August 31, 2011

And this is exactly why I don't bake

I have a confession to make. I can't bake. Sure I have made a batch of chocolate chip cookies once but that's after spending way to much time making sure I got every ingredient exact. The thing I don't love about baking is how precise you have to be with the ingredients and if you try to throw something else in or wing a measurement, it will most likely end up tasting awful. (At least for me it does)

The reason I went on that little rant is because if the Chicken Enchilada Soup I made today was a cake, it would have failed. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me rewind and break down what I made today. I had been meaning to try this chicken enchilada soup recipe that I found on It was a crock pot recipe and I vowed to try and use my crock pot more for the fall and winter months. I started by getting all of the ingredients.

Chicken Enchilada Soup

15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes (I used italian style because it was all I had)
1 10-ounce package frozen whole kernel corn
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped yellow, green, or red bell pepper (I used red, since I grew it in my garden)
1 10-ounce can enchilada sauce (I used mild)
1 10.75-ounce can condensed cream of chicken soup 1 1/2 cups milk (I used skim)
1 cup shredded Pepper jack cheese (I used sharp Colby jack cheese with 2% milk)
2 chicken breasts (I used 4 chicken tenderloins since they were already defrosted)

Anyone catch my mistake in the picture? I'll give you a hint:
I accidentally got chicken noodle soup instead of cream of chicken. I need to learn to read labels. I have the same problem with milk. I somehow always get 1% instead of skim. I wasn't about to go back out to the grocery store so I strained the noodles and added a little more milk and continued with the recipe. No harm no foul. Now do you understand why I love cooking over baking?

Anyway, the first thing I did was to combine the drained beans, tomatoes, corn, onion, and bell pepper in the crock pot. You probably want to use at least a 3.5 quart crock pot. Then you want to place the chicken on top of the mixture.

The next steps were to whisk together enchilada sauce and soup. Then you whisk in milk until smooth and pour into the crock pot.
After you have everything in there, cover and cook on low heat for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours. I cooked it for 8 hours because I like the chicken to fall apart and I was still at work anyways so I figured why not? When it's done, take the chicken out and shred it and then put it back in the soup. It will look something like this.

It looked so good but I wanted it to have a little more of a kick so I threw in some Franks Hot Sauce.
That gave it the kick I needed. After that, take whatever cheese you decided to use and throw it on top so it melts and makes the soup even creamier.
And that was one of my first crock pot while you're at work experiences. I know I was stupid for worrying about it overcooking the food or short circuiting and catching on fire but crazy ideas like that pop into my head now that we own a house of our own. Since this was a big success and I really enjoyed the meal, I decided I am going to give the crock pot a chance this upcoming season so I can enjoy meals like this more often.
Anyone have a good crock pot recipe for me? Have you tried this one before?

Meet James

So I think it is only fair to introduce a very big part of my family- our pup. He's a six year old lab/ ridge back mix. He hasn't always made it easy but we couldn't picture our life and all our new adventures without him.
 So how did he join this crazy family?

I got him while I was in college at VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University). I had NO plans of getting a dog. I was on the crew team and our regatta got cancelled on a Sunday around Easter. We decided to go to the rescheduled Easter Parade on Monument Avenue (the main street in Richmond, VA with all of the confederate monuments). My roommates, neighbor and I ran into a family with two of the most adorable dogs you have ever seen. I mean look at this face.....(it still melts my heart)

I held James and he fell asleep in my arms and I knew when the woman asked me if I wanted to adopt him that it was meant to be. My wonderful roommates all agreed that I had to have him and my neighbor luckily took his brother so the first whole year of his life he had a playmate. Needless to say, everyone ate him up. My friends all loved him and spoiled him rotten with cuddles and treats. One of my friends- Katie- even gave him a little photo shoot so I could always remember him when he was like this:

(insert Awwwww here)
James (named after the James River) went everywhere with me and that included moving every single year since I got him. Our current home is the first time we haven't moved anywhere after a year. It feels good to finally be settled in a place that has a backyard so he can play and a home that he can stretch out in. He loves hanging out with Mom and Dad on the couch, trying to get every scrap of food off the kitchen floor, and our annual camping trip to Canada. Look at our little David Hasselhoff here:

Anybody else replaying the Baywatch soundtrack in their heads right now? - Me too

We couldn't do any of these projects without him and his ability to sleep all day and night when Mom and Dad are working. So thank you James for always sticking close but letting us work at random times on random things!
Check back later to see how the chicken enchilada soup  turned out! I can't wait to get home and try it.

August 30, 2011

Shed: The Sequel

Hello Everyone! I can't get over how beautiful it is out there. I guess this is our reward for surviving Hurricane Irene. So yesterday I started getting into details about our shed project. I showed you the rough design and even a sneak peak. So let me dive into the materials it took to make all of this happen. Below is a list of materials we used and what they roughly cost us so you can see how we made this happen.

12’ * 8’ Shed

Materials Needed
·         15- Sheets ½” OSB @ $6.17 each = $92.55
·         4- Sheets ¾” Advantec plywood @ $32.86 each= $131.44
·         1- 6X6X10’= $23.75
·         4- Hinges@ $7.59 each= $30.36
·         1- Locking Hasp = $10.97

·         2 ½ Squares of siding= $125.00 each square= $312.50
·         4- corners @ $18.00 each= $72.00
·         8- J channels @ $6.18 each= $49.44
·         4- Vented soffit @ $14.37= $57.48

·         2- Glue Down roll roofing @$32.00 each= $64.00
·         2- Gal adhesive @ $16.07 each= $32.14
·         12- Roof tie downs @ $1.39 each = $16.88

·         1- 3’ X 5’ window= already owned (thanks to the Father in Law)

Other Materials
·         40- 2X4X16 PT= already owned
·         2- roll felt paper =already owned
·         1- roll coil= already owned

TOTAL: $893.62

So let's take a look at the a comparable shed you would get at a hardware store. 

Guess how much this 8' * 12.5' plastic shed is at a hardware store that should not be named??????

$1,299.00! That's right. We were saving enough for a few fancy dinners out after this.

So my wonderful hubby went out and got all of the supplies so we would be ready the weekend that his dad came to work on the house. Look how happy he is to start Operation: More Storage! (The shed will actually be located at the top of that hill so it doesn't take away from our awesome backyard).

Since I am not a construction expert, I will show you the steps we took using pictures. This project happened over 3 weekends and with help from our dads and my brother. They may have made fun of me for taking these pictures but now we will have a great time line of all the hard work we put in.
  We hung siding on the first wall so we could shift the shed closer to the house.
Next we built and secured the opposite wall.
Here we are starting to build the last two walls.

You can see in the next picture that Tim and his dad began to work on the roof while the rest of us continued on the siding.

Here is the finished product. We added vents and a window for circulation. The window also allows us to have natural light in the shed.

This is definitely the biggest project we ever did but it came out great and came in handy for the hurricane. Later I will show you how we organized the inside but for now I will let you bask in our handy work.

What's the biggest project that you did on your own at your house? Did you have a friend or family member help you like we did?

Tomorrow I hope to let you guys know how that soup recipe turned out!

August 29, 2011

No garage and no basement= building a shed!

Hi Folks! So the next couple of posts will be about our first large scale home project- building a shed! I should tell you ahead of time that in many of my posts about home projects I will be referring to my wonderfully talented father in law.  (See below)
He has been so patient with us me as I try to learn the difference between a Phillips screwdriver and a flat head. (Don't worry- I know the difference now) When we told him that we wanted to build a shed after moving into a home with no garage, no basement and no attic, he was very excited and willing to help us.

The first step we did was to figure out what side of the house we wanted the shed. After deciding that we didn't want to go down our backyard ski slope every time we wanted a hammer, that left us with the left or right side of the house. The left side of the house got very little sun and was wasted space so we decided that location would be best.

**WINNER- left side***

So we know where we want it- now what?

Insert my super FIL. He sent us plans to the shed that he thinks would work. He made it larger since we don't have any other major storage options. He also designed it so the roof was on a slant since it would be close to the house. That way whatever run off came from the house roof would not collect on top of the shed. (I told you he's a genius!) He was inspired by something like this:
picture from

 Tomorrow I will break down the work and let you know how long a project like this really takes. But just to keep your interest here is a picture of the shed almost finished. Bet you're excited now, huh?

Do you guys have a family member or friend that is known as the "handy man"? Have you ever built a shed before?

August 28, 2011

Mastering the Art of Crock Pot Cooking

Hi Everyone! Hope Hurricane Irene didn't affect your area too hard. We lost power in our home for about 5 hours but luckily none of the gorgeous, old trees around our home came down. Everyone else in our neighborhood also seems to be okay as well.

So why the title? Well Julie & Julia is on TV right now and it made me realize how much I miss cooking. Between writing my thesis and the summer heat I have not really been glued to the oven like I usually am. Although I love to cook, I do not like heating my house up in the middle of summer. Now that the weather is cooling down I am starting to search the internet for recipes. This fall/ winter goal is to use my wonderful crock pot that was given to me at my bridal shower. I have used it once or twice and it always works well but I can't seem to muster the courage to leave the house for a whole day with it on. I know, I'm a baby.
So after searching for awhile for the perfect recipe, I found Chicken Enchilada Soup. I am going to try it out this week and let you know how it goes. Of course I will post lots of pictures since I am a visual person and make sure I tell you what works and what doesn't. Until then, keep dry!

August 27, 2011

There's a first time for everything

Welcome! I created this blog to be a place where I can share my ideas and chronicle my families journey as we make our house a home through projects, food, art and more.

First, I think I should tell you a little about myself. Art has always been my passion. I love to paint and draw. I remember dragging my parents to art museums every time we went on vacation. Van Gogh was one of the first artists I remember loving and you will see his style and art all throughout my house.

I also love to cook. Some of my best memories are cooking Italian dishes in my grandmother's kitchen and I hope to pass that on to my children as well. As I get older, I want to take on a larger range of cooking styles.

Finally my husband and I just moved into our first home a year ago. It is a 1940s bungalow that we adore. We started barely knowing how to pick a paint finish but I hope to use this blog to document our projects along the way.

I hope you will enjoy this blog as much as I will enjoy sharing my experiences with you!
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