would come home and check them, talk to them, take pictures of them and become ridiculously discouraged when they weren’t five inches tall after the first week.  Honestly, Amanda.  Patience has never really been a strong point for me…I’m working on it.
This is only half of it...

As you can see in these pictures we just had no clue.  Remember when I said that I thought the garden wasn’t huge?  Then why, you may ask, did I plant enough tomato plants to supply tomatoes for the entire city?... and for that I have no answer.  Having never grown tomatoes before we had no idea how many tomatoes come for one plant.  All of this is even greater because neither of us REALLY like tomatoes.  Ketchup…yup.  Salsa…you bet!  But we aren’t the type of people that slice one up and just chow down.  I give it the old college try every once in awhile but I never like it.

We had been told about this really great greenhouse that’s just about 20 minutes from us so we headed there to pick up a few other veggies for the garden and some flowers for around the house.  I was having so much fun walking through all the buildings with hundreds of different plants that we picked up quite a few additions for our garden.  After all was said and done, between the greenhouse and some other seeds we had picked up, these are what ended up being planted:

·         Big boy tomatoes
·         Roma tomatoes
·         Beans
·         Peas
·         Cucumbers
·         Broccoli
·         Jalapenos
·         Green peppers
·         Sweet peppers
·         Celery
·         Red onions
·         Walla-Walla onions
·         Potatoes
·         Carrots
·         Lettuce
      ·         Watermelon
·         Cantaloupe

It snowballed quickly.  Oops.  I planted everything and sat back and admired my cute little seedlings poking up against the bare black dirt and waited for everything else to pop up.  That patience thing again…ugh.   Then it happened.  The gorgeous trees along our property that totally sold us on the place started dropping acorns and all sorts of seeds and in the matter of 2 weeks the entire garden was covered in little plants…but not the ones I had planted…the ones Mother Nature had. 

Weeds.  Weeds.  WEEDS.  Holy Hannah it was awful.  I spent so much time out in that garden throughout the summer pulling more tiny trees than I care to talk about but it started to get out of hand. Then we left for vacation and when we got home we had our own jungle in the backyard.  By this point in time all of MY plants were starting to produce tiny little veggies so I said “Screw it”, let the weeds go, and just hoped that my mother-in-law wouldn’t label me a complete and total failure when she saw it.  Her garden is a scene to behold…it’s gorgeous.

But, no matter how ugly it may have looked out there, our garden still gave us an awesome crop!  This is only a sliver of what came out of it and there are still a lot of plants still producing out there as I type.

So, what does one do when one has an over abundance of veggies?  Make salsa!!  Joe’s parents, his brother and his brother’s girlfriend came to visit us over Labor Day and while the boys worked on the man cave, the ladies made salsa.  I have never made salsa or canned ANYTHING so I was stoked to learn how from his mother.

The process went a little something like this.  Recipe follows.

·         Slice up tomatoes into 1-2 inch cubes. (We didn’t remove the skins, they pretty much cooked away).

·         Dice peppers, onions, and celery.  I used my little Ninja Chop that I got for the wedding and if you don’t have one go get one RIGHT NOW, I’ll wait.  You need it, I promise.

·         Dump all the veggies, vinegar, sugar, salt, garlic, and seasoning into a big pot and cook on low-medium heat for 2 hours, stirring frequently.

·         When those 2 hours are up stir in tomato paste and cook for 15 minutes 

(While that last step is cooking, place your jars in a hot water bath in the sink.)

      ·         I don’t own a big canning pot so in my next biggest pot we boiled an inch or two of water.  When the last 15 minutes of cooking time was done we placed 4 of the hot jars into the boiling pot of water.  (This is where the hot water bath comes into play so your jars don’t crack when placed into the boiling water)

·         Fill each jar about an inch from the top and wipe off any salsa that may have spilled on the jar. 

·         Screw each lid on just enough so you are able to lift it out of the pot and tighten when on the counter.

·         After you have tightened the lid, do NOT TOUCH the jars until they have sealed; you’ll see the buttons have popped down on the top of the lids.  You’ll also hear them ‘pop’ over the next 30-45 minutes.

This part was really hard for Joe as he has to touch and smell EVERYTHING.  I had to smack his fingers a few times to keep him from poking the tops.  Pushing the tops before they have sealed can create a false seal causing your food to go bad over time.

I made two double batches and it made 24 jars so one batch of this recipe will make about 6-7 pint jars.  The whole process was actually MUCH easier than I had anticipated and from start to finish only took about 3.5 hours.  This is seriously a case of “If I can do it, anyone can do it”. No excuses of no time, it’s too hard, or you’re scared of the jars exploding (Trista...).   

Only problem now is we have 24 jars of salsa with enough veggies to make at least another 3 batches.  That’s a lotta salsa, people. It’s a good thing Costco sells 3lb bags of tortilla chips.

On the other hand, at least I’ve got stocking stuffers outta the way now. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Tiling and Mastic and Grout...Oh My!

Time flies when you're having fun!  We've been so busy with friends, and events, and building, and trying not to screw up every DIY project I try that I haven't been here in awhile.

Although it's been a couple weeks since I wrote about a project (find the last one here) doesn't mean we haven't been busy beavers workin away on some others.  We've got quite a few projects in the works but this one happened the other weekend!

Subway tiles, ya'll!

We had tossed around a lot of ideas for the backsplash some of which being tin tiles, cracked glass looking tiles, stainless steel, etc. etc. etc.  But after perusing Pinterest a while back I came across white subway tiles with dark grout and it was love-at-first-pin.  (Can I just take a second here and ask how much your quality of life improved once you discovered the fantastic-ness that is Pinterest?? Unending posts that make you want to workout, bake a cake, organize every drawer in your home, and build a  table out of pallets all at once! YES!)

  • 3 boxes of 3x6 white subway tiles
  • mastic
  • unsanded charcoal grey grout
  • grout float
  • v-notch trowel
  • grout sponge
  • 2 buckets for washing away grout
  • 3 ft. long stick for anchor
  • 1 bag of 1/8 inch spacers

The process started with Hubster screwing a long board to the wall to act as an anchor for the tiles that were behind the stove.  This ensured that the tiles wouldn't start to slide down the wall as the mastic was drying.  He put it just low enough for one row to run beneath the counter.  I didn't want the bottom of the tiles to be really visible when you looked at the stove.

I was all gung-ho about this whole thing until it actually came down to start frosting my wall with this mastic gunk and slapping on the tiles.  I did a nervous little dance and hesitated for a good 10 minutes until I finally took some inspiration from NIKE and just did it.

Holding the trowel at a slight angle to its long edge, use a sweeping motion to spread the mastic across the wall. When applying the mastic you only want to work in small sections so it doesn't have time to dry out before you can get a tile on it.  I would also spread some on the back of the tile as I went.

I started with a whole tile in the corner so I wouldn't have to do some funky cutting like I would have had to if I started from the other end.  I set the tiles directly on top of the board, but for the top of countertop I left a spacer's distance so matching grey caulk can be applied at the bottom.  

I wanted a staggered look so I started the next row with a half tile. 

 I just kept with this repeating pattern until it came time to cut around the window ledges.  It was the most scientific method of measuring that you would have ever laid your eyes on...kidding.  It was more of a "hold the tile up, guess where the angle will go, draw a line, cut it out, realize that it was WAY off, and try it all over again" sort of method.  

It's a great thing that grout and caulk can cover a whole slew of mistakes.

To cut the tiles we bought this great little wet tile saw from Menards.  There was a sale so this guy only set us back about $40.  Don't worry, you can get your own for only $49.99 right now.  BEST investment if you're going to take on a project like this.

So...spread mastic, press on tile, make sure it's snug against the spacers on all sides, repeat.  Thrilling, I know, but it was really fun to step back every few rows (ok, I looked like every few tiles) to see the progress and transformation that was happening.

I made it to the window the first day and then started back up the next day.  After everything had been tiled I let it sit overnight so the mastic can harden and create a permanent bond.  Each morning I came down and slowly peeked around the corner hoping and praying everything was still up, I didn't want to feel like this poor sap.

The third day of this whole ordeal brought me to grout.  Oof.  If the thought of permanently adhering ceramic pieces to my walls didn't freak me out enough, the whole grout-ing process had me equally if not more nervous.

Using a grout float (specially designed grout smoothing tool which is basically a heavy piece of rubber with a handle) I spread the grout over the tile lines.  I found it easiest to wipe over the line to smush it into the cracks and then wipe diagonally over the line to clear away the excess.  The angle of the arrows in the pic show what I mean.  *please note that 'smush' is a highly technical tiling term...believe me?*  

Each section should only sit for about 10-15 minutes before you go and wipe off the remaining grout.  As I moved down the wall I kept a mental note of how long each section had been done.  You don't want it to completely dry because that stuff basically turns to rock when dry.  This part was THE. MOST. FRUSTRATING. part of all.  I had never tiled before so I had no idea what to expect when washing the grout off.  I thought that after 2 swipes it be good...oh how wrong I was.  

I dipped my grout sponge in a bucket of clean water and rung it out as much as possible (too much moisture will cause your grout to turn holey and bumpy) and wiped the tile lines with a circular motion.  Imagine trying to wash mud off of your white kitchen floor, all it did was leave dark grey smear lines all over the tiles.  

So I dipped the sponge in a 'rinse' bucket and wiped in a circular motion again.  A little more came off but now I had dark colored water lines coming down from the grout.  I let it dry for a bit longer and repeated the process until it was almost completely clean.

I read that if you get the big chunks and most of the streaks off and then come back and buff it with a dry lint-free cloth your tiles will be good to go.  That internet sure is smart because that's exactly what I did and it worked like a charm.  I went back after the grout had dried a bit longer and went over every single line but it made a huge difference as you can see below.

After an entire Saturday of grouting, washing, climbing on counters, scraping, and 2 sore arms from buffing tiles this lil gem emerged. 

 It is exactly the way I imagined it before I started and I could NOT be any happier with it.

I still have some tiles left to put up around the fridge and all the edges still need to be caulked but I think it is such a great transformation.  I love that it defines the kitchen area from the dining area and really jazzes the space up.  Now that we've got the tile up we decided we no longer like the light that we had bought for above the sink, so now we're on the hunt for the perfect silver industrial looking lamp.  Something along these lines...


I think the truth of most DIY projects is that 99% of the battle is just having the Kahunas to start the project in the first place.  I didn't know what I was doing besides watching some Youtube videos and reading some online articles and other blogs.  
Unless you're blindly attempting electrical work or something which in those cases "What you don't know CAN kill you". 

I'm thoroughly in love with how it turned out.  How about you? Have you done any tiling work that you absolutely adore?  Any major mishaps with mastic? Let's hear about it!

I am not claiming in any way to be an expert tiler.  I am just sharing what worked best for me.  

Monday, April 14, 2014

How to Make Cheap and Pretty Curtain Rods

Our new house has a lot of windows on our main floor, which is awesome for natural light and making the space seem bigger.  But what is not awesome is when you have to walk from the upstairs bedroom down to the basement to shower in the morning and in your sleepy stupor forget to put some pants on. 

So for the sake of our neighbors, we had to get some curtains. I was a bit intimidated at what it was going to cost because of the amount of windows we have.  Not only the amount but 3 of the 6 windows in the main living area are over 7 feet wide.  I ended up finding some curtains that I really liked that were on sale plus I scoured the internet for a coupon and found one that saved me an additional $25. 

The excitement of my curtain score was quickly killed as I realized I now had to buy curtain rods for all these windows.  If you have ever shopped for extra long curtain rods you will know that they are not cheap!  Some of the extra long non-telescoping ones can reach prices of over $100 and we just couldn't afford to buy at least 3 of those for JUST the rod. 

So I started thinking of how I could DIY something to hang my curtains...wire, wood dowels, metal, plastic, pipes. Wait a minute.  Metal, pipes...Electrical conduit!  This stuff was perfect.  It comes in different widths, standard about 10 feet long, I can cut it to the length I need and THE BEST PART....

I had a lot of Rustoleum Oil Rubbed Bronze spray paint at home that I could use and I found some great finials at IKEA that were on sale.  Love that store.

The process went something like this:

I removed the pricing stickers and painted the rods with Rustoleum Oil Rubbed Bronze.  I let them dry for a week to be sure they were completely cured.  Ok, I just got caught up in some other things around the house and didn't get back to the rods until a week later. 

The finials that I bought came completely apart so I was able to spray paint them in ORB spray paint (Oil Rubbed Bronze) as well to match. 

I used Gorilla Glue Epoxy to attach the disk of the finial to the rod. 

And then use some tape to keep them in place while they dried.  I gave them a good two hours to completely set even though the package only called for 30 minutes.

I put the curtains on the rod and screwed the glass orb of the finial into the ends and it was done! 

Curtain rods for our windows that didn't break the bank!

(Crown molding will be added to cover that white strip at the top)

-Electrical conduit ($3.79)
-Rustoleum Oil Rubbed Bronze (It's between $6-$7 but I already had some)
-IKEA Blast finials (I got them for $5.99)
-Gorilla Glue epoxy ($5.99, I needed this for some other projects as well)

My wallet and my neighbors thank me.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Progress, people...progress

If I were to tell you that all I want to do for the next few days is walk around barefoot upstairs would you find me odd? I don't even care.  We got our carpet and it is awesome!  And soft, and cushy, and I wanna roll around all over it.  Which is actually what the dog has been doing ever since it got put in. That and running circles because he finally has some grip.  It's a pleasant change for him from the wood floors.  I have never been so excited to vacuum in my life!

But rewind a week before the carpet got put in and my parents came for the weekend for a marathon painting event.  I am starting to worry none of our parents will want to come visit us anymore because every time they do we put them to work and everyone leaves with sore bodies and achy muscles.

The goals for the weekend were to finish the entire upstairs, walls and ceilings in all 3 bedrooms and hallway including the stairwell that required some fancy ladder work.
The ceilings all got fresh coats of white ceiling paint to freshen everything up.  The ceilings didn't look TOO bad before, but as soon as we got a little white up there...well, see for yourself.  Yuck.  The walls all got the same grey paint as the downstairs for now.  I've got some working ideas for some accent walls and wall treatments in different rooms.

Mom insisted on painting the closets since "you don't have to be as careful".  We decided we wanted the closets white, but somehow we didn't have any plain white paint.  So I ran to the hardware store to buy a cheap can.  Apparently Lisbon has the highest class hardware store in a tri-state area because the paint that is in our closets is the MOST EXPENSIVE paint in our house and we bought really good paint for our house.  I expected the paint to be made of diamonds, or Edward Cullen's ashes but NOPE, not a shimmer to be found.

 Dad and I are both pretty competitive.  I believe I got it from him because when I was little he would NEVER let me win at Candyland...the whole "A good lower is still a loser" was ingrained early.  And don't think for one second that painting was any different. There was some serious smack-talk ensued.

The reason the hallway and staircase look half finished is because the bottom half of the walls are getting board and batten, something along these lines.

We had planned on this anyway but it was solidified by the line in the middle of wall from some wallpaper which had previously been painted over with textured paint. 

We finished most of the painting upstairs besides the woodwork.

The weekend ended and we had originally been told that our carpet would be installed the Monday right after.  Monday came and went, no carpet.  Tuesday, came and went, no carpet.  Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday all the same.  This whole time we had been sleeping on an air mattress in our living room because our mattress was shoved in the bathroom waiting for carpet installation to occur. 

Monday the 24th came and...CARPET!  When I went home for lunch the carpet guy was gone so I snuck upstairs to see the status.  I was a bit taken aback, I'm not quite sure what I was expecting but this is what it looked like...

And this is what it looked like after work!

And finally after 3 looooong months, we finally have a bedroom that includes a bed that is off the floor!  THIS IS BIG, PEOPLE!

Teddy has been without a room for 3 months as well and has been spending most of his time right where you see him.

So that's where we're at...for now.  We went a full 15 hours after the carpet was done before starting another project...more on that later this week.  But now if you'll excuse me, Teddy and I have some rolling around to do on the new carpet...