Expanding Small Spaces

The Engineer and I have been on a bit of a home improvement kick.  Fitting two people’s stuff and design tastes into a single home isn’t always easy.  In an effort to make keep the house somewhat organized, and preserve my own sanity, we’ve really had to try and maximize all the storage opportunities in the house.  I’ve been meaning to write this blog for awhile, but it seemed like we just kept doing projects so I kept thinking I’d wait.  I think we finally wrapped up all the little projects, and several of the big projects are well on their way!

Our biggest summer project was expanding the patio!  The slab that was poured for my patio is only 6ft x 8ft.  Some of the units in my HOA have big, expansive patios….I guess that just wasn’t in the cards for my specific unit.  It was fine when it was just Scout and I at home, but even for just us it had always been small and crowded.  Then The Engineer came, and then we bought an umbrella, and then we got a big grill….and pretty soon we were sitting on top of each other trying just trying to spend time outside on the patio.

 

Lucky for our bank accounts, The Engineer can occasionally snag sample concrete mix color and finish pavers from his employer!  Plenty of precast buildings are grey, so we decided to extend the patio slab out with two rows of 1ft x 1ft pavers on each side.

salb

Such style he’s got that man of mine!

Honestly, the hardest part of the whole project was getting the landscaping rock out of the area.  In my brain I would just be able to scoop it right up with a shovel and move it to other areas of our landscaping that were a bit light on rock.  I’m not sure if you know this…..but rock doesn’t really shovel.  It turned out one of the sides was severely lacking in dirt, but a layer of pea gravel below the paver base brought it back up to grade.

side 1-2

Actually placing the pavers was pretty easy.  Pour out and smooth a think layer of paving base and smash it down firmly.  They make a tool for this…..or just use your feet in heavy construction boots…..that’s the method we used!  After its smooshed down evenly, use a garden trowel to sprinkle down another thin layer of paver base.  Set your pavers down into the base and press or stand on them to settle them down into the base.  You might have to trial and error adding some base or maybe removing some to get everything level.  I think we did quite well for having never laid pavers before.  Everything seems level and graded to drain correctly….time will tell though, they may settle over the winter and we might have to adjust them in the Spring.

img_9932.jpg

So much space for activities….and a lurking pupper in the doorway!

Inside projects have been centered around keeping spaces organized, and keeping things from exploding out into the living room and dining room.  Single me was a chronic “toss wet laundry out onto stair railing and chair back to dry”.  It was always annoying to me, but somethings just don’t belong in the dryer so I just ignored the fact that I was annoying myself.  Cut to my laundry, The Engineer’s laundry, my hats, The Engineer’s hats and a shared closet and I was slowly loosing my mind at the general disheveled state.

Step one was a closet clean out!  Nothing will help you get rid of unwanted clothes faster than the feeling of not giving someone their fair share of the closest storage.  I still feel bad about this…..my crap still takes up way more than half of the closet space.  He tells me it’s fine, but I feel bad in spite of that. So, every month or so I go in and try and purge a few more items.  To further assist we build some strategic storage….a hat rack for the closet, and two drying racks for the laundry room.

I had previously bought one of those back of the door hat hangers….it was garbage.  The hats fell off all the time.  Matters were made worse by the fact that it made opening the closet door impossible.  The hats took up so much space behind the door, plus I already have scarf storage behind the door.  The whole thing was just a mess.  Some on sale hooks and a stained 1×4 later and we have easy, out of the way hat storage!  The rack we installed matches two very small hanging racks that were installed in the closet before I moved on.  No more falling down hats and no more me throwing tantrums cuz the hats are always all over the closet floor!!

closet.jpg

The closet isn’t well lit….but you get the idea.  A lot of things happening in a small space!

The hanging racks on the laundry room have honestly made a huge difference!  I can hang things, I can lay things on the rods, hook smaller items on the ends….it’s just such a space saver!  I did add a small dowel inside the hanging bar to help it hold up against the weight of all the wet clothes, but depending on the length you decide to use that might not be needed.

There is a large hanging bar installed under a large shelf on the opposite wall of the laundry.  I used to use that for all our shirts that needed to be hung to dry, however The Engineer’s gun safe has taken up a home under the hanging bar……so that sort of ruined that hanging spot.  There is still a bit of room above the safe….so all my bras get hung on hangers above the safe!  I’m sure it was always his goal to have a mid-sized collection of bras perpetually hanging above his gun safe!  🙂

laudry-2.jpg

More stained 1×4 and just some cheap curtain rods…HANG ALL THE THINGS!

The garage is a whole different world of organizational nightmare.  There was a period of time when my 2 car…..very small for 2 cars but still technically can fit 2…..garage barely had room for my GMC Terrain.  There was just a giant horseshoe shaped ring of stuff around the edge and a section in the center that I could park in.  IT DROVE ME BATTY!  I’m a bit crazy about feeling organized I know, and I know that my weirdness about the issue drives The Engineer nuts sometimes.  I can be perfectly fine living in disorder and chaos….until one day when I’m not.  The house can be filthy for weeks and then one day I will just snap and start power cleaning like a wild Tasmanian devil…..

Image result for tasmanian devil cartoon cleaning

Get outta my way I have shit to clean!

So…..we built a shelf….a really big 6ft x 3ft hanging shelf in the garage .  It made me feel better to get stuff up and off the ground.  We will have more shelves to put up and some reorganizing to do…..I would like if all my Christmas decor could be in one spot instead of scattered around on different shelving.  But, getting this stuff up and organized has made a huge difference.  I think that’s how you know you’re becoming old and lame…..when cleaning and organizing a garage becomes a major source of calm and happiness in your life.  Ughs

garage-2

JUST LOOK AT IT….IT’S AMAZING!

It’s so much stuff up and organized!  Do you even know whats up there?!  Well let me give you the run down…..

  • 24 duck decoys in bags….if you don’t hunt you might not know….but these are full sized ducks….24 DUCKS!
  • 2 tents
  • 2 sleeping bags
  • air mattress
  • 2 storage totes of our hunting clothes and camping supplies
  • 4 hunting bags and backpacks
  • other small hunting and camping accessories

Now imagine all of that strewn out all over a garage floor…total garbage!  It’s so pretty and organized…..AND I LOVE IT!  And would you look at that….more stained 1×4 with hooks!  We added easy storage for our hunting boots and his waders.  We also have hooks we can use for things when we use them more frequently.  For example, now that hunting seasons are kicking back into gear, the backpacks will get moved down onto the hooks so that we can access them without a step stool whenever we’d like to head out to the field.

I’m totally sitting here nerding out about how excited I am to have gotten all this organized.  Look at it this way….I’m so excited about getting organized that I felt the need to tell you all about it!!  It’s not like anything we’ve done to try and keep the house organized is crazy or a brand new idea.  Maybe it will show you that you don’t need to hire a professional organizer or spend a ton of time and money on supplies to get started organizing a space that’s a source of frustration for you.  Just pick an area you’d like to improve, break it into small pieces if need be, and then just go for it.  In our case it was just making the decision to get started and then making a trip to Menards for the supplies.  Just create a place for things to have a “home” in….hooks, shelves, cubbies….whatever fits your style or needs.  And don’t forget your new mantra…..ain’t nothing a 1×4 and some stain can’t remedy!

Taking Matters into Your Own Grinder

The Engineer and I are facing a slight crisis….our supply of ground elk and deer is dwindling dangerously low.  We have plenty of steaks and roasts, but our tubes of ground meat are quickly disappearing!

How are we supposed to make tacos without ground meat!?!

Image result for taco gif

Accurate depiction of The Engineer and I as I demand avocado on my tacos….except he is a crunchy taco and I am a soft taco!

Now I know that I could make steak tacos….pulled pork tacos…chicken tacos…fish tacos……

Image result for bubba gump tacos meme

ALL OF THE TACOS!

Trust me, we make tacos a ton and in a wide variety of flavors and styles.  However, some tacos require planning and forethought.  I’m not always the best at taking things out of the freezer to thaw in advance, but a pound of frozen solid ground meat is just easy to toss straight into a frying pan!  Basically, having a reliable stash of ground meat in my house is a requirement.

The Engineer bought me a grinding attachment for my Kitchen Aide for Christmas because I had grand visions of getting into sausage making.  I have yet to make a batch of sausage, and so the grinder had just been waiting patiently in a kitchen cabinet to be used for something delicious.  Last weekend we decided to test out the grinder and tackle our meat issue head on!

meat

First things first….thaw out a giant roast!  When The Engineer had his elk processed in Canada, it was cheaper to just get it cut into large roasts.  This makes total sense and is fine, except that the two of us don’t necessarily need to cook up a 4-5 pound roast for a nice dinner at home!  Also, don’t worry if the meat isn’t totally thawed.  The colder, even still slightly frozen, the better.  Also, if you’re going to add additional fat into your ground meat….that fat needs to be frozen!

lurker.jpg

The little lurker quickly noticed that tasty meat scraps come out of the grinder after every round of processing….there is always a little morsel left in the auger!

 

The grinder worked great!  I had read some questionable reviews so I didn’t really know what to expect, and I had emotionally prepared to spend most of the day fighting and struggling to get the meat processed.  It was such a smooth process I wish we had thawed out more meat and we could have just done it all at once.  We ground the meat twice, once through the coarse blade, and a second time through the fine.  I’m not sure that a second grind is required if you’re just planning on tacos, chili, casseroles, and such with the meat, but it’s the typically recommended procedure.  Between the rounds of grinding I took apart the grinder and cleaned it out.  It had built up a little ring of tendon, fat, and meat right behind the grind plate, but it was easy to just clean out.  Also, once the flow of meat stops moving down the auger, a small chunk was left that couldn’t be pushed through the grind plate….no biggie and Scout really appreciated the snacks!

The only slight issue we had is that no store in town stocked the “Sausage Kit” with the filling nozzles.  Minor setback, and it worked pretty well to just hold the bags and let the ground meat sort of just fall into the bottom.  Actually, once the bags had some meat in them they sort of just sat themselves up.  Easy peasey lemon squeezey!

done

4 beautiful little tubes of ground elk all ready for delicious things!

Now, if you’re looking for a tasty way to use up some ground meat….might I suggest Mexican Stuffed Peppers!

Ingredients:

  • Drizzle of olive oil (Only needed for wild game as it is super lean and sticks)
  • 1lb ground meat
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup cooked rice or quinoa
  • 1 can Original Rotel
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp cumin and chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper…or to taste if your spice sensitive
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2/3 cup shredded cheese, plus 2/3 cup additional for topping
  • 3 large bell peppers

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add meat and onion.  Cook over medium until the meat is fully cooked and the onion is soft.  Add the garlic, Rotel, rice, beans, and all spices to the skillet and mix to combine.  Turn heat off and allow to sit to cool and the flavors to meld for a couple minutes.  Divide peppers in half through the stem and remove all seeds.  Immediately before “stuffing”, stir 2/3 of cheese into the meat mixture.

Divide the mixture evenly between all the peppers….don’t worry about being too neat.  They will be large and in charge!  Sprinkle the tops with the additional cheese, if desired, cover with foil, and bake at 370 for about 30-35 minutes.  I like a crispy, brown, cheesy crust so I uncovered them for an additional 5 minutes.  The cooking time will be reduced if you have smaller peppers, just cook until the peppers are soft and tender.

Serve immediately with any of your favorite taco toppings!  I did avocado….OF COURSE!…..and The Engineer likes his with taco sauce and sour cream.

peppers.jpg

 

My New Fluffy

She is glorious, thick, and warm….and I took her out and about with me twice this week!  She also sheds….a ton….but that comes with the fluffy territory I suppose.  If you think I’m talking about a new puppy, sadly your wrong.  I can understand your confusion on the issue, and honestly if you follow the #adoptdontshop mantra…….you can probably get a new puppy companion for less money than I spent on my glorious new fluff!!  I would love a puppy…..but that’s something for another time!

I promised last post that once I got my new scarf completed I’d write an update post.  Well…..she’s all done, and was surprisingly easy!  I say easy like I didn’t get two dozen rows in and decide to rip it all out and start over…..minor technicality.

I can’t take credit for the pattern, all of that goes to the wonderful Knit Collage and their glorious, chunky yarns!  If you love to knit, what to learn how to knit, or want someone you know to knit you something amazing……Knit Collage is the place to go.  Cheap and easy to follow patterns paired with interesting hand spun yarns you won’t find anywhere else.  If you can’t get inspired by clicking through their website there is not a ton of hope for you.  Their yarn skeins are more expensive than what you can get at a big box store, but they are all hand made by a handful of women in India.  This creates small batches of each yarn and also means that every skein will be slightly different.  They are random in the best way possible…..lumpy, shimmery, wooly…….perfection!

First things first….you’ll need to pick your pattern!  I went with the Wildcat Fringe Scarf because it was something unlike other scarves I have hanging in my closet.   Might as well go big and step outside your comfort zone right?!  The link and picture for the scarf are below if you’re wanting to whip up your very own fringed beauty!  If fringe isn’t your cup of tea, pick out your favorite sweater, scarf, or hat and get to knitting!

Q6A0868_1024x1024

Photo and pattern by Knit Collage : https://knitcollage.com/collections/cowls-scarves/products/wild-cat-fringe-scarf-pattern

The pattern calls for 2 skeins of their shimmery Pixie Dust yarn, and one skein of Spun Cloud yarn.  There are several different color options in both yarn types, so you’ll need to start the creative juices going before you even cast on your first stitch.  I wanted my Spun Cloud skein in a grey…..specifically a light grey.  I wanted to do this project and I wanted to do it now, however the light grey was out of stock…..so I improvised!  A quick swap of a skein of Sister yarn for the Spun Cloud and I was back in business.

IMG_9232.JPG

Pixie Dust in the color Midnight and Sister in Soft Grey Heather

Sister yarn isn’t quite as thick as Spun Cloud which probably accounts for the reason I needed to rip everything out and start over.  I wasn’t getting nearly the length recommended in the pattern.  I’ve always been and probably always will be a very tight knitter.  Apparently I take a lot of tension out on my knitting projects.  Anyway, the scarf has recommend lengths that should be achieved at various stages of the project.  I won’t give them here as it isn’t my pattern to share.  However I will tell you that a good mantra to recite as you knit is…….just let it be loose!  I don’t think you could possibly knit this too loose, but too tight is for sure a thing and you’ll just end up with a mess.  Too tight is a bummer because you’ve spent good money on this yarn for its hand spun textures and variation, but if the stitches are too tight and small you won’t be able to see and appreciate it.

My finished scarf ended up a bit shorter than the pattern lists.  It’s still plenty long, plus I had plenty of both skeins of yarn left to make the fringe.  You’ll have enough to fringe even if you knit the full length, but you’ll end up with only a handful of fringes in Pixie Dust.  I’m moderately obsessed with it’s texture and lumpiness though so I happily sacrificed some total inches for the chance to show it off on the fringe.  Plus since I know I knit tight, sometimes guesstimating length versus yarn remaining gets tricky….I always vote better safe than sorry!  I used both skeins of Pixie Dust completely up and I have some Sister yarn left over to maybe make a pom pom or something in the future.

Overall, it was a quick and fun project.  It only took maybe 8 hours?!  It’s hard to say what with the starting over, the drinking, and Netflixing that was also occurring while I worked.  It was New Year’s Eve weekend….it was really too cold to do anything other than drink spiked hot chocolate and lounge around with a pile of thick wool yarn in your lap!

IMG_9271-1.jpg

 

 

In case you’re worried I just boozed away my whole weekend, I did not.  The Engineer and I got fancy, bundled up against the cold, and went out for a nice dinner and some fancy drinks.  We then proceeded to come home to set alarms and nap before midnight.  I think that’s adulting right?!  Can’t pop corks at midnight if you aren’t awake….so just set alarms for 11:45 and power nap your way into the New Year!  I’m not sure what 2018 has in store for me, but I promise I will bring you all along for the ride!

The “Let’s Take a Nice Picture” process…..

 

 

Christmas Break Activities

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!  I’ve obviously been slacking a little bit this week on getting a blog posted, but better late than never I suppose.  The Engineer and I travelled all around and had several different Christmas dinners and festivities with our families.  I’m thankful that we had good weather all weekend, but I’m also glad that we finally got a nice snow right before Christmas.  It wasn’t feeling very festive looking out the window at mostly dead grass….

It was my intention last week to write a last update about my holiday prepping, but I didn’t quite get it done.  I did quick whip up something fun and tasty last Friday morning though….MARSHMALLOWS!  I didn’t even get a picture taken of my project, and I intended to get one when I got home from our Christmas’s travels, but the marshmallows didn’t manage to make the trip back home from Nebraska!  I’ve never made a candy for Christmas, but this was actually easy to accomplish.  The worst part is that it’s a bit of a sugary mess, but yea know…..that’s what makes them delicious!  Thanks Alton Brown for the recipe inspiration!  Good science will never fail you in the kitchen!!  I just made plain, vanilla flavored shmallows, but based on your projected used feel free to jazz them up with other flavors.  I really don’t think you can go wrong with these at all….I’ll link the recipe below!

(Side note—-I just used my meat thermometer to cook the sugar and it worked fine, but PLEASE make sure your meat thermometer is capable of going to 240 Fahrenheit!!)

While I was busy working on Christmas craft projects for gifts it occurred to me that I haven’t crafted anything fun for myself in quite awhile.  That’s this week’s plan of attack. The Engineer and I both took the whole week between the holidays off so we’ve been lounging, running errands, and doing some odds and ends that we just never seem to have time to get done….including my crafts!

First up on the crafts to do list this week is a snuggle mat for my Scout-a-Roo girl!  If you don’t know what a snuffle mat is, it’s basically a strategic tangle of fleece that is excellent for hiding treats.  To assemble a snuffle mat for the treat hunter in your life you need 4 supplies.

  • Rubber sink mat with grid holes
  • About 2 yards of fleece…..doesn’t need to be exact or pretty….get the cheap stuff
  • Scissors
  • TIME

You’ll cut the fleece into strips and then loop them through the grid…..that’s really all there is to it!  Based on the current progress I’ve made, I project using about half of the sink mat.  I left my fleece folded, just like it comes off the fabric bolt, and cut approximately 1 inch strips from the fold end through both layers.  I then cut each folded strip into 4 equal-ish length pieces.  Precision isn’t a required trait for this. Fill the grid horizontally and then go back through and fill in the grid vertically.  This will create a nice little puff mat for your pup-a-roo to dig and snort around in after crunches or other small snackies.  The Engineer and I are curled up on the couch watching hunting videos….and I’m slowly working my way through my massive pile of fleece strips!!

My “Just for Me” craft this week is going to be a new scarf!  I found a pattern on Knit Collage, ordered myself some expensive, fun yarns, and I’m getting ready to whip myself up something cozy to start the New Year!  I’ll update you on that next week once I get it done, but I’m pretty excited about it honestly.  With the recent temperature dip into the negatives around here, you simply can not go wrong with a new fluffy scarf!

 

Making a To Do List Your Bitch

I’m tired, sore, and don’t feel like leaving my couch for a few days…BUT WE GOT SO MUCH DONE THIS WEEKEND!

Momma MisHappenings came up Friday morning and we started the crown molding project in my bedroom.  We decided to put in a three piece crown, because Momma MisHappenings really likes molding and feels like you can’t ever over do the molding.  I also like molding, probably because I grew up in a house filled with nice, homemade moldings.

I don’t have the skills required to create molding from scratch.  I have just enough talent to run a miter saw and a nail gun.  Momma did all the coping…..which is really an advanced maneuver.  The Engineer and I did most of the cutting and installing, atleast on Saturday and Sunday.  Momma and I did all the wall pieces on Friday while The Engineer worked.  Almost none of my home improvement projects have gone as smoothly as this molding did!  All three pieces were cut, coped, and install by noon today!  I originally had visions of getting the bathroom all done too, but A. I didn’t buy enough of the first two pieces of trim and B. There are way too many corners in my bathroom and they take a decent amount of time to get fit nicely!

IMG_9043IMG_9042IMG_9041

The nail holes all still need to be filled and touch up paint needs to happen in several places, but all in all the whole project went pretty well.  Molding is a fairly complicated process, and there are plenty of old world technical skills required.  Most of our issues revolved around the fact that the actual crown pieces came from two different production lots.  They were just slightly different in their angle and profile.  However, slightly different is one thing when the pieces are laying flat.  When you are trying to cope and fit corners evenly and with no gaps…..slightly different quickly changes to a huge pain in the ass.  With some extra sanding and filing we got pretty decent corners all around and I can touch up the small gaps with caulk or spackle before I retouch the paint.

I won’t explain in detail how to do the crown…..mostly because other people can do it much better than me.  Again, I’m rolling with just enough skill to get things done, but my teaching abilities are not really up to par.  If you’re interested in installing molding I’d recommend The Joy of Moldings.  He has an excellent blog that will teach you how to cope corners and how to layout the pattern for your crown.

I’m not as glue happy as The Joy of Moldings guy.  My Dad only ever glued scarf joints….never coped corners and never ever did he use glue to attach moldings to walls and ceilings.  I don’t have the advantage of knowing how my townhouse is constructed, and because I didn’t buy a stud finder until we were 2/3 of the way done with the molding, I did end up adding some panel adhesive onto the cornice pieces on the ceiling.

My Dad also never used a nail gun, but he was faster and more skilled.  I need to make up time somewhere, and shooting in nails works fine in that capacity.  Plus, since I didn’t originally know where the studs were, after we bought the stud finder at Cosco I went around and shot in a bunch of extra nails actually into the studs.  More holes to fill I suppose, but when the nails are that easy to install I suppose you get a bit liberal with them!  However, shooting nails around willy nilly has it’s downfalls, and just like every other time we’ve attempted a project pieces had to be ripped down and nails pulled out.  Nothing has been as bad as the time I nailed my pocket door open…..but still……struggles were had.  It was nice to get the project wrapped up this weekend.  Today is my parent’s wedding anniversary, so it was nice to spend the weekend with my Momma doing something my Dad was so skilled at.

It actually worked out really well having a tube of panel adhesive open.  Saturday morning, the guest bed upstairs broke.  The frame itself was purchased by my Grandma when she was still living at home with my Great Grandama.  So I’m sure it predates her marrying my Grandpa.  My Uncle had added a couple pieces of wood to act as risers for the box spring supports, and one of those old pieces shattered.  Luckily we were able to cut some scraps into new risers and glued the whole thing back into place.  I also used a small amount to reinstall a loose kick plate in the kitchen.  One bedroom of crown molding, a kitchen reinstall, and a bed repair…..not a bad day in the life of a $3 tube of adhesive!

Another item that got checked off the to do list that has been looming for years is the gallery wall in my dining room.  The Bitch Faced Bestie will be so proud!  The frames themselves have only been stacked up on the dining room floor for 3 years…..better late than never I guess.  Realistically I had been waiting to find all the pictures I want for the frames, but I think having them up will remind me to actually look for art to put in them.  I have a general idea of the pictures I want to hang, I’m just having a problem finding what I want.  So, I’m sure I will slowly start collecting art for my gallery, but even just having the frames up is making my dining room area feel much fancier!

IMG_9045

There is one frame missing still from the upper right hand corner, so don’t mind that hole!

Paint and Pie

IT’S FINALLY FALL!

It seemed like cooler, sweater weather would never arrive, but I guess good things come to those who are patient!  With the changing of the seasons comes my deep burning desire to spend time cleaning, organizing, and crafting in my garage.  Things that have been laying around all summer I suddenly have a burning need to organize.

The first craft of the fall was trying out chalk paint on some metal decor.  A few months ago I purchased a metal candle holder from Hobby Lobby.  While I do like the original color of the candle holder, it wasn’t really the right shade of blue for my house.  What better to do than throw some chalk paint on it and see what happens?!

Overall, I would say the mini project went well.  The only thing I would change was maybe the amount of distressing I did before I waxed the piece.  The paint chips off rather easy, so in buffing in the dark wax, several extra chunks of paint went flying off.  I’m not sure that in this case the candle holder could be “over” distressed, and since I didn’t have a specific outcome in mind….all is good in the chalk painting hood!  If you were going for a lighter distressed look, I might actually skip the initial distressing step.  Apply your wax, and then if you feel like you need a little extra maybe distress with sandpaper as a final step.

Another glorious part of the shift in the weather is a change in nightly meal choices!  I’m not one of those people who can eat soup and casseroles with its 100 degrees outside, so as the temperatures have been cooling I’ve been ramping up the oven!  Last night I tried out a new recipe…..shepherd’s pie!  I had never had a shepherd’s pie before, but The Engineer has had them and was having a craving.  Coupled with the fact that we watched Gordon Ramsey make some on Kitchen Nightmare meant that I needed to try my hand.  All in all, I think it turned out pretty well!  Used up a bunch of leftover veggies, and anything with cheesy mashed potatoes is a good life decision!!

Shepherd’s Pie

  • 2 pounds ground meat
  • Onion, chopped
  • 3 large handfuls of baby carrots, chopped
  • 5-6 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1ish glass of red wine
  • 6 Tbs worcestershire sauce
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-12oz can of tomato paste
  • 3 cubes of chicken bouillon
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 6-12 oz of water
  • 3 Tbs thyme
  • 1/2 12oz bag of frozen corn
  • 1/2 12oz bag of frozen green beans
  • 1 cup of parmesan cheese
  • 2 pounds of potatoes, peeled
  • 5 Tbs butter
  • 1/2 cup of milk

While I do understand that this isn’t a traditional shepherd’s pie as it doesn’t contain lamb, I’m pretty confident that this recipe would work with any red meat.  The most important quality of the meat, according to Gordon, is that it’s well drained and free of grease.  Elk, for all intensive purposes, is basically grease free and I have a freezer full of it now, so that’s what I used.  If using any wild game meat, remember that you will probably need to add some olive oil to your pan before adding in the meat.  Brown the meat and toss in all the fresh veggies, onion, and the garlic.  Continue cooking until you’re sure the meat is completely cooked, and the onions have gone slightly translucent.

Dump in the worcestershire, tomato paste, wine, bouillon and water.  You could also use any stock you have laying around the house, I just had the cubes to use.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and the thyme.  I used several fresh sprigs from my garden, but dried would also work just fine.

4aba47382dee492d118c43f22a04abc2--food-network-humor-food-humor.jpg

When you use fresh herbs and your fancy starts showing!

Simmer your meat mixture until the carrots and celery become tender and the mixture thickens….about 45 mins.  Stir often so that the bottom of the mixture doesn’t scorch to the pan.  While that’s simmering, rough cube the potatoes and add them to a pan and boil until fork tender.  Drain and add to a mixing bowl with the butter, cheese, and milk. Basically, just make mashed potatoes the way you always would….only with the addition of cheese.  Maybe you make them with cheese all the time…..I don’t, so that was a little upgrade!

Add your frozen veggies and just let them warm up a couple minutes.  Pour the mixture into a 9×13 baking pan.  The entire mixture didn’t all fit in my pan, in hindsight it would have, but I made a small, additional baking dish and threw it into the freezer for later.  Top the mixture with the mashed potatoes and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.  If the top isn’t as brown as you’d like, turn the broiler on and babysit your pie carefully until the desired level of golden brown is achieved.  Dish up and enjoy your meat, potatoes, and veggies!!

IMG_9008

I raked my potatoes with a fork before baking and topped them with extra black pepper because it’s The Engineer’s favorite!

IMG_9012

PIE!

Throwback and New School

The Engineer is at a work sponsored golf event for the night, so the lil Scout-a-Roo and I are blogging together on the couch old school style.  Throwing it back to our single girl days!  Not that we both don’t love having The Engineer around, but sometimes it’s nice to throw on some Sex and the City, pour some wine, and have yourself a nice girl’s night.  I have no idea what The Engineer is eating, but I had sushi and Roo had her regular crunchies with the added bonus of some leftover elk steak chunks and leftover elk burger.  Everyone was eating really good tonight at Casa (Mis)Happenings

Alrighty….down to business!  Technical errors from last week mean that I owe you a double blog of sorts.  It’s been a busy few weekends around here.  House projects, gardening, trips home and shopping with Momma…..so many things to do, so little time!

Slowly but surely I’ve been working on improving my backyard and patio situation.  It isn’t that my yard is bad, it’s well maintained, but I’m on a fairly busy corner and my yard is lacking in privacy and shade.  I want to extend my little patio pad, probably with some sample slabs from The Engineer’s company, but that seems like a lot of work…..especially when it’s still so hot out!  I don’t really need the shade, but on days when I want to be out reading, tanning, and enjoying a beer it would be nice for Scout to have a place out of the sun. Cue…..

IMG_8772IMG_8771

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It provides plenty of shade, but is out of the way when it needs to be.  I got the umbrella stick part and the canopy from Cost Plus World Market, and the stand came from Menards.  I really only got the umbrella because it was on super sale one weekend, but I’m glad that I finally pulled the trigger on buying one!  I saved like $70 on the whole thing!!!  If you’ve never been to the World Market, you really need to find your nearest one and scope the scene!  I’ve bought a ton of stuff there…..jewelry, furniture, pillows, rugs, and food.  Everything is a bit in the style of Anthropologie or Restoration Hardware……but WAY CHEAPER!

Another major house update I accomplished recently was finally settling on a rug!  Momma has thought that my living room as always needed a rug.  Partly I’m sure to break the space up a little since I have a fairly open concept living room, kitchen, and dining room.  Secondly, to lighten up the super dark wood flooring the previous owners picked.

I’ve had a couple problems picking a rug.  First, most rugs in the size I need for my living room, at least 8×10, fall no where near the price point I’m willing to spend on a chunk of carpet.  Secondly, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed…..but there are way more ugly rugs than good looking rugs!

The colors I chose for the living room also didn’t help the rug hunt.  I have very dark floors, a metallic pearl couch, turquoise accent chairs and secretary, and a dark plum reading chair.  I wanted a traditional feel, but in modern colors.  Sort of like if Marie Antionette owned a townhome, simplified her need to gold, and embraced a modern color pallet.  Finding a traditional rug in those colors was a bit of a struggle.  Most were the wrong shade of blue, had weird pops of orange…….which why though……., or they were too dark to contrast with my floor.  Enter the Anastasia Collection by Loloi Rugs…..

anasaf-05sipl_lg.jpg

Stock photo from loloi.com because I’m bad at taking decent pictures.

The only name  can find for this rug is AF-05 Silver and Plum.  The base of the rug is a very light, slightly metallic silver, but against my floor it takes on a warmer shade of taupe-y silver.  I’m not sure that taupe-y silver is an actual color, but it is what it is I guess.  The turquoise in the rug perfectly matches my accent chairs, and the various shades of plum and eggplant coordinate nicely with my reading chair.  The only thing I don’t love with it is my little ottoman puff thing, but I could easily recover that.  It’s a pale cream floral print, and I’ve never been a huge fan of layering prints.  I know it’s a thing, but it just always seems weird to me.

IMG_8851

Laying out the monster rug, and someone wanted to help press out the wrinkles…….

IMG_8853

Wrinkle squishing was a serious job….but someone had to do it!

As you maybe can tell from the pictures, the rug looks darker in any light other than direct sunlight.  It also depends a little bit on which direction you brush the rug.  All in all, I really like it.  It keeps my couch from sliding backwards into the wall shelf, and it’s thin enough that it doesn’t feel like a chunk of shag carpet laying on my floor.  Momma keeps asking if I need a rug pad…..I’m not sure what that would accomplish, but the rug isn’t sliding around or moving so I’m leaning towards the not needing one side.

I’m not quite sure that we threw the rug down in the right location.  I mean, it’s underneath all the living room furniture which I know is important, but I’m still not super sure.  I’m sure that the next time Momma MisHappenings comes to the house we will fidget it around some.  I feel like that’s the sort of information Mommas are suppose to know…..how to connect a room with an area rug and how long to boil corn for.  Yes, I had to text and ask how long to boil corn for…..I cook a lot but every once in awhile you come upon something you took from granted and never had to make.  Apparently corn on the cob was that thing for me.

Besides moving furniture and laying out rugs, The Engineer and I also canned last weekend.  Well……mostly I canned and he watched.  He did help prep ingredients and wash green beans, but he decided he couldn’t stuff jars because his hands didn’t fit.  Dilly bean jar stuffing is a bit of an acquired art, so I guess I can’t really blame him.  He did take plenty of pictures, but please ignore the mess in my kitchen.  Between biking, breakfast smoothie making, canning, and just my regular messiness……my kitchen and I were disasters by the end of the day.  All in all we made 9 quart jars of dilly beans, and 7 jars of banana pepper rings.  Most of the banana peppers are in pints, but I had some random jelly jars laying around so I filled those up too.  Some of the jars even contain beans and peppers from my little garden plot.  It’s been nice to get veggies in quantities you can actually do something with, although I did still buy 8 pounds of green beans and a bucket of banana peppers from my favorite supplier at the farmer’s market.