March 31, 2010

After: The Master Bedroom

The great reveal has begun! Here are some "before" and "after" shots of the master bedroom. Enjoy!


Master bedroom shortly after I moved in. Excuse the mess.

Dresser (actually a sideboard I bought at a second-hand store for $75)

Nice construction! Dove-tail corners.

Which gray...?

And then there were 3

Dresser, mid paint job


Left side table. Still missing a knob on this sewing-machine-turned-bedside-table. It’s been missing for four years, so don’t hold your breath.

Right side table


Pretty things on the dresser

I still need curtains and more art on the walls, but we're definitely headed in the right direction. And stay tuned for more "after" shot of the house!

March 29, 2010

Tips, Tidbits & Tricks: Spring Cleaning

Pull out those dust rags…it’s spring cleaning time! Below are some tips to help get your house in order (and keep it that way!).

Getting it clean…

Fridge door seals. Clean refrigerator door seals, which can collect crumbs, with hot water and mild dish-washing liquid.

Clean refrigerator shelves. Wipe the interior with a mix of 2 tablespoons baking soda and 1 quart hot water. Rinse with a damp cloth, then dry with a clean towel. Check out more uses for baking soda.

Soap scum trick. Get rid of soap scum by spraying shower doors with white vinegar, then rinsing well with warm water. Check out more uses for vinegar.

Vodka, anyone? Spritz musty-smelling garments with vodka (spot test first). Vodka kills bacteria and doesn’t leave a scent. Dry in a well-ventilated area.

Look up. Use a broom with a microfiber rag attached to dust crown molding.

[real simple]

…and keeping it that way.

Make your bed. “A crisply made bed makes the whole room seem more orderly, which makes it less likely that you'll let other things -- such as clothes and papers -- pile up around it.” Martha, I couldn’t have said it better.

Manage clutter.
Pick up every night before going to bed. Just 2 minutes each day can make a huge difference in keeping your house tidy.

Sweep daily.
Sweeping your kitchen floor daily will help keep grime and dirt from building up.

Take a minute.
After showering, take a minute to wipe down the tub and faucets with a terry-cloth towel to help remove soap scum and prevent mineral deposits.

[house beautiful]

Get rid of moisture.
Avoid mildew in the bathroom by running your fan during your shower and for a few minutes afterward to decrease moisture.

[house beautiful]

What's on your list of spring cleaning projects?

March 26, 2010

Happy Friday!

A little purple flower in my yard...have a great weekend!

March 25, 2010

Roasted shrimp and broccoli with orzo and feta

Looking for something light to make for supper as the weather warms up? Look no further!

I made this delicious and simple supper a few weeks ago when Mama and Leigh were in town for wedding dress shopping. There was lots of SEC basketball to watch, so I wanted to something quick, healthy and tasty. Enter…roasted shrimp and broccoli with orzo and feta.

Roasting is my go-to method for all veggies and also for shrimp. High temperatures (about 425), olive oil, salt and pepper, and you're done!

But we’ll walk through it…

Gather your ingredients: peeled shrimp, broccoli, orzo and feta. (Exactly what’s in the title of the recipe. Just trying to keep it simple, gang.)

First up: get the broccoli roasting. Preheat oven to 425, drizzle olive oil over broccoli and season generously with salt and pepper. Note: broccoli really cooks down, so prepare more than you think you’ll need.

Roast for about 15-17 minutes, stir, then add the shrimp to the baking sheet (with another drizzle of oil, then salt and pepper the shrimp). Roast for an additional 6 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare some orzo (rice-shaped pasta). Reserve a little of the cooking liquid in case you need it to loosen up the dish.

Once shrimp are cooked through and orzo is al dente, you're ready to assemble! Squeeze a lemon over the shrimp and broccoli, then combine with cooked orzo. Crumble some feta cheese in, mix, and taste for seasoning.

I served our supper with a ripe avocado for some southern California flare. Delicious!

So what’s on your menu for spring?

March 24, 2010

Before: The Back Yard

Spring has sprung, and I am finally getting to work in the yard. Aces!

Right now I am mainly doing clean-up --- raking errant leaves, picking up sticks, and pulling ivy (no relation). I’ve been snapping some “after” shots of my work, but haven’t shown the “before” shots of yard. So without further ado…

Note: Don't freak out at how green everything is in Kentucky in March. All these pictures were taken last summer.

Shot of the backyard. Doesn’t look so bad, does it? In fact, you’re probably thinking, “my, what a lovely yard Meg has! Do we really need a ‘before’ and ‘after’ post on the yard?” We do.

Back right corner of the house. During the “after” reveal you will see a gate hidden behind this mess. My very own Secret Garden

Site of the secret gate

Some vine (still don’t know what it is but it’s prolific) killing one of my trees. I am hoping that when this tree falls it will fall on the power lines – not enough to start a fire but enough so the power company pays to have it removed.

Back right corner of the yard

Back right corner of yard with neighbor's dog that barks incessantly

Back left corner of the yard, behind the garage

Monkey grass growing next to the house


As you can see, it's going to be a lot of work. But so far, so good!

How about you? What yard work have you started on this spring?

March 22, 2010

Tips, Tidbits & Tricks: Get rid of the gunk!

Know that gunk that’s burnt onto your cookie sheets? Crusts that you couldn’t scrape off no matter how long you soaked the pan? The sticky residue Pam leaves behind?

Next time you clean your self-cleaning oven, stick those pans in the oven before you start the cleaning process. All that gunk with burn off just like the spills in the bottom of the oven. Everything will come out as bright and shiny as the day you bought it!

Note: remove any plastic pieces, like the knob on this dutch oven.

March 17, 2010

Today, we’re all Irish!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Here’s a public service announcement from your friends at Guinness.

If you are in the mood for some Irish fare this evening, the always lovely Nigella Lawson offered up some recipes yesterday on NPR’s Morning Edition. I’ve included her recipe for Chocolate Guinness Cake below, but her recipe for Irish Stew sounds great, too!


(Photo: James Merrell on

Chocolate Guinness Cake
1 cup Guinness
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups superfine sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

8 oz Philadelphia cream cheese
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat the over to 350 F, and butter and line a 9 inch springform pan.

Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, add the butter — in spoons or slices — and heat until the butter's melted, at which time you should whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla and then pour into the brown, buttery, beery pan and finally whisk in the flour and baking soda.

Pour the cake batter into the greased and lined pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Leave to cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack, as it is quite a damp cake.

When the cake's cold, sit it on a flat platter or cake stand and get on with the frosting. Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth, sift over the confectioner's sugar and then beat them both together. Or do this in a processor, putting the unsifted confectioners' sugar in first and blitz to remove lumps before adding the cheese.

Add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. Ice the top of the black cake so that it resembles the frothy top of the famous pint.

Makes about 12 slices

March 15, 2010

Tips, Tidbits & Tricks: Baking Soda

• Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, a chemical compound with the formula NaHCO3.

• The ancient Egyptians used natural deposits of natron, a mixture consisting mostly of sodium carbonate decahydrate and sodium bicarbonate, as a cleanser.

• In 1846 two New York bakers, John Dwight and Austin Church, established the first factory to develop baking soda from sodium carbonate and carbon dioxide.

Tips and Tricks:
• Remove strong odors from your hands by rubbing them with baking soda and water.

• Relieve canker sore pain by using it as mouthwash.

• Turn baking soda into homemade Play-Do by combining it with one and 1/4 cups of water and one cup of cornstarch.

• Sweeten your tomatoes by sprinkling baking soda on the soil around your tomato plants.

• Add a teaspoon or so of baking soda to your shampoo to remove buildup.

• Baking soda can be used to smother a small fire.

• Baking soda should be replaced every 6 months (when used for baking).

• To clean pans with food crusted on the bottom, add a good amount of baking soda and enough hot water to cover bottom of pan. Let soak, then wash!

• To help clean drains unclogged, pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain followed by a cup of vinegar then a quart of boiling water.

• Sprinkle ½ cup of soda over dirty laundry, then stick in the washer. The soda will help brighten clothes and remove odors.

• Stinky shoes? Pour some baking soda in the toes of old socks, then stuff the socks into your shoes and leave them overnight.

• To clean jewelry, use a paste of 3 parts baking soda to 1 part water, apply the mixture the piece

• Sprinkle baking soda wherever ants are entering your home to help keep them out.

What's your favorite use for baking soda?

Resources: Life Hackery, Green Living Tips, Wikipedia

March 13, 2010

Spring Forward!

Don’t forget to move your clocks ahead an hour before you go to sleep Saturday night. For example: if you go to bed at 10:42, set your clock to read 11:42.

While you may grumble about losing a hour of sleep Saturday night, the payoff is worth it. WAY worth it: an extra hour of sunlight from now until the first Sunday of November in exchange for just one hour of sleep. A pretty nice trade-off!

You might be asking yourself, “What’s the history of this wonderful time-change event? Might there be some fun facts about this I can share at parties?” Lo! There are many a fun fact!

• Benjamin Franklin conceived the idea in 1784, in an essay, "An Economical Project."

• Most of the United States begins Daylight Saving Time at 2:00 a.m. on the second Sunday in March and reverts to standard time on the first Sunday in November.

• Daylight Saving Time is NOT observed in Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and Arizona (Note: some areas in AZ do observe. My parents had a bit of trouble with this on a recent trip to the Grand Canyon and surrounding areas. Arizona doesn’t observe Daylight Saving Time, but the Navajo Nation [parts of which are in three states] does. However, the Hopi Reservation, which is entirely surrounded by the Navajo Nation, doesn’t observe DST. In effect, there is a doughnut-shaped area of Arizona that does observe DST, but the “hole” in the center does not.)

• Daylight Saving Time commences at 2:00 a.m. to minimize disruption

• To keep to their published timetables, trains cannot leave a station before the scheduled time. So, when the clocks fall back one hour in October, all Amtrak trains in the U.S. that are running on time stop at 2:00 a.m. and wait one hour before resuming.

• Following the 1973 oil embargo, the U.S. Congress extended Daylight Saving Time to 8 months, rather than the normal six months. During that time, the U.S. Department of Transportation found that observing Daylight Saving Time in March and April saved the equivalent in energy of 10,000 barrels of oil each day - a total of 600,000 barrels in each of those two years.

And don’t forget to change the battery in your smoke detector.


March 12, 2010

From the Baker’s Rack: Orange Bread

Last Saturday morning I was looking for a quick breads recipe to whip up for some overnight guests that were coming for a visit.

I had seen the recipe on Simply Recipes and had to try it. If you haven’t visited this blog, it’s a great one. Head on over there, but only after you read this post.

Quick breads are different from yeast breads in a fairly obvious way: they don’t depend on yeast as a leavening agent. Instead they rely on baking soda, baking powder, or both. The crumb is more cake-like (think banana bread vs. baguette). The advantage of quick breads is the in the name…they are quick! You don’t have to spend hours proofing yeast and waiting for your loaf to rise. Just a few minutes to make the batter, a few minutes more in the oven, and a fresh, delicious breakfast for your guests.

Orange Bread
Adapted from Simply Recipes

• 1/3 cup butter
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1 Tbsp orange zest (I would use more)
• 2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1 cup plain yogurt

• 1 teaspoon lemon juice
• 1 teaspoon orange juice
• 1/3 cup powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar)

1 Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 4x8-inch loaf pan.

2 Beat the butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes on high in an electric mixer. Add the sugar and beat for an additional 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until completely incorporated after each addition. Beat in the orange zest. Note: Next time I will do a mix of ½ cup white sugar and ¼ cup brown sugar

3 In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

4 Add the yogurt and dry ingredients by thirds, starting with the yogurt, alternating the additions. Beat only until just incorporated. Note: I tried to get a picture of this but was too hard, so I will just show you what a messy cook I am instead.

5 Immediately pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Place in middle rack of 350°F oven.

Bake for 45-50 minutes*, until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

6 Cool on a rack in the pan for 5 minutes. Then remove the loaf from the pan and cool for another 10 to 15 minutes.

7 While loaf is cooling, prepare optional glaze if using. Whisk together the lemon juice, orange juice, and powdered sugar until smooth and there are no lumps. Drizzle over bread. Note: we got hungry so ate some before the glaze was ready, hence the missing right heel of the loaf.

As the Barefoot Contessa always says, “how easy is that?”